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Nicaragua backs Venezuela's decision to expel Human Rights Watch activists

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has again sided with Venezuela´s Hugo Chávez following the left-wing Venezuelan leader´s expulsion of a Human Rights Watch researcher and its Americas director, José Miguel Vivanco, after they released a report criticizing Chávez´s rights record.

Without giving names, Ortega said people are “conspiring” against Chávez.

“In conditions like these, what has (Venezuela´s) Bolivarian government done? What it had to do. ‘Fellows, get out,´ and they removed them from Venezuela,” Ortega said, news agency EFE reported.

At home, the Ortega administration has targeted rights groups in Nicaragua as well. Early this month, Nicaraguan First Lady Rosario Murillo launched an aggressive campaign called “Operation No More Lies,” calling non-government organizations (NGOs) “modern day Trojan Horses” that mask “an international campaign against the revolutionary government” of Ortega.

The Venezuela report by Human Rights Watch, a New York-based NGO, called Chávez´s time in power a “lost decade” and said his government has weakened democratic institutions, according to Britain´s Financial Times.

The government bit back, invoking fears similar to those expressed by Ortega´s wife.

“We aren´t going to tolerate any foreigner coming here to sully the dignity” of Venezuela´s institutions, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro told state television Thursday night, according to the Associated Press. Vivanco “has violated the constitution,” Maduro said.

The government expelled Vivanco, a Chilean, along with Human Rights Watch Deputy Director Daniel Wilkinson, from the United States, accusing them of acting on behalf of the U.S. government, AP reported.

For many human rights activists, the move only further proved their report.

“Chávez may have kicked out the messenger, but he has only reinforced the message – civil liberties in Venezuela are under attack,” Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch´s executive director, told the Financial Times.

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