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Venezuela denies that it violates human rights

By Christopher Toothaker
Associated Press / February 26, 2010

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CARACAS - President Hugo Chávez said yesterday that Venezuela should boycott the human rights body of the Organization of American States, saying the panel wrongly accused his government of political repression.

Chávez took issue with a report issued this week by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which cited widespread human rights violations in Venezuela. The socialist leader called the 300-page report “pure garbage.’’

“We should prepare to denounce the agreement in which Venezuela joined . . . this terrible Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and leave it,’’ Chávez said during a television address.

Rights activists praised the account issued by the rights committee, saying it sheds light on widespread rights abuses.

The report released Wednesday at OAS headquarters in Washington complains of a lack of independence for Venezuela’s judiciary, the closing of news media outlets that are critical, and political discrimination and repression under Chávez.

“We don’t recognize the commission as an impartial institution,’’ said Gabriela Ramírez, the Venezuelan government’s top rights guarantor. Ramírez said the report incorrectly concludes that “the Venezuelan state threatens democracy and human rights.’’

The report condemned the procedures for appointing and removing judges, saying the regulations “lack the safeguards necessary to prevent other branches of government from undermining the Supreme Court’s independence.’’

Government opponents have long complained that the Supreme Court - whose members are appointed by the predominantly pro-Chávez National Assembly - has been packed with the president’s allies, giving him nearly unlimited power. Chávez denies holding sway over justices.

The OAS commission also called attention to an increase in sanctions against news media, singling out the case of Globo- vision, a television news network that is fiercely critical of Chávez.

Globovision has been fined for allegedly violating broadcast regulations, and Chávez has threatened to shutter the network.