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Venezuela Expels 2 After Human Rights Report

Venezuela Expels 2 After Human Rights Report Venezuela Expels 2 After Human Rights Report function getSharePasskey() { return "ex=1379822400&en=3f30303b6a7ba9db&ei=5124";} function getShareURL() { return encodeURIComponent("http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/20/world/americas/20venez.html"); } function getShareHeadline() { return encodeURIComponent("Venezuela Expels 2 After Human Rights Report"); } function getShareDescription() { return encodeURIComponent("President Hugo Chávez’s government expelled two employees of Human Rights Watch after chafing at their documentation of widespread political discrimination."); } function getShareKeywords() { return encodeURIComponent("Freedom and Human Rights,Venezuela,United States,Human Rights Watch,Hugo Chavez"); } function getShareSection() { return encodeURIComponent("world"); } function getShareSectionDisplay() { return encodeURIComponent("International / Americas"); } function getShareSubSection() { return encodeURIComponent("americas"); } function getShareByline() { return encodeURIComponent("By SIMON ROMERO"); } function getSharePubdate() { return encodeURIComponent("September 20, 2008"); }



By SIMON ROMERO
Published: September 19, 2008

CARACAS, Venezuela
— President Hugo Chávez
’s government expelled two employees of Human Rights Watch
late Thursday night after chafing at their documentation of widespread political discrimination, intimidation of union members and a subservient judiciary.



Juan Barreto/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of Human Rights Watch, met with reporters on Thursday in Caracas, Venezuela



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Armed men in uniforms apprehended José Miguel Vivanco, a Chilean citizen who is the Americas director for the New York-based group, and Daniel Wilkinson, an American who is deputy director for the Americas, and placed them on a flight to São Paulo, Brazil, where they arrived on Friday morning.

“About 20 men, some of them in military uniform, intercepted us when we arrived at our hotel after returning from dinner Thursday night,” Mr. Vivanco said in a telephone interview from São Paulo. He said he struggled briefly with the security officials when he tried to send a message on his BlackBerry to The New York Times about the expulsion.

The officials then disabled the BlackBerries of the two men and prevented them from contacting anyone in Venezuela, including diplomats from the embassies of Chile or the United States. “They informed us of our apprehension and told us they had entered our rooms and had packed our belongings,” Mr. Vivanco said.

The expulsion, broadcast partly on state television here, comes at a time of increasingly erratic actions by Mr. Chávez. In the last week, he expelled the American ambassador, rounded up military officers and accused them of plotting to kill him and clashed with the Vatican
over its granting of political asylum to a political opponent.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Mr. Vivanco violated the law by entering the country on a tourist visa to do human rights work. The ministry also said that Human Rights Watch, which is an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, was acting in concert with the United States government in a campaign of aggression against Venezuela.

“Accusing us of being part of a conspiracy is a distraction tactic used to attack the messenger,” Mr. Vivanco said. “We have never had this experience anywhere in this hemisphere.”

The expulsion of the two men came after they released a long report here on Thursday documenting rights violations in Venezuela. They pointed to Mr. Chávez’s dismantling of judicial independence and his use of a 2002 coup that briefly ousted him from office as a pretext for consolidating power by weakening rights protections.

The report also discussed the government’s intimidation of local human rights defenders and nongovernmental organizations, documenting the use of state television to carry out attacks on advocates doing work that criticized Mr. Chávez’s creation of a military reserve under his command.

“Our expulsion reveals yet again the degree of intolerance of this government,” said Mr. Vivanco.











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