Venezuela’s “Bolivarian” regime is lurching from authoritarianism to dictatorship. On February 19th it arrested the elected mayor of metropolitan Caracas, Antonio Ledezma. Then it moved to expel Julio Borges, a moderate opposition leader, from the National Assembly—a fate already suffered by his colleague, María Corina Machado, ejected last year. Leopoldo López, another opposition leader, has been in jail for a year and is now on trial. Almost half the opposition’s mayors now face legal action. The regime’s favourite charge to level at hostile politicians is plotting to overthrow the government, often in conspiracy with the United States. But it is the president, Nicolás Maduro, who is staging a coup against the last vestiges of democracy. Venezuelans call it an autogolpe, or “self-coup”.
Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights’
When Venezuelan intelligence agents carted off Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma to jail last week, they fired shots into the air to terrorize a gathering crowd. It was nothing unusual for the Venezuelan police state, which has studied under Cuba’s dictatorship. But it did underscore the magnitude of the economic and political crisis now gripping a country with one of the largest oil reserves in the world.
Mr. Ledezma is accused of plotting to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro with U.S. help. The government has provided no evidence. The mayor’s real offense is signing a letter this month calling Mr. Maduro’s government “terminal” and proposing a transition back to democracy.
Opposition leaders Leopoldo López, jailed a year ago, and Maria Corina Machado, who faces charges of plotting to kill Mr. Maduro, also signed the letter. On Tuesday the Maduro-controlled national assembly stripped opposition congressman Julio Borges of his seat and thus his legal ... Read More
President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela bears a marked resemblance to the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, right down to the mustache. With a collapsing economy that has soured his countrymen on his ruinous economic policies, Mr. Maduro is beginning to resemble Saddam in a more ominous way as well.
He is systematically jailing more and more of his opponents on trumped-up charges of plotting an “endless coup” against his government. Such attempts, he says, tipping his hat to the villain in the familiar Latin American imagination, are “supported and promoted from the north.” Intelligence agents last week burst into the office of Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of the capital Caracas and a leading opposition figure, and arrested him on vague “conspiracy” charges.
The mayor, 59, was taken to the Ramo Verde military jail where another opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, marked a year of incarceration on Feb. 18. The charges of arson, terrorism and homicide against Mr. ... Read More
Washington (AFP) – US Secretary of State John Kerry blasted the Venezuelan government’s “egregious behavior” and promised the speedy implementation of recent sanctions against the crisis-hit country.
peaking at a US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Kerry said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s regime had made a series of “wrong choices” in its handling of anti-government protests, as well as its clampdown on opposition leaders over claims of a US-backed coup plot.
“Venezuela keeps moving in the wrong direction and making the wrong choices,” Kerry said. “The answer is the sanctions are being implemented right now as fast as possible.”
Washington in December passed a law allowing sanctions against senior Venezuelan officials accused of violating the rights of protesters during anti-government demonstrations at the start of 2014.
By SARA SCHAEFER MUÑOZ and EZEQUIEL MINAYA
SAN CRISTÓBAL, Venezuela—Mourning relatives buried a 14-year-old boy killed by police as scattered protests broke out across the country over what citizens see as the state’s growing crackdown on dissent.
The student, Kluibert Roa, was shot in the head with a rubber bullet during an antigovernment demonstration on Tuesday, authorities said. A policeman was arrested in connection with the killing. Officials blamed the death on overzealous protesters, while demonstrators told reporters the boy was shot at point-blank range.
The teenager’s death reverberated throughout this tumultuous, oil-rich country, which has been hit by soaring inflation, a scarcity of basic goods, and what people say are increasingly repressive measures by the government of socialist President Nicolás Maduro.
The death ratcheted up tension in this western Venezuelan city, which was the epicenter of demonstrations last year that shook the country, spreading nationwide and leaving at least 43 people dead. Schools and universities ... Read More
By Javier Ciurlizza
The shocking 19 February arrest on coup charges of the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, marks a sharp new drop in the downward spiral of Venezuela since protests and harsh repression erupted in its main cities nearly one year ago. To find stability, Venezuela needs urgent help from its friends to build political consensus. So far mostly silent, regional states and organisations, as well as the international community at large, must act firmly, not with unilateral sanctions, but with pressure for dialogue between the two sides.
Crisis Group and other organisations have repeatedly warned of Venezuela’s dangerous polarisation since the violence that killed 43 people, landed 61 in jail (now including Ledezma) and resulted in judicial restrictions on another 2,000. Neither government nor opposition, however, has responded with more than pompous sermonising.
By FABIOLA SANCHEZ and HANNAH DREIER
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Police broke into Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma’s office and carted off the longtime critic of Venezuela’s socialist government, adding to tensions on the anniversary of the outbreak of protests that paralyzed the nation a year ago.
President Nicolas Maduro took to television and radio to say that Ledezma, one of the most vocal opposition leaders, would be punished for trying to sow unrest in Venezuela, which is struggling with severe economic problems.
Emotions were already running high before dozens of men in flak jackets and camouflage uniforms smashed down the door of Ledezma’s office and forcibly carried him out of the building.
As news of the incursion spread across the capital, people spontaneously banged pots from their windows in protest while drivers tapped rhythms on their car horns in rush hour traffic. As night fell, a ... Read More
Caracas (AFP) – Venezuelan police fired tear gas Thursday to break up students demonstrating against President Nicolas Maduro’s government, on the anniversary of protests that eventually left 43 people dead last year.
Clashes broke out as the students in the western city of San Cristobal, the cradle of the protests that shook the country from February to June 2014, tried to march to the local offices of the national human rights ombudsman.
The authorities said one person was hit in the head by a stone and wounded during the fray, before police fired tear gas to disperse the rally.
Venezuelan media said several more people had been hurt and reported several arrests.
BY JOSH SIEGEL
MIAMI—When Sebastian Arcos steps back to evaluate President Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba, he tries to forget his own experiences with the Castro regime.
But it’s difficult for Arcos to have a clean perspective because the Cuban government’s imprints are all over his life—he spent a year in prison, and was kicked out of school, for trying to escape repression.
“My experiences have everything to do with the way I feel about it,” said Arcos, now the associate director of the Cuban Research Institute.
“I feel like I have a better grasp of the nature of the regime than the people changing the policy. They don’t know Cuba the way I do. They can look at it more objectively.”
Key PointsPresident Obama’s new push to normalize relations with Cuba neglects the Cuban dictatorship’s internal oppression, relentless hostility to US interests, and implacable opposition to change. The Obama administration has rushed to facilitate new travel and trade with Cuba, but the Castro regime controls virtually every aspect of the economy, benefits from cash remittances and tourism, and stifles the country’s potential growth. While the Obama administration struggles to justify its unilateral concessions and has yet to press for international help on Cuba, the Castro regime has rejected calls for change and is making new demands to put the administration on the defensive. For Obama to salvage his new Cuba approach, his team will have to develop and implement an actual strategy that measures up to his rhetoric without letting down American interests and ideals.
By Guy Taylor
The wife of Venezuela’s highest-profile political prisoner pressed the Obama administration to do more to address the human rights crisis in her country, saying the opposition movement won’t stop until there is “clear justice, a clear rule of law and human rights for all people.”
Lilian Tintori said her husband, Leopoldo Lopez, who was arrested following violence at political demonstrations in Caracas last year, is the “emblematic face of 61 political prisoners” being held by the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro because “he is political, he is a progressive leader, and he represents the light of hope and change in Venezuela.”
Mrs. Tintori, who is in Washington this week seeking to shine a spotlight on her husband’s case, said in an interview Tuesday that her goal is “to change the reality of human rights” in Venezuela and generate greater U.S. support for her cause.
On Dec. 17, President Obama floated his plan to revise a half-century-old U.S.-Cuba policy by promising engagement. “We intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people,” he said. The trouble is that as his statements in recent weeks have shown, Raúl Castro has no interest in doing things differently.
The message from Havana is that if Mr. Obama wants a Cuba legacy it will have to be on Cuba’s terms. That means he will have to go down in history as the U.S. president who prolonged the longest-running military dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere.
A portion of the Cuban dissident movement, speaking before Congress on Thursday, rejected the agreement between Washington and Havana to resume bilateral relations and said that as they as they were not included in the dialogue to reestablish diplomatic ties they would not endorse the talks.
Appearing before the House Subcommittee on Human Rights were Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, known as “Antunez,” Berta Soler, the head of the Ladies in White, and another member of that group, Sara Fonseca.
“We’re not going to accept the Cuban opposition being ignored,” said Antunez.
The three dissidents are representatives of a sector of the Cuban opposition that does not view favorably the political about-face toward Cuba by the Barack Obama administration, although within the dissident movement as a whole there is a group that has come out in favor of the reestablishment of ties.
As Venezuela drifts toward repression, the Obama administration has failed to “name and shame” human rights violators, as mandated by Congress last December. Robust U.S. action is more critical than ever, as authorities in Caracas last week approved the use of deadly force against Venezuelans protesting food shortages and fresh revelations on the criminality of regime leaders.
Career diplomats managing Venezuela policy have a record of favoring stability over freedom in that country. They fiercely resisted Congress’ call for sanctions against individuals using violence to quell student-led demonstrations last spring—giving regime gangs time to crush the unrest, leaving 44 dead, hundreds jailed, and thousands injured.
In the midst of the crackdown last March, Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson told a U.S. Senate hearing that opposition leaders opposed human rights sanctions against the regime—an assertion she was forced to recant within days. In an effort to forestall Congressional action last July, the Administration revoked ... Read More
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
In an at-times combative hearing, the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday questioned whether the United States’ new relationship with Cuba would improve Cuba’s human rights record.
During the hearing on the Obama administration’s “sudden shift” in Cuba policy, Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a Republican from California, said, “This could have been used to leverage meaningful concessions on human rights in Cuba.”
Other members of the committee, including some who favor the new Cuba policy, also pressed Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson on what the United States was doing to get Cuba to respect human rights.
Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, noted that last year the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, an independent organization, reported 8,899 short-term detentions on the island. That was a 39 percent increase over 2013.
The Obama administration will not stop supporting Cuban human rights and democracy activists as part of any deal to restore embassies between the two countries, a top U.S. diplomat said Tuesday.
“I can’t imagine that we would go to the next stage of our diplomatic relationship without an agreement” to see democracy activists, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson testified during a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing.
Her response came after vigorous questioning from Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, chairing his first Senate hearing. Rubio read from an interview Josefina Vidal, Cuba’s top negotiator, gave The Associated Press in which she tied the establishment of embassies to reduced U.S. support for Cuban dissidents.
Jacobson, the highest-level American official to visit Havana in several decades, said more talks on re-establishing full diplomatic relations are planned for later this month. Besides embassies, the ... Read More
By MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN and ANNE-MARIE GARCIA
HAVANA (AP) – The start of talks on repairing 50 years of broken relations appears to have left President Raul Castro’s government focused on winning additional concessions without giving in to U.S. demands for greater freedoms, despite the seeming benefits that warmer ties could have for the country’s struggling economy.
Following the highest-level open talks in three decades between the two nations, Cuban officials remained firm in rejecting significant reforms pushed by the United States as part of President Barack Obama’s surprise move to re-establish ties and rebuild economic relations with the Communist-led country.
“One can’t think that in order to improve and normalize relations with the U.S., Cuba has to give up the principles it believes in,” Cuba’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs, Josefina Vidal, told The Associated Press after the end of the talks. “Changes in Cuba aren’t negotiable.”
... Read More
Remarks of Ambassador Roger F. Noriega
Visiting Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
Forum on “Promoting Human Rights and Democratic Reforms in Cuba”
At the Heritage Foundation, Friday, January 23, 2015
Those of us who are critics of President Obama’s new initiatives on Cuba do not oppose them because we hope he’s wrong, but because we know he’s wrong.
We know that the single biggest obstacle to economic and political freedom in Cuba for 55 years has been and still is the Castro regime. We know that a courageous, quiet, Christian, Oswaldo Payá, who sought a plebiscite under the rules of Castro’s own constitution, was killed when police ran his car off the road in southeastern Cuba in July 2012.
We know that an American aid worker, Alan Gross, who tried simply to offer Cuba’s small Jewish community Internet access on the island was held hostage for five years for his efforts. We know that while the Obama ... Read More