CARACAS, Venezuela — Human rights in Venezuela have become “more precarious” under President Hugo Chavez as his control of the judiciary and the National Assembly allows him to intimidate and persecute critics, Human Rights Watch said.
In a report released Tuesday, Human Rights Watch said that during Chavez’s 13 years in power he has “carried out a political takeover of the Supreme Court,” threatened, fined and closed critical media outlets and discredited Venezuelan human-rights defenders.
“The accumulation of power in the executive, the removal of institutional safeguards, and the erosion of human rights guarantees have given the Chavez government free rein to intimidate, censor, and prosecute Venezuelans who criticize the president or thwart his political agenda,” the organization said.
It is the organization’s first Venezuela report since 2008.
The 139-page report comes as the self-declared socialist is criticized by his electoral opponent Henrique Capriles Radonski for abusing his powers by forcing broadcast media to air his speeches and using state resources to fund his campaign for re-election in October.
Members of Human Rights Watch, including Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco, were caught and expelled from Venezuela during a visit to present their findings in 2008.
Chavez, who is seeking another six-year term, used a law Saturday that allows him to interrupt television and radio broadcasts to call Capriles “a daddy and mommy’s boy” after his rival promised the armed forces that he would improve their pay and welfare if elected.
While Venezuelans have grown accustomed to listening to Chavez’s marathon speeches on special broadcasts, his taking over of the airwaves since campaigning kicked off July 1 has been rebuked by the opposition, which claims he is abusing his power as commander in chief to gain an edge in a tight race.