Apr. 2, 2014 | Press Releases

Venezuela: HRF Condemns Ongoing Crackdown on Increasingly Disenfranchised Opposition

NEW YORK (April 2, 2014)—The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) strongly condemns the ongoing crackdown on elected public officials in Venezuela. Following the arbitrary detention and prosecution of opposition leader Leopoldo López in February, opposition mayors Daniel Ceballos and Vicenzo Scarano were removed from office and sentenced to prison, while opposition assemblywoman Maria Corina Machado was dismissed from the National Assembly. The Venezuelan regime, which has been using police, military, and paramilitary forces to repress massive student protests, is cracking down on these three officials with charges of “incitement” and other vague, politically-motivated allegations related to the protests.

Venezuela: HRF Condemns Ongoing Crackdown on Increasingly Disenfranchised Opposition
Photo: Reuters

“The 49.12% of Venezuelans that voted against Maduro in the last presidential election are now effectively disenfranchised because the government rules by decree, deprives their elected representatives of any meaningful participation in the country’s legislative body and local governments, and stigmatizes opposition leaders as ‘fascists,’ ‘nazis,’ and ‘terrorists’ for standing against the authoritarian status quo,” said Garry Kasparov, chairman of HRF. “Not only is half of the country prevented from participating in their own political institutions, but their voices have been silenced following the shutdown of all independent TV networks in the country. Meanwhile, the long list of individuals who have been killed, detained, and tortured continues to grow. Judges are arresting innocent people to keep their jobs, armed paramilitary ‘colectivos’ are murdering protestors under presidential orders broadcast on mandatory national television, and authorities like the attorney general and the ombudswoman are bending over backward to defend the government against documented accusations of torture,” said Kasparov.

On March 13, Maduro threatened Venezuela’s mayors, saying that they would face “serious consequences” if they did not clear the barricades set up by protestors on roads in their municipalities. On March 19, the mayor of the municipality of San Diego (Carabobo), Enzo Scarano—who was elected in December with 75.24% of the vote—was removed from office and sentenced to 10 months and 15 days in jail for allegedly committing the crime of “libel” (desacato) for disobeying a ruling by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice that instructed him to “prevent the placing of obstacles on public roads that block, hinder, or alter the free passage of people and vehicles.” On March 25, Mayor Daniel Ceballos, who won 67.67% of the vote in the municipal elections on December 8, was removed from office and sentenced to 12 months in prison for the same crime. Ceballos is also facing charges of “civil rebellion” and “unlawful assembly.” Ceballos was the mayor of San Cristobal (Táchira), a municipality at the epicenter of the protests.

Yesterday, Assemblywoman Maria Corina Machado—who was brutally beaten by members of the ruling party during a session of congress last year—was dismissed by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice from her post at the National Assembly. The dismissal came days after the president of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, stated that Machado was no longer a member of the assembly. Cabello also accused her of treason after Machado was granted time by Panama at the OAS to speak about the Venezuelan crisis. Cabello previously accused Machado of being an “accomplice, an instigator of murder in this country,” and stated: “Here in Venezuela she will be tried as a murderer, she will be tried as a terrorist, she will be tried for crimes against humanity, for conspiracy, she will be tried for destabilizing this country.”

“The ‘kangaroo courts’ that summarily convicted Ceballos, Scarano, and Machado are just part of the mounting proof that Venezuela ceased to be a democracy long ago. Maduro has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor and for months has ‘legislated’ via the same ‘decretos ley’ that Pinochet and Videla used in the seventies,” said Garry Kasparov. “All democratic countries in the world should emulate the European Parliament and be firm in expressing solidarity with the Venezuelan people and emphatically condemning the dictatorial measures of the regime. The world must denounce the regime’s ongoing crackdown on the legitimate representatives of 49.12% of Venezuelans who refuse to stand idly by as they are dragged toward a Stalinist dictatorship like the one that has ruled Cuba for the past 55 years,” said Kasparov.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. We believe that all human beings are entitled to freedom of self-determination, freedom from tyranny, the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF does not support nor condone violence. HRF’s International Council includes human rights advocates George Ayittey, Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Garry Kasparov, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.

Contact: Jamie Hancock – Human Rights Foundation, (212) 246.8486, jamie@thehrf.org