For the unforgivable crime of criticizing Hugo Chavez' government of moving away from democracy and sacrificing basic guarantees in pursuit of his own political agenda, HRW Americas director Jose Vivanco and his deputy have been booted from the country.
From Interested Participant, via the Jawa Report:
According to a report by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has instilled an environment of fear by enacting laws which concentrate authority in his hands. Now, Chavez simply strong-arms, demonizes and silences his opponents.
Releasing the report, HRW's America's Director, Jose Miquel Vivanco, said that Chavez has "degraded the country's democracy."
In response, senior Chavez spokesman Saul Ortega said Vivanco is an imbecile and Venezuela is the splendor of democracy. Vivanco was then booted from Venezuela by Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro.
Vivanco was ordered to leave along with a Human Rights Watch deputy director, U.S. citizen Daniel Wilkinson, Maduro said. He accused them of acting at the behest of the U.S. government.
This follows on the heels of Chavez' recent booting of the US ambassador from Venezuela.
There is more on this situation from the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune.
Here are the links to the Human Rights Watch home page with byline, and .pdf files of the 230-page HRW report on Venezuela that led to Vivanco and his deputy being declared persona non grata by Chavez.
For Chavez to call HRW a tool of the United States is like calling the ACLU a tool of the Bush Administration. Here's some HRW material on its assessments and criticisms of human rights in the US.
This is not good for Chavez. Human Rights Watch is a major news source and charity for many in the European and American Left, perhaps no one more than actors Danny Glover and Sean Penn, both of whom support Chavez but are also ardent supporters of organizations like Amnesty International and HRW.
Many here at DJ, including myself, have opined much of late on the growing turmoil and instability in Venezuela and neighboring Bolivia. It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, this ejection of a prominent human rights organization by Hugo Chavez will influence world opinion and, more important, perceptions by Venezuelans of Chavez and how the world may be looking at Venezuela in light of these significant events.