The Venezuelan government’s suggestion that an American citizen it has detained is a spy is “ridiculous,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in a television interview recorded on Saturday during a visit to Costa Rica.
Venezuela said late last month it had detained an American called Timothy Hallet Tracy, accusing him of financing opposition student demonstrations after April’s disputed presidential election and saying he had clearly been trained as an intelligence agent.
Venezuela said Tracy, 35, from Michigan, had received money from a foreign non-profit organization and had redirected those funds toward student organizations, seeking to provoke “civil war”.
Relatives and friends of Tracy have described him to U.S. media as a documentary maker who was in Venezuela to make a film about the presidential election.
A majority of Venezuelans voted for change and now has no choice but to resist a regime that can hold on to power only with violence.
Is the election in Venezuela over? Apparently not. The self-declared winner, Nicolás Maduro, is behaving very much like a man who knows he lost on April 14. In resorting to violence and brute force to silence the opposition’s demand for an honest recount, Maduro has signed the death warrant for chavismo’s legitimacy.
Numerous videos of soldiers and other chavista thugs chasing, beating, and shooting unarmed protesters have circulated around the world since last month’s election. Last night, video from Venezuela’s national assembly showed opposition members being beaten as they protested a gag rule imposed by assembly president Diosdado Cabello.
Post-election analyses have shown that even many of those who had supported caudillo Hugo Chávez before his recent death were among a majority of Venezuelans who voted for change last month. And that majority now has no choice but to resist the Cuban-backed regime that cannot hold on to power, let alone govern, unless it uses violence against the Venezuelan people.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski has called for a peaceful protest today in Caracas, and the Maduro regime has summoned its supporters to a competing demonstration. Chavista leaders have threatened to prosecute opposition leaders for inciting violence and sowing the seeds of a “civil war.” But it is clear that chavista leaders are eager for a confrontation. The competing demonstrations are on opposite sides of metropolitan Caracas, so if the government’s backers want trouble, they will have to go looking for it.
If there is widespread violence, it should be remembered that it is the regime that purchased $9 billion in Russian arms and distributed thousands of weapons to militias. It is the chavista movement that has deployed motorcycle-borne gunmen, modeled on the Iranian basij, to attack opposition protesters. Maduro and his Cuban handlers are deluding themselves if they think they can elude responsibility for escalating violence.
• Assault on Judicial Independence
• Assault on Press Freedoms
• Rejection of Human Rights Scrutiny
• Embracing Abusive Governments
(New York) – Hugo Chávez’s presidency (1999-2013) was characterized by a dramatic concentration of power and open disregard for basic human rights guarantees.
After enacting a new constitution with ample human rights protections in 1999 – and surviving a short-lived coup d’état in 2002 – Chávez and his followers moved to concentrate power. They seized control of the Supreme Court and undercut the ability of journalists, human rights defenders, and other Venezuelans to exercise fundamental rights.Hugo Chavez and Bashar Assad
By his second full term in office, the concentration of power and erosion of human rights protections had given the government free rein to intimidate, censor, and prosecute Venezuelans who criticized the president or thwarted his political agenda. In recent years, the president and his followers used these powers in a wide range of prominent cases, whose damaging impact was felt by entire sectors of Venezuelan society.
Many Venezuelans continued to criticize the government. But the prospect of reprisals – in the form of arbitrary or abusive state action – forced journalists and human rights defenders to weigh the consequences of disseminating information and opinions critical of the government, and undercut the ability of judges to adjudicate politically sensitive cases.
Chavez the Popular Autocrat Leaves a Legacy of Ruin
By the Editors
March 5, 2013
The death of President Hugo Chavez marks the beginning of a perilous and hopeful moment for Venezuela and the Western Hemisphere.
There is no denying the impact of the charismatic ex-paratrooper, a plotter and survivor of coups who demolished Venezuela’s political power structure, won three elections with wide support and used the wealth from the world’s largest oil reserves to advance, across the Andes and beyond, his home- brewed ideology of “Bolivarian socialism.”Bashar and Asma al-Assad on a state visit to Venezuela in 2010 (HO/AFP/Getty Images)
How long that incoherent ideology will survive its creator is an open question. The challenge now facing Venezuela and its neighbors is to ensure a peaceful transition to a new elected government. Under Venezuela’s constitution, an election must be held within 30 days. Given the supercharged atmosphere surrounding Chavez’s death — just hours earlier, Vice President Nicolas Maduro blamed Chavez’s enemies for his cancer, and claimed that opposition groups were sabotaging the nation’s power grid — the potential for unrest during the campaign looms large.
In last October’s election, Chavez used the tools of incumbency, including not just government largesse but also dominance of the news media and other soft authoritarian strategies, to disadvantage his challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski. That pattern will repeat itself, with the added uncertainty and tension that may come from rivalries between Maduro, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabelloand others within the post-Chavez camp.
What I learned about Hugo Chávez’s mental health when I visited Venezuela with Sean Penn.
By Christopher Hitchens
August 2, 2010
Recent accounts of Hugo Chávez’s politicized necrophilia may seem almost too lurid to believe, but I can testify from personal experience that they may well be an understatement. In the early hours of July 16—just at the midnight hour, to be precise—Venezuela’s capo officiated at a grisly ceremony. This involved the exhumation of the mortal remains of Simón Bolívar, leader of Latin America’s rebellion against Spain, who died in 1830. According to a vividly written article by Thor Halvorssen in the July 25 Washington Post, the skeleton was picked apart—even as Chávez tweeted the proceedings for his audience—and some teeth and bone fragments were taken away for testing. The residual pieces were placed in a coffin stamped with the Chávez government’s seal. In one of the rather free-associating speeches for which he has become celebrated, Chávez appealed to Jesus Christ to restage the raising of Lazarus and reanimate Bolívar’s constituent parts. He went on:
I had some doubts, but after seeing his remains, my heart said, “Yes, it is me.” Father, is that you, or who are you? The answer: “It is me, but I awaken every hundred years when the people awaken.”The late Hugo Chávez.
As if “channeling” this none-too-subtle identification of Chávez with the national hero, Venezuelan television was compelled to run images of Bolívar, followed by footage of the remains, and then pictures of the boss. The national anthem provided the soundtrack. Not since North Korean media declared Kim Jong-il to be the reincarnation of Kim Il Sung has there been such a blatant attempt to create a necrocracy, or perhaps mausolocracy, in which a living claimant assumes the fleshly mantle of the departed.
Simón Bolívar’s cadaver is like any other cadaver, but his legacy is a great deal more worth stealing than that of Kim Il Sung. Gabriel García Márquez’s novel The General in His Labyrinth is one place to begin, if you want to understand the combination of heroic and tragic qualities that keep his memory alive to this day. (In New York, his equestrian statue still dominates the intersection of the Avenue of the Americas and Central Park South.) The idea of a United States of South America will always be a tenuous dream, but in his bloody struggle for its realization, Bolívar cut a considerable figure, as he did in his other capacities as double-dealer, war criminal, and serial fornicator, also lovingly portrayed by Márquez.
Venezuelan Vice President Says Chavez Was Infected With Cancer by Foes
By Andrew Cawthorne and Daniel Wallis
March 5, 2013
(Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was infected with cancer by “imperialist” enemies, his No. 2 alleged on Tuesday, adding that the socialist leader was suffering his hardest moments of a two-year battle against the disease.Venezuela VP Nicolas Maduro donning a tin foil hat.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro’s accusations and somber prognosis came during a televised meeting of political and military leaders at the presidential palace amid speculation of an imminent end to Chavez’s 14-year rule.
“We have no doubt that commander Chavez was attacked with this illness,” Maduro said, repeating a charge first made by Chavez himself that the cancer was an attack by “imperialist” foes in the United States in league with domestic enemies.
“The old enemies of our fatherland looked for a way to harm his health,” Maduro said, comparing it with allegations that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004, may have been poisoned by Israeli agents.
BREAKING: Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro says President Hugo Chavez has died.
— The Associated Press (@AP) March 5, 2013
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has tweeted that he has returned home following his cancer surgery in Cuba in December. Photos released on Friday were the first time Venezuelans had seen him in two months.
In a Tweet stamped 4:11 a.m. local time (841 GMT), Chavez announced that he had returned from his convalescence. After being re-elected in October, Chavez had not yet been home for a day of his fourth presidential term, which officially began on January 10.
“We have arrived again to the Venezuelan homeland,” Chavez wrote on Twitter. “Thank you my God!! Thank you my beloved people!! We will continue the treatment here.”
President Hugo Chavez announced his return to Venezuela from Cuba early Monday, where he had been undergoing cancer treatment.
“We come back to the country of Venezuela,” Chavez posted on his official Twitter account. “Thank God! Thank you dear people! Here we continue the treatment.”
Vice President Nicolas Maduro said his boss returned to Caracas at 2:30 a.m. local time Monday. The nation’s minister of communications also announced the news.
Venezuelans have seen very little of their leader in recent months and have heard even less. The Twitter post early Monday on the president’s account is the first since November 1.
Venezuela’s 1999 constitution is one of President Hugo Chávez’s proudest political props. The socialist leader likes to wave a pocket-size version of the charter, written shortly after he first took office 14 years ago, as often as Chinese communists used to brandish Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. But now that the 58-year-old Chávez may be fighting for his life in a Cuban hospital after difficult cancer surgery, Venezuelans are turning to his so-called Bolivarian constitution for guidance — and what they’re finding instead is a murky map that could send the western hemisphere’s most oil-rich nation into precarious governmental limbo this year.
At the core of the confusion is one word: permanently. The constitution says Chávez, who in October won re-election to a new six-year term, is supposed to be sworn in a week from today, on Jan. 10. But his condition would appear to preclude that happening. So here’s what Article 233 says: “When an elected President becomes permanently unavailable to serve prior to his inauguration, a new election … shall be held within 30 consecutive days.” The article defines “permanently unavailable” (falta absoluta in Spanish) as death, resignation, removal from office, certified permanent physical or mental disability or a recall. None of those — at least according to information from Vice President Nicolás Maduro, who visited Chávez in Havana this week — apply to Chávez’s current situation. What to do then?
The Venezuelan people have spoken: In their presidential election of last Sunday, some 45 percent favored the center-left opposition challenger Henrique Capriles to incumbent Hugo Chavez, who secured 55 percent of the vote.
As a top leader of the opposition remarked, while the election may have been clean, it was not fair. Prominent political commentator Teodoro Petkoff editorialized in the Caracas daily paper Tal Cual: “To win [Chavez] had to launch unscrupulously the full weight of the state against Capriles. He made use of public funds and facilities and institutions of public administration in an obscenely opportunistic campaign.” The good news was that Chavez’s tactics fully united the opposition. The bad news is that they were unable to clinch the election.
It is easy to tick off the failures of the Chavez government: corruption, cronyism, profligacy, food and other shortages, inefficiency, politicization, and electricity blackouts. Street crime is rampant. Though soaring oil revenues have earned Venezuela almost one trillion dollars during Chavez’s years, the country has an increasingly crippled private sector, the highest inflation rate in Latin America, declining reserves, rising debt, and often debilitating currency and price controls.
In July, Human Rights Watch published a detailed study entitled “Concentration and Abuse of Power in Chavez’s Venezuela,” which noted his regime’s many arbitrary attacks on the judiciary, the media, and human rights defenders. At best, much energy, hope, and money are devoted to policies that bring short-term relief to targeted groups at the long-term expense of those groups themselves and all others.