Venezuela: Free Oswaldo Álvarez Paz

Oswaldo Álvarez Paz is a Venezuelan politician and public intellectual who was arbitrarily imprisoned after he criticized President Hugo Chávez’s government on live television. HRF has designated Álvarez Paz a prisoner of conscience of the Venezuelan government. 

Venezuela: Free Oswaldo Álvarez Paz

On March 8, 2010, Álvarez Paz, the former governor of Zulia, participated in a televised interview where he criticized the human rights situation in Venezuela and discussed alleged ties between the Venezuelan government, drug-trafficking cartels, the Spanish terrorist organization ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna), and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). The next day, a member of the Venezuelan National Assembly filed a criminal complaint against his statements with the attorney general’s office. A public prosecutor then formally pressed charges for the crimes of “conspiracy,” “public instigation to commit crimes,” and “dissemination of false information.” After 51 days under preventive imprisonment, Álvarez Paz was released conditionally, pending trial.

Through its report, HRF establishes that the actions carried out by the Venezuelan authorities in charge of Álvarez Paz’s accusation, detention, and preventive imprisonment violate the international human rights legal standard on freedom of expression, established by Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, ratified by Venezuela in 1977, and by the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, which Venezuela is bound to follow.

UPDATE: [July 13, 2011] The 21st Trial Court of the Caracas Metropolitan Area has found  Álvarez Paz guilty of “spreading false information” and sentenced him to two years in prison. Álvarez Paz is serving his sentence on parole.