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Venezuela: Senator Coleman to hold hearing on Democracy & Human Rights

Press release

June 23rd, 2004 - Washington, DC - Senator Norm Coleman, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Narcotics, will hold a hearing on the recent political situation in Venezuela and human rights concerns in that nation tomorrow (June 24th, 2004) from 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm EST in the Dirksen Senate Office building, Room 419.

“The political situation in Venezuela is of fundamental importance for the entire hemisphere,” Coleman said. “In this hearing we intend to examine the way the forthcoming August 15th vote is to be conducted and to determine U.S. policy options to support democracy in Venezuela and throughout the region.”

Venezuela has been wracked by several years of political turmoil under the rule of President Hugo Chavez. Chavez’s opponents have collected millions of signatures for a recall referendum, which was recently scheduled to be held on August 15. To be recalled, the number of votes cast against him would need to exceed the number Chavez received when last elected in July 2000 (more than 3.75 million). If he is recalled, new presidential elections would be held within 30 days.

“I want to hear from the experts about the unfolding situation in Venezuela, from allegations about politically motivated arrests, to the composition of the Supreme Court, to the use of untested voting machines in the upcoming vote,” Coleman said. “I intend to get to the bottom of these allegations at tomorrow’s hearing.”

There has been increasing concern expressed by international human rights organizations about the deterioration of democratic institutions and threats to freedom of speech and press in Venezuela under the Chavez government. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a report in March 2004 expressing concerns about growing concentration of power in the executive branch of government and the tendency to militarize public administration. The report also expressed concern about attacks and intimidation against human rights activists and organizations, and the government’s tendency to confront and disparage the political opposition and its constant attacks on journalists and the media.


Tom Steward

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