Saturday, February 28, 2004

Human Rights in Venezuela

Saturday 28, February 2004

This morning I had my tea watching a talk show where one of the two interviewed people was Tarek Williams Saab. A little background first. Mr. Saab made a career before Chavez by defending human rights. And as a poet too though I cannot evaluate the quality of his work. Now that he has joined Chavez's crusade he has become an assemblyman and for some reason has landed the foreign policy committee chair. He is not in the inner circle of Chavez but he has, I understand, access. To the point that he has been pointed by the sacred finger as governor candidate for his home state, Anzoategui. No primaries, no nothing.

I have a hard time to be fair evaluating Mr. Saab as he has become one of the biggest defender of the regime, not afraid of saying inanities that one would not expect to hear in the mouth of somebody that did indeed was a defender of human rights in the pre-Chavez area. But now it seems that, to paraphrase Orwell, some Human Rights are more equal than some Human Rights.

This morning presentation was no different. His job was to ridicule the opposition march yesterday and to try to transform it in yet another coup attempt against Chavez.

He pointed out that indeed some "weapons" were found and that two cops from the Baruta district were arrested. Supposedly, for those that do not know Venezuelan law, Baruta cops, one of the districts of Caracas, cannot go out of their district with their regulation weapons. Apparently they were arrested outside of their districts, shooting. 2 cops against curtains of National Guards? Regardless, the mayor of Baruta was already on record saying that these two cops were his body guards that accompany him everywhere as all knew (body guards are a status symbol and I can assure you that chavista figures have way more than a couple of cops behind them at all time!).

As for the other weapons found, well, they were child's game and if the opposition was pretending to overthrow Chavez with that, he is going to stay in office past 2021, his self appointed retirement date.

He also pointed out that some chavismo buildings were attacked and that the media did not show that. To which the Globovision interviewer, Nathaly Salas Guaithero promptly pointed that Globovision did indeed showed all of that. Non plussed Mr. Saab argued back that the "other commercial" networks did not do so, with appropriate despective note on "commercial".

Not a word of concern for the right to protest and the brutal repression. Where is your past Mr. Saab?

Last night before going to bed I watched my favorite TV talk show, "30 minutos" with Cesar Miguel Rondon. His guest was Liliana Ortega . The president of COFAVIC, Ms. Ortega is one of the most fascinating leaders to have emerged in Venezuela to the point of getting mention in many foreign forums for her hard work in the Human Rights deprived Venezuela. Her English biography will tell you all until Chavez came to office, 1999.

Ms. Ortega became noticed as the defender of the victims of El Caracazo, the February 27 1989 spontaneous rioting that was the first violent shock that Venezuela experienced since 1958. Her dogged defense of the Human Rights violated by the army abuses eventually made her win several international court decisions and settlements.

When Chavez came to office she was initially willing to collaborate with the proclaimed good intentions of the new constitution. Unfortunately for chavismo, she quickly realized that they were mere good intentions. And chavismo also realized that she was a dedicated Human Rights defender and that she could not be co-opted. Some of the settlements on the Caracazo case came actually during the current administration which has dragged its feet to execute the payments required, even thought it justified its popular origin to that 1989 day!

The disgraceful situation of Venezuelan prisons and the inability, or unwillingness from the current administration to seriously address the problem has also been one of COFAVIC interests and source of criticisms.

After April 11 she was one of the main voices claiming for the establishment of a truth comission, which was sabotaged by the chavista majority of the National Assembly.

In other words, Ms. Ortega is now another one of the enemies of the regime. Just because she is an independent thinker and unbowed by any of the powers that be?

But I ask: who of Mr. Saab or Ms. Ortega is the real Human Rights defender?

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