March 01, 2010

Sens. Lugar and Dodd call for U.S. Mission to the OAS to ask for discussion of 'Venezuela Democracy and Human Rights' Report at the Permanent Council

In response to a report issued by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) last week regarding violations of human rights and intimidation of citizens in Venezuela based on their political beliefs, U.S. Sens. Dick Lugar (R-IN) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) released the following joint statement.

“We are deeply disturbed by some of the report’s observations. One of the more alarming findings was that: ‘The Commission considers that the lack of independence and autonomy of the judiciary with respect to the political branches constitutes one of the weakest points of democracy in Venezuela, a situation that seriously hinders the free exercise of human rights in Venezuela. In the Commission’s judgment, it is this lack of independence that has allowed the use of the State’s punitive power in Venezuela to criminalize human rights defenders, judicialize peaceful social protest, and persecute political dissidents through the criminal system.’

“This passage highlights what can happen in a country when the regional and international mechanisms that are in place to prevent this type of erosion of democratic institutions fail to act.

“We encourage the U.S. Mission to call for this report to be discussed at the OAS Permanent Council. By permitting the timely submission of this report to the political bodies, the OAS would expose broadly the clear erosion of democracy in Venezuela, as well as give credibility to its role in protecting essential elements of representative democracy.

“Almost three years ago, we introduced and passed a resolution expressing the concerns of the Senate regarding the transgressions against freedom of expression in Venezuela. President Obama and Secretary Clinton, Senators at the time, co-sponsored the resolution.

“Venezuela is a critical testing ground of OAS support for democracy and human rights, where basic civil liberties are under threat. Efforts to broaden the reach of democracy and the protection of human rights have become the norm by most governments in Latin America over the last three decades. Nevertheless, democratic consolidation is yet to be enjoyed by all who live in the region. Challenges to the rule of law, freedom of the press, and human rights still affect many of the hemisphere’s inhabitants.”

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