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Human Rights violations in Venezuela: a blueprint for the XXI century.

By Daniel Duquenal

Monday 22, March 2004 - Since February 27 the Chavez administration has taken the path of repression, getting old recipes and updating them to a time where media, Internet and video cameras are prevalent. Let's examine the methodology.

February 27, and posterior repression

The pacific march to the Teatro Teresa Carreno was brutally stopped by the National Guard. Videos abound of the excess repression from tear gas to plain brutality. This march could have been stopped peacefully had the government accepted an opposition commission to cross the National Guard lines and deliver a message to the attendants of the international event. But this was never negotiated by Chavez who would not tolerate anyone to steal his show. As a result the show was stolen by the repression and the precipitated departure of the three main head of state that were attending.

However, in hindsight, that was not really the point of Chavez. As the Electoral Board announced the treachery on the signature counts, it was to Chavez interest to "frighten" the populace and thus try to cow them into submission. It really did not work too well as the people started barricades and what not. Not to mention that the OAS and the Carter Center diplomatically denounced the fraud.

But the repression ball had started rolling. An updated list of the casualties and abuses on March 19 showed 28 deaths or missing. This on top of hundreds of people hurt or briefly jailed one way or the other, and a few dozens still in jail as political prisoners.

This of course has attracted the attention of international observers. Not to mention the publication of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report on all the violations committed in Venezuela since Chavez has reached power.

To this, we can now add the denunciation of people that have signed the recall election petition from ANY sector of public administration. Even lists of traitors are posted in governmental offices. These people are asked to retract their signature or face instant dismissal. These dismissals are taking place at an accelerated pace while ministers of Chavez have no qualms in accusing them of conspiracy for signing the forms. People's courage in refusing to retract their signature is the knowledge that in such a regime, even a retraction will do no good: the Scarlet Letter is on their forehead.

The argument as to whether the government has a legal claim to fire people that oppose its policies can be debunked by reading again article 57 of the Bolivarian Constitution, a constitution written by the people holding office today.

Article 57: Everyone has the right to express freely his or her thoughts, ideas or opinions orally, in writing or by any other form of expression, and to use for such purpose any means of communication and diffusion, and no censorship shall be established. Anyone making use of this right assumes full responsibility for everything expressed. Anonymity, war propaganda, discriminatory messages or those promoting religious intolerance are not permitted.

Censorship restricting the ability of public officials to report on matters for which they are responsible is prohibited.

It is not questionable that the Chavez administration is violating the constitution of the Republic.

How can Chavez get away with this?

It is all quite simple actually.

First render ineffective the judicial system. All the violations that are reported find prosecutors unwilling to take down the data. Some that do so are immediately fired. Or moved to another department. This by itself already makes it more difficult for the injured party to access international help as often these organizations require some legal support from the country of origin. When they finally get access to such help, it might be too late anyway.

Second, let the media scream bloody murder. This really is inconsequential for the government. The media can say all what it wants, accuse the administration of the worse crimes, proof in hand, it is irrelevant as the judicial system will not take action. The side bonus is that the screaming press is the fig leaf that still allows chavismo's claim to operate as a democracy. Now, closing the free press is not as urgent as it used to be.

Third, disqualify your opponents. This is very easy, repeat anything you want often enough and eventually a few suckers will believe it. The opponents can be unarmed civilians accused of attacking armored National Guards, or even respected international agencies. Just accuse them of partiality, aggression of what not. Of course you need to reward the people that do your biding. Chavez for example is constantly congratulating the National Guard for its superb job on February 27, going to the point of awarding medals to the worst offenders. Or he can grant exclusive interviews to newspapers considered as softer on his rule, such as the New York Times. One good thing is to justify your actions on past affronts. After all, the time of reconciliation is gone so might as well use past crime, from Columbus time if needed.

When a government is placed between the choices of losing power or becoming an international pariah, it is easier to choose the later. Power is a powerful drug.

If Chavez succeeds, this will become now the way to reach absolute power in the XXI century. Fascism in the era of Internet.

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