September 22, 2008

A Decade Under Chávez

Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela

I. Executive Summary
Political Discrimination
The Courts
The Media
Organized Labor
Civil Society
The Future of Venezuelan Democracy
II. Political Discrimination
Political Discrimination under International Law..
Political Discrimination under Venezuelan Law..
Political Patronage and Discrimination Before Chávez
Blacklisting: The "Tascón List" and "Maisanta Program"
Fund for the Guarantee of Deposits and Banking Protection
National Council of Frontiers (CNF)
National Electoral Council (CNE)
Single Social Fund (FUS) and Fund for Microfinanced Development
Discrimination in PDVSA
Blacklisting Oil Strikers
A "Revolutionary" Workforce
Discrimination in Other Areas
The Media
Organized Labor
Civil Society
Recommendations
III. The Courts
International Norms on Judicial Independence
The OAS and the Inter-American Democratic Charter
International Human Rights Treaties
Background
The Pre-Chávez Judiciary
Reforming the Justice System..
A Polarized Supreme Court
The 2004 Court-Packing Law..
Power to Pack the Court
Power to Purge the Court
Implementation of the Court-Packing Law..
A Compliant Court
The 2004 Court-Packing Law..
The 2007 Constitutional Reform Process
Conflicts of Interest
Failure to Uphold Fundamental Rights
Recommendations
IV. The Media
Venezuela's Polarized Media
Opposition Media
Government Media
Community Media
The "Media War"
Toughening Speech Offenses
International Norms
Insult Provisions
Defamation Provisions
Speech Offense Prosecutions
Regulating Media Content
International Norms
Incitement Provisions
Dangers of Broad and Imprecise Wording
Lack of an Independent Regulatory Body
Government Use of Incitement Provisions
Restricting Information103
International Norms103
Access to Information under Venezuelan Law.. 106
Failure to Respect the Right of Access to Information107
Controlling the Airwaves108
International Norms108
Political Use of Discretionary Powers110
Community Radio and Television121
International Norms121
Government Support121
State-Sponsored Pluralism.. 123
Lack of Judicial Protection of Freedom of Expression125
The Court's Handling of the RCTV Case126
Recommendations132
V. Organized Labor134
Freedom of Association under International Law.. 138
The Right to Freely Elect Representatives139
The Right to Bargain Collectively140
The Right to Join the Organization of Choice141
The Right to Strike142
Freedom of Association under Venezuelan Law.. 143
The Right to Freely Elect Representatives144
The Right to Bargain Collectively148
The Right to Strike150
Organized Labor Before Chávez150
Electoral Interference and the Denial of Collective Bargaining Rights152
The Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV)153
Health Workers (SUNEP-SAS)160
Nutrition Workers (SUNEP-INN)164
Doctors (FMV)165
Government Favoritism and the Denial of Collective Bargaining Rights169
Public Sector Workers' Federation (FEDEUNEP)170
Airport Workers (SUNEP-Aeropuerto)172
Government Reprisals: The Oil Sector174
The Oil Strike and Mass Firings of 2003174
An Illegitimate Strike?177
An Essential Service and a National Emergency?179
An Adequate Remedy180
Blacklisting181
Threats against Political Opponents182
Firing of a Dissident Labor Leader183
New Workers' Associations: Risks to Freedom of Association185
Proposed Legislation on Workers' Councils185
Cooperatives189
Lack of Judicial Protection of Freedom of Association193
Recommendations196
State interference in union elections196
Collective bargaining196
Right to strike197
Alternative Labor Organizations197
VI. Civil Society198
International Norms on Civil Society199
Deteriorated Relations with Civil Society202
Two Divergent Approaches to Rights Advocates204
Persecution of Prison Reform Advocates204
An Alternative Approach: Police Reform.. 210
Prosecutorial Harassment216
Carlos Ayala216
Súmate218
Public Condemnation219
Attempts to Exclude NGOS from International Forums221
Proposed Legal Restrictions224
Judicial Rulings Affecting Civil Society226
Recommendations228
Acknowledgments230