II. Political Discrimination

Political discrimination has long plagued Venezuela. For decades, government patronage and spoils were divided along party lines at the expense of large sectors of Venezuelan society. Chávez assumed the presidency in part on the promise to free Venezuela from its entrenched patterns of political exclusion. While his government managed to uproot the established system of political discrimination, it has replaced it with new forms of discrimination against real and perceived political opponents.

The Chávez government proclaims a commitment to political inclusion, but has openly discriminated against those who do not share its views. Government officials have removed scores of detractors from the career civil service, purged dissident employees from the national oil company, denied citizens access to social programs based on their political opinions, and denounced critics as subversives deserving of discriminatory treatment. The Chávez administration’s exclusion and harassment of those who voice their dissent belie its banner of democratic pluralism.

Political discrimination under Chávez was most pronounced in the aftermath of the 2004 recall referendum on Chávez’s presidency. Citizens who exercised their right to call for the referendum—invoking one of the new participatory mechanisms championed by Chávez during the drafting of the 1999 Constitution—were threatened with retaliation and blacklisted from some government jobs and services. After denouncing the referendum effort as an act “against the country”, Chávez requested that electoral authorities give legislator Luis Tascón a list of those who signed the referendum petition, which was made publicly available on the internet. The “Tascón list” and an even more detailed list of all Venezuelans’ political affiliations—the “Maisanta program”—were then used by public authorities to target government opponents for political discrimination. (There were also reports that private sector employers utilized the lists to discriminate against Chávez supporters.)

In one prominent case from 2004, a government banking agency used the lists in compiling political profiles of its employees and then fired more than 80 employees deemed to be part of the political opposition. In a similar case shortly after the referendum, government officials refused to renew a contract with a cooperative that made school uniforms on the grounds that cooperative members had appeared on the Tascón list and thus did not “deserve” the benefits of the program.

Political discrimination has been openly endorsed and practiced in the oil industry, which is one of the country’s largest sources of employment and the backbone of the national economy. After a two-month-long strike in December 2002, the government fired close to half of the workforce from the state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), and blacklisted them from future employment in the oil sector. A month before the 2006 presidential election, the energy minister (who also serves as PDVSA president) boasted that the company had “removed 19,500 enemies of the country from the [oil] business” and would continue to do so, telling PDVSA employees that anyone who disagreed with the government “should give up their post to a Bolivarian.” Although the minister issued a memo almost a year later proscribing political discrimination, there is credible evidence that the discriminatory mindset reflected in his initial remarks was also embodied in actual employment policies in some departments of PDVSA.

Political discrimination has been a recurring feature of the government’s policies and actions in a wide variety of areas. Subsequent chapters of this report show how political discrimination has affected the media, organized labor, and civil society. The government has threatened opposition journalists and media outlets with criminal prosecution and termination of broadcasting licenses. It has favored the formation of new pro-government unions, while refusing to bargain collectively with those associated with the opposition. And it has also harassed prominent human rights advocates and NGOs critical of the government.

Government officials have attempted to defend acts of political discrimination as a necessity, either to contain a political opposition allegedly intent on overthrowing the government or to establish a government capable of undertaking a “revolutionary” project. One government minister called the 2004 recall referendum effort an act of “terrorism” and urged the dismissal of those not “committed to the revolutionary process.” Other officials claimed that large groups of civil servants were political appointees who merited dismissal for having signed petitions calling for the referendum.

Chávez himself has sent mixed messages regarding political discrimination. At times he has recognized that discrimination is a problem and spoken out against it. For example, he directed employers to “bury” the Tascón list due to reports he received of employment discrimination (although he waited a full year after the list’s implementation to do so). He also promoted a constitutional reform proposal to explicitly bar discrimination based on political orientation.

Yet Chávez has also at times openly advocated political discrimination against opponents of the “revolution.” For example, after his energy minister told PDVSA workers they should give up their jobs if they were not Chávez supporters, Chávez publicly defended this openly discriminatory message and called on all oil workers who were not committed to the “revolution” to abandon their jobs and “go to Miami.” Such expressions of political intolerance have served to undergird the discriminatory treatment applied by his supporters.

Political Discrimination under International Law

Discrimination against individuals for exercising democratic rights is proscribed under international law. Under Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), states must respect and ensure the rights recognized in the covenant “without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status” (emphasis added).1 Although race and gender discrimination have occupied the attention of the international community, the ICCPR makes no distinction, in terms of gravity, between these different manifestations of discrimination.

International law specifically bars discrimination in public sector employment. Article 25c of the ICCPR requires that “every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in Article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions, to have access on general terms of equality to public service in his country.” In its general comment on this article, the Human Rights Committee noted that to ensure equal access, “the criteria and processes for appointment, promotion, suspension and dismissal in public service positions must be objective and reasonable.”2 Governments that bar entry to their opponents or fire those already in government jobs solely because of their political opinions would be in violation of their obligations under Articles 2 and 25.

The Human Rights Committee has stressed that “the principle of access to public service on general terms of equality implies that the State has a duty to ensure that it does not discriminate against anyone. This principle is all the more applicable to persons employed in the public service and to those who have been dismissed.”3

International labor standards, specifically Convention 111 of the International Labour Organization (ILO), also prohibit discrimination on the basis of political opinion in access to jobs and in terms and conditions of employment.4

It is generally accepted that governments may apply political criteria in recruiting decision-makers at the top levels of public administration, and most governments do so. But these political appointments must be clearly defined and limited in nature so as to prevent abuse. It is a different matter when career civil servants are hired or dismissed in blanket fashion solely because of their presumed political views, whether such discrimination operates by law or occurs informally.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has expressed concern about political discrimination in Venezuela. As it wrote in its 2005 report:

The Commission finds that dismissing employees and obstructing access to social benefits, among other measures, to punish those persons who express their voice of dissent from the administration are violations of human rights and should be subject to generalized censure, and should be investigated.5

Political Discrimination under Venezuelan Law

Venezuela gives constitutional rank to international human rights treaties; as such, no domestic laws can violate the international proscription on political discrimination described above. In addition, the 1999 Constitution expressly prohibits “political discrimination” in employment.6 Finally, and more broadly, it bars “any discrimination with the intent or effect of nullifying or encroaching upon the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on equal terms, of the rights and liberties of every individual.”7 Given that discriminatory actions based on political belief frequently result in a diminution of other rights, this broader prohibition can be read to provide general protections against political discrimination.8

Political Patronage and Discrimination Before Chávez

Political discrimination is not new to Venezuela. For at least 30 years before Chávez’s election, political allegiance was the passport to jobs in the public sector, as well as government contracts and services. Patronage—the provision of benefits, jobs, and services to those with party connections in exchange for political loyalty—was a pervasive feature of the power-sharing agreement between political parties known as the Punto Fijo pact.9

The Punto Fijo pact was based on a system of political accommodation and a division of state jobs, contracts, and spoils between the two dominant political parties.10 As Human Rights Watch noted in a report published in 1993, “jobs in the public sector were allocated with calculated discrimination through the political parties, forming an important element in the stream of patronage descending from the top of each party to its bases throughout the nation.”11

The main losers of the political arrangement were the millions of poor Venezuelans outside the public sector of the economy. Many of these voters supported Chávez in 1998, partially with the hope of bringing an end to the corruption and exclusion of the Punto Fijo era.12

The old system of patronage was largely uprooted with Chávez’s election, which ended the dominance of the two main political parties. Beginning in 2003, the Chávez government launched a series of “missions” that delivered social services directly to the poor, circumventing existing state institutions that had been criticized for distributing aid based on political criteria. Yet while the Chávez government replaced the old, discriminatory system for allocating public jobs and services, it has replaced it with new forms of exclusion based on political loyalty.

Blacklisting: The “Tascón List” and “Maisanta Program”

Two lists have been key instruments for giving effect to political discrimination under Chávez: the “Tascón list” and the “Maisanta program.” While ostensibly designed for legitimate electoral purposes, several high-ranking government officials encouraged or threatened to use the lists to retaliate against those identified as critical of the government. In the aftermath of a contentious 2004 referendum to recall Chávez from the presidency,13 some government officials blacklisted those who called for the removal of Chávez from government jobs, contracts, and services.14

Chávez encouraged holding those who signed the petition for a recall referendum on his mandate “accountable” for their decision, although he stopped short of endorsing political discrimination. In October 2003, Chávez insinuated that there might be future uses of the petition: “Those who sign against Chávez, in truth are not signing against Chávez. They will be signing against the country…. They will be recorded in history, because [the CNE] will have to register their name, their surname, their signature, their ID, and their fingerprints.”15

In January 2004, Chávez wrote to then-CNE president Francisco Carrasquero to inform him that he had authorized his campaign manager, Congressman Luis Tascón, to obtain copies of the forms with over three million signatures in support of the recall referendum from the CNE.16 Chávez announced on television that he intended to use the list to expose what he claimed were bogus signatures.17 Having obtained the election forms, Tascón posted the list of names on his website so that any individual was able to consult the “Tascón list,” ostensibly to verify their signature.18  

The creation of a list of those who signed for the recall referendum was not objectionable in itself. By supporting the call for a referendum, citizens were not voting in an election or even expressing a political preference. The petition for a recall referendum was a matter of public record in which the publication of signatures could increase the transparency of the process. What was impermissible was the use of the list to discriminate against signers.

Several high-ranking government officials explicitly threatened retaliation against signers. In one prominent expression of support for political discrimination, then-Health Minister Roger Capella, told members of the press in March 2004 that health workers and doctors who had signed the recall referendum would be fired because to sign the petition was “an act of terrorism.”19 Capella added that “the only doctors who will work in the country’s hospitals will be comrade medics committed to the revolutionary process.”20 On the following day, Capella rectified his comments, stating that they had a “personal connotation” and that discrimination on political grounds is unconstitutional.21 Nonetheless, given that Capella made his initial statements in a public forum, speaking as a government official, they could not be easily retracted or lightly forgotten.22

In another example of the political pressure placed on public sector employees, then-PDVSA President Alí Rodríguez warned of potential firings in the oil company for signing for the referendum, saying that “it wouldn’t surprise me” if workers who signed the referendum petition were fired from their jobs.23 Some PDVSA employees later reported to the press that they had been fired and, when they asked for the reason, they were told it was because they had signed the referendum petition.24

Over a year after ordering the creation of the Tascón list, Chávez himself acknowledged the discriminatory purposes for which the list had been used. In April 2005, having won the referendum, Chávez called on employers to archive and “bury” the list on public television:  

It was a moment that we’ve put behind us. If one of us who has to take a personal decision about someone goes to consult the list, what they are doing is dragging past situations into the present, and helping to recreate them … the famous list certainly fulfilled a useful role at a given moment, but that moment has passed.

We’re asking the whole country to build bridges. I say this because I’ve been receiving some letters—of all the papers I receive—that make me think that in some spaces they still have the Tascón list on the table to decide whether somebody is going to work or is not going to work. Bury the Tascón list!25

Chávez almost certainly knew in 2004 of allegations that government departments were using the Tascón list to fire workers and block job applications. In fact, according to the state radio station, Tascón said in April 2004 that he had spoken to Chávez personally about cases of discrimination by both anti-Chávez private employers and pro-Chávez government institutions and urged Chávez to halt the continuing abuse of the list.26 Nonetheless, it took Chávez over a year from his first order to compile the list—in which time, as noted above, several high-ranking government officials endorsed the use of political discrimination—to give clear instructions that the information should not be used for discriminatory purposes.

Following Chávez’s statements, the Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation in April 2005 to determine if private employers or public institutions used the Tascón list to discriminate against those who signed in favor of a recall referendum.27 However, to our knowledge, no convictions resulted.

Moreover, Chávez’s call to “bury” the Tascón list did not end political discrimination. While his announcement was welcome, some supporters responded by developing more sophisticated tools with which to discriminate. During the 2005 congressional elections, pro-Chávez campaigners designed a database known as the “Maisanta program”.28 Unlike the Tascón list, which contained only the names of those who had signed for the recall referendum, the Maisanta program contained detailed information on all registered voters, totaling over 12 million citizens. It informed the user if voters had signed the recall referendum against Chávez, abstained in earlier elections, participated in the government’s missions, and signed the counter-petition for a recall referendum against opposition legislators.29

The designers of the Maisanta program justified the program as an effort to democratize access to information.30 The database could indeed prove useful for campaign purposes. However, like the Tascón list, the Maisanta software was used for more than just electoral ends.

Hundreds of allegations emerged starting in 2004 and 2005 that government officials in different branches of public administration were using the Tascón list, the Maisanta program, or both, to fire and screen applicants for government jobs and programs.31 Even Tascón acknowledged that there were cases of “people who were not given documents, who faced delays in completing paperwork, and who were denied the ability to work” because they signed for the referendum.32

The vast majority of allegations of political discrimination were leveled by members of the opposition against government ministries and agencies, according to the nonpartisan Venezuelan human rights NGO, PROVEA.33 However, there were also reports of political discrimination against Chávez supporters in lower levels of public administration, state and municipal governments, and the private sector.34

In most cases, it was not possible to prove political discrimination—with rare exceptions, citizens were given no grounds at all for the actions taken—yet many were told informally that they were losing their jobs, contracts, or services for having signed the referendum petition. For example, in one case reported to Human Rights Watch, a 98-year-old woman was denied medicines that she had long received from a state development agency because, as her family was told by the program secretary, she had signed the referendum petition.35

Human Rights Watch documented several representative cases, detailed below, in which government officials employed the Tascón list or Maisanta program to target individuals for discriminatory actions.

Fund for the Guarantee of Deposits and Banking Protection

Among the cases of alleged politically motivated firings, one of the most prominent was the dismissal of more than 80 civil servants from a government banking agency, the Fund for the Guarantee of Deposits and Banking Protection (Fondo de Garantías de Depósitos y Protección Bancaria, FOGADE), in 2004.36 All the fired employees reportedly had been named as members of the political opposition on a list, based in part on the Tascón list, circulated within the agency.37 While the workers were fired without explanation, the president of the agency openly stated that the employees were being dismissed to make way for those “that adhered to the government project.”38

According to former employees, in May 2004 a group of FOGADE employees who belonged to a Bolivarian Circle—a type of grassroots political group supported and funded by the government—along with a senior official in the human resources department, created and circulated a list of the political affiliations of FOGADE’s more than five hundred employees.39 Alongside each name was a handwritten number indicating the employee’s political profile based on perceived political inclinations—ranging from “1” for a hard-line Chavista to “6” for “radical political opposition”—and an initial noting whether the employee had signed the petition for the recall referendum based on the Tascón list.    

The president of FOGADE, Jesús Caldera Infante, seemed to endorse the use of the list to purge the organization of government opponents, stating in a television interview that, “The revolution touched the soul and essence of FOGADE and … we are going to carry out the necessary changes.”40 In June 2004, Caldera Infante announced on television that numerous employees, “many of whom had held their positions for over 19 years,” had been dismissed because they “came from a culture that did not conform to the project envisioned by the Constitution for socioeconomic development” and that they would be substituted with officials “that adhered to the government project.”41 Eighty FOGADE staff members had lost their jobs by August 2004,42 and, according to former employees, they all had been ranked as government opponents on the list.43

Among the dismissed employees was Yadira Pérez, a secretary who had worked for FOGADE for 11 years until she was fired in June 2004. Pérez had signed for the recall referendum. Pérez told Human Rights Watch that her dismissal notice stated that her job qualified as a political appointment, allowing FOGADE to fire her without cause.44 However, Pérez was long considered a career civil servant and decided to fight her case in court.

FOGADE claimed that the firings were legally permissible because all the employees held political appointments from which they could be fired without explanation, and even for political reasons. An administrative decree from the president of FOGADE, shortly prior to the firings, established that all bank employees were political appointees because they handled sensitive information.45 “They are ‘at will’ [libre nombramiento y remoción] employees so we fired them at will,” Caldera Infante explained.46 

The court would eventually determine that the FOGADE employees were civil servants, and that the administrative order violated constitutional provisions protecting civil servants against politically motivated or arbitrary dismissals. The court ordered Pérez and several other FOGADE employees reinstated.47 

National Council of Frontiers (CNF)

In another case that suggests politically motivated discrimination, an employee at the National Council of Frontiers (Consejo Nacional de Fronteras, CNF) was told by her boss that she and three other employees had been fired solely because they signed for the recall referendum.

Since 1996, Rocío San Miguel had worked as a contract employee and legal counsel to the CNF, a government agency attached to the office of the vice-president. Four of the council’s 22 employees—Magally Chang, Jorge Guerra, Thais Peña Rocío, and San Miguel—were fired on March 22, 2004. The dismissal letters gave no reasons for their termination.48

San Miguel discovered that of the CNF’s 22 employees only she and the other three who were fired were listed as having signed the referendum petition. One of the employees, Guerra, was eventually allowed to keep his job, after he insisted his ID card had been fraudulently used and that he would withdraw his name from the petition.49

After receiving her dismissal letter, San Miguel told Human Rights Watch that her supervisor explained to her in a telephone conversation that she was a political appointee and therefore was being dismissed for “showing disloyalty” by signing the petition for the recall referendum.50 But San Miguel was in fact a contract employee, not a political appointee.51 While the council had the right not to renew her annual contract—though it had chosen to do so for eight years—her political beliefs should not have factored into any decision about her continued employment.

National Electoral Council (CNE)

Political discrimination has also extended to unpaid public service positions. In the months prior to the recall referendum, the National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral, CNE) dismissed volunteer members of municipal electoral councils, explicitly stating in dismissal letters that they were removed for having signed the recall referendum petition. The council members were citizens fulfilling their assigned civic duties, only to find their ability to render their services contingent on their political opinions.

Local electoral boards (juntas municipales electorales) are composed of unpaid citizens who are selected by public lottery to assist with elections as part of their duties as voting citizens.52  

Human Rights Watch interviewed one former member of these boards, Jorge Luis Suárez, who had served as president of the municipal electoral board of El Hatillo, a middle-class municipality of Caracas. Suárez, a lawyer, was selected by lottery to serve on the board to oversee the recall referendum in February 2004.53 But just days prior to the referendum, on August 11, 2004, Suárez received a letter from the regional director of the CNE informing him that the CNE had decided to “replace as members of the municipal electoral boards all those who signed [petitions calling] for a referendum on the presidency [or for a referendum against opposition] deputies of the National Assembly; accordingly it has resolved to replace you in your capacity as principal member of said electoral board.” The letter cited a CNE resolution to this effect, dated July 30, 2004.54

Suárez told Human Rights Watch that four out of five members of the El Hatillo electoral board received similar discharge letters from the CNE. All four had signed for the referendum to recall President Chávez; the fifth member had not signed it.55 

According to Suárez, the municipal board members were replaced by government supporters handpicked by the CNE just days prior to the referendum, although Venezuelan law requires that municipal board members be selected by public lottery at least two months prior to a referendum.56 Suárez said that when he went to retrieve his personal belongings from the municipal office, the new members—all dressed in red, the color of the government—would not let him in.57 

Suárez told Human Rights Watch that he had never received a copy of the CNE resolution referred to in his discharge letter, but he knew of municipal board members in other districts who were also dismissed for having signed for the recall referendum against President Chávez.58 Suárez did not know of any cases of municipal board members dismissed for having signed a simultaneous counter-petition for recall referenda against legislators belonging to opposition parties.59

Former vice-president of the CNE, Ezequiel Zamora, told Human Rights Watch that the resolution was applied nationwide, but that only those who signed the petition to recall President Chávez were dismissed.60 Human Rights Watch was unable to find any cases of individuals suspended for signing for the referendum to recall opposition legislators.

Even if the CNE resolution had been applied evenhandedly, it would have been improper: the exclusion of citizens from civic service because of their political beliefs violates the basic guarantees of equality and freedom of opinion essential to democratic government. Leaving aside the question of whether a signature in support of a recall referendum is a statement of political opinion, political belief should not be a disqualification for civic service.

Single Social Fund (FUS) and Fund for Microfinanced Development

The Tascón list was also applied to allocate government contracts. In one case from 2004, a cooperative lost an important government contract because, according to a letter from the government agency responsible for the contract, the cooperative’s directors had signed the referendum petition and thus did not “deserve” the benefits of the contract.61  

The Single Social Fund (Fondo Único Social, FUS), a government agency that administers social development projects, had bought school uniforms from Coprotene, a cooperative in the state of Nueva Esparta, since 2001. In 2004, FUS decided not to renew the annual contract. According to a letter from the president of the Nueva Esparta division of FUS, Coprotene was denied the contract to give an opportunity to cooperatives “truly committed to the revolutionary process and followers of our maximum leader President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías.”62    

The letter pointed out that FUS had checked the “signature status” of Coprotene’s members and discovered “to its great surprise” that one of Coprotene’s representatives, as well as her husband and the cooperative’s treasurer, had all signed against Chávez. According to the FUS letter:

DUE [the school uniform program] depends strictly on the president of the republic and if they signed against the president, they cannot now claim to deserve the benefits of a program that they themselves wanted to eliminate through the signatures. As such, with a resounding “NO,” we said that Coprotene cannot participate in the DUE Program, nor can any other cooperatives or microenterprises that have shown their willingness to remove the top leader of the Bolivarian revolution, our President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías.63

The discriminatory use of the Tascón list appears to have been practiced by other state agencies as well. María Isabel Graciani, a former employee at the Fund for Microfinanced Development (Fondo del Desarrollo de la Microempresa, FONDEMI), a government development agency that provides small loans to cooperatives and social projects, told Human Rights Watch that she received orders from her superiors to use the Tascón list to weed out applications for loans, but that she refused to apply the list.64  

Discrimination in PDVSA

Political discrimination has been openly practiced in the state oil company, PDVSA. PDVSA fired more than 18,000 employees who participated in a two-month-long strike in 2002 in a mass reprisal for legitimate strike activity.65 (The oil strike and mass firing are analyzed in detail in chapter 6.) In following years, the government used participation in the strike much like it used participation in the recall referendum effort: to identify targets for discriminatory treatment. PDVSA blacklisted the dismissed employees from future employment in the oil sector as well as in its subsidiaries and contractors. The energy minister and Chávez suggested that all of the company’s workers must support the government or leave. There is credible evidence that the discriminatory mindset reflected in these public statements also was embodied in actual employment policies in some departments of PDVSA.

Blacklisting Oil Strikers

In the aftermath of the oil strike, PDVSA purged its ranks of thousands of workers who participated in the strike. The government justified the mass firings by arguing that the workers’ sole objective was “to overthrow the President.”66 When the ILO reviewed the case, however, it determined that reasons for the work stoppage included worker demands relating to government economic policies and it therefore fell within the scope of legitimate trade union activity.67 The ILO concluded that the mass dismissal of thousands of workers and refusal to rehire them constituted reprisals in violation of international law.68

For several years after the strike, the government blacklisted the fired workers from employment in the oil sector. PDVSA wrote a letter to its subsidiaries and contractors, warning them not to hire the dismissed workers.69 In one letter sent in May 2005 to senior officials of contracting companies operating in the Orinoco Belt, the PDVSA official responsible for hiring workers in allied companies pointed out that PDVSA maintained a policy “of not contracting people responsible for conduct against the interests of the company during the events of December 2002 [the oil strike].”70 Another contractor, the Cypriot Hanseatic Shipping Company, allegedly received a similar letter from PDVSA in 2003 specifically mentioning that 168 employees had participated in the oil strike and could no longer be employed by the shipping company.71 

PDVSA’s hiring guidelines from July 2007 (which are still in force, to the best of our knowledge) stipulated that an applicant who is in the company’s database as “the author of an action under investigation—the oil stoppage” is “unsuitable” for hiring.72 PDVSA also reportedly circulated lists of names of dismissed employees that should not be rehired.73 

Some officials suggested that blacklisting striking workers was appropriate as a way of promoting accountability for crimes. As Labor Minister Roberto Hernández later explained, the government fired and refused to rehire thousands of oil workers because “those were 23,000 criminals.”74 Such an approach might have been reasonable had it been limited to specific individuals facing well-substantiated charges of criminal activity who were then investigated and prosecuted with appropriate due process guarantees. Instead, the company applied the policy to exclude any employee who participated in the strike and therefore presumably opposed the government. Chávez himself publicly denounced these workers as “traitors” and declared that Venezuela could “not afford the luxury of having such people in PDVSA.”75 

A “Revolutionary” Workforce

The allegedly subversive actions of the striking oil workers were used to encourage political discrimination within PDVSA. Both the energy minister and Chávez himself made clear that workers at PDVSA must support the “Bolivarian process,” and employment policies in some departments of the company appeared to follow these government statements.

One month before the December 2006 presidential election, Energy Minister and president of PDVSA Rafael Ramírez gave a speech to PDVSA employees, which was clandestinely filmed and later broadcast on television, in which he told workers that those who did not support Chávez should leave the company:

PDVSA is red, red, from top to bottom…. Let no one be left with even a grain of doubt that the new PDVSA is with President Chávez…. it is a crime, a counter-revolutionary act for anyone here from management to try to suppress or cool the political expression of our workers in support of President Chávez. We are going to do everything necessary to support our president. Whoever feels uncomfortable with this [word indistinct] should give up their post to a Bolivarian.”76

In the speech, Ramírez made clear to workers that this was not merely an idle threat. Referring to the mass dismissals that followed the oil strike, he told them: “Our pulse won’t falter. We removed 19,500 enemies of the country from this business and we are ready to go on doing it.”77 

For his part, President Chávez, rather than refute the overtly discriminatory message, publicly endorsed it on national TV, calling on his energy minister to repeat it “100 times,” and declaring that “PDVSA workers are part of this revolution, and whoever is not should go somewhere else, go to Miami.”78

The statements of Rodríguez and Chávez were applied in at least some divisions of the company. In one case, the electric distribution division of PDVSA established a strategy to force political opponents out of PDVSA, according to internal company documents provided to Human Rights Watch by former employees. In a meeting on October 16, 2006, division managers agreed to drive out critics of the Chávez government. The minutes of the meeting describe the agreement: “All individuals (from leaders down) that are not identified with the process will be assigned to irrelevant activities, overtime will be eliminated for them and they will be taken out of activities on Saturday and Sunday. Those who are not with Chávez must not be in PDVSA.”79 

One PDVSA subsidiary, Sincor, reportedly maintained a list of employees divided into “suitable” and “unsuitable” categories based on their political views.80 The newspaper Tal Cual reported that Sincor fired four young contract workers in 2007 because they were considered politically “unsuitable.”81 The press office of Total, the French multinational that partially owns Sincor, seemed to acknowledge there were problems, stating in response to Tal Cual’s inquiry about the company’s employment policies and the dismissal of the four contract workers: “[A]s [Sincor’s] procedures could create operating risks, we are working with PDVSA to limit the consequences of this internal process and we hope that it will cease and that the people will be reincorporated.”82

Official encouragement of political discrimination also has led companies that work with PDVSA and need to gain government contracts to engage in political discrimination. In a job announcement in October 2007, Trical de Venezuela, C.A.,83 a private company that manufactures industrial products and sells materials to PDVSA and other state companies, did so explicitly. Trical specified the political orientation it was looking for in prospective hires as follows: “Preferably not identified as from the opposition. Not present on public lists at odds with the Government. Preferably sympathetic to the Bolivarian Government.”84 

A year after Ramírez’s remarks that PDVSA must be “red, red,”—perhaps under pressure from Total and other companies to reinstate meritocratic hiring practices85—Ramírez appeared to acknowledge that discriminatory employment practices were being used in PDVSA and called for them to end. Ramírez sent a memo to PDVSA managers on July 31, 2007, expressly prohibiting the use of discriminatory “lists”:

In no case may general lists be applied which have no relevance to the hiring in progress and which do not justify the exclusion and/or disqualification of the applicant or provider…. The present resolution revokes any internal norm, resolution or decision that contradicts it and will be applied preferentially in all cases.86 

While the affirmation of non-discrimination in employment represented a positive step forward for PDVSA, the specific mention of the need for current norms to supersede past practices also appears to confirm that the lists had indeed been in circulation and applied to hiring policies in some branches of the company.

Discrimination in Other Areas

Political discrimination has underpinned and tarnished the government’s actions in a wide variety of areas. As subsequent chapters of this report document, political discrimination has affected government decisions with respect to the media, organized labor, and civil society. Legitimate criticism has been used by some government officials as the basis for excluding dissident voices from the airwaves, collective contract negotiations, and civil society meetings.

The Media

The Chávez government has punished media outlets for their criticism of the government. As we document in chapter 5, the government has also threatened legal action or administrative sanctions against opposition stations, and blocked applications by a station critical of the government for frequencies to extend its coverage.

In the most notorious case, the government refused to renew the license of the opposition television station RCTV in May 2007 because of its obstinate refusal to soften its editorial line. While the decision was nominally justified by the need to use the RCTV frequency to set up a new public channel, the government had other frequencies at its disposal and at the time had renewed the licenses of channels that supported the government or had moderated their criticism.

Organized Labor

Labor unions which fall into disfavor with the government have faced obstacles to collective bargaining. As we document in chapter 6, contrary to international law on the right to association in particular as it relates to trade unions, the government has denied established unions the right to bargain collectively until they hold state-supervised leadership elections. At the same time, the government has negotiated with new, pro-government unions, which are exempt from electoral requirements when first formed.

Civil Society

Government officials have also made unfounded accusations against civil society organizations and harassed human rights defenders because of their real or alleged political positions. As we document in chapter 7, during the Chávez presidency rights advocates have faced prosecutorial harassment, public denunciations, discriminatory efforts to exclude them from international forums, and efforts to restrict their access to international funding.


The Venezuelan government should take active steps to prevent political discrimination. In particular, the executive branch should implement a “zero tolerance” policy with regard to politically based discrimination. Specifically, it should:

  • Issue clear and unequivocal directives to all government agencies prohibiting all forms of political discrimination in the hiring and firing of employees and in the provision of public services;

  • Ensure that effective mechanisms and procedures exist to receive and respond to complaints of political discrimination; and

  • Conduct rigorous investigations into all credible allegations of political discrimination and, when appropriate, sanction those responsible in a timely fashion.

  • In view of the government’s past support for political discrimination in the hiring and firing of PDVSA employees, it is particularly important that this “zero tolerance” policy be implemented immediately by the Ministry of Energy. It addition, the PDVSA should:

  • Allow former employees dismissed for their participation in the strike of 2002, who were not convicted of criminal behavior during the strike, to compete for job opportunities in PDVSA and its subsidiaries.

  • 1 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, December 16, 1966, art. 22(1), ratified by Venezuela on May 10, 1978.

    2 Human Rights Committee, General Comment 25 (57), General Comments under article 40, paragraph 4, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the Committee at its 1510th meeting, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.7 (1996), para. 23.

    3 Human Rights Committee, Communication No. 933/2000, “In the matter of Adrien Mundyo Busyo, Thomas Osthudi Wongodi, René Sibu Matubuka et al. v. Democratic Republic of the Congo,” July 31, 2003, para. 5.2.

    4 ILO Convention No. 111 concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation, 1958, 362 U.N.T.S. 31, June 15, 1960, ratified by Venezuela on March 6, 1971.

    5 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Annual Report 2005, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.124, Doc. 5, February 27, 2006, Chapter IV: Venezuela, para. 331.

    6 Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, art. 89(5).

    7 Ibid., art. 21(1).

    8 Though the constitution can be read to provide general protections against discrimination, many welcomed Chávez’s proposal to amend the constitution to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on political orientation in December 2007. Constitutional Reform Project presented by President Hugo Chávez [Proyecto de Reforma Constitucional presentado por el presidente de la República Hugo Chávez], 2007, (accessed July 22, 2008), art. 18.

    9 The Punto Fijo pact, signed in 1958, was a power-sharing agreement between the two dominant parties, Democratic Action (Acción Democrática, AD) and the Christian Democratic Party (Comité de Organización Política Electoral Independiente, COPEI). The two-party system was credited with decades of democratic stability, but deprived many Venezuelans of effective political participation.

    10 Terry Karl, “Petroleum and Political Pacts: the Transition to Democracy in Venezuela,” Latin American Research Review, January 1987, p. 83.

    11 Americas Watch (now Human Rights Watch/Americas), Human Rights in Venezuela (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1993), p. 3.

    12 Chávez, a former army lieutenant-colonel whose only political experience was a failed coup attempt against the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez, was elected president of Venezuela with 57 percent of the vote in 1998. His victory was attributed in part to widespread disillusionment with the traditional political parties, and his promises to transform the political system. José Vicente Carrasquero and Friedrich Welsch, “Opinión pública y cultura política en Venezuela: la consolidación del chavismo,” in Friedrich Welsch, (ed.), Opinión pública y elecciones en America (Caracas: International Political Association, 2000). Specifically, public opinion polls show that Chávez was able to win votes from Venezuelans who supported democracy but were highly dissatisfied with incumbent officials and practices. Damarys Canache, “From Bullets to Ballots: The Emergence of Popular Support for Hugo Chávez,” Latin American Politics and Society, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Spring 2002), pp. 69-90.

    13 In 2002, the opposition began to organize a national referendum to allow Venezuelans to vote on whether Chávez should remain in office, invoking one of the new participatory mechanisms of the 1999 Constitution. The first signature drive was for a non-binding “consultative” referendum on whether Chávez should remain in office. A vote was scheduled for February 2003, but was indefinitely suspended by the Supreme Court. The opposition then organized a second signature drive, this time for a recall referendum that would force Chávez to resign. In September 2003, the CNE declared the petition inadmissible, arguing, among other technical objections, that the signatures were collected before Chávez completed half of his term in office. A third signature drive was organized, but the CNE declared in February 2004 that the number of valid signatures did not meet constitutional requirements and that the disputed signatures would have to be confirmed in another public event. The announcement was met with opposition protests that turned violent. A group of NGOs then appealed the CNE’s decision, and the Supreme Court’s Electoral Chamber held that the signatures were valid and the referendum should be carried out. The Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber overruled the decision, however, forcing the opposition to launch another petition drive to obtain the signatures necessary to hold a recall referendum. (The court decisions are discussed in further detail in chapter 3.) Finally, the required number of signatures was validated, and the referendum was held in August 2004. A large majority of Venezuelans voted in favor of the president’s continued tenure and the results were confirmed by electoral authorities and international observers.

    14 In 2004, the public-sector workers’ union (Federación Unitaria Nacional de Empleados Públicos, FEDEUNEP) documented widespread allegations of politically motivated discrimination against public sector employees who appeared on the Tascón list, including 200 dismissals, 400 employees subjected to pressure tactics, and 180 transfers. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Annual Report 2005, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.124, Doc. 5, February 27, 2005, Chapter IV: Venezuela, para. 327; “Denuncian lista discriminatoria en organismos públicos”, El Universal, 8 de agosto de 2005; PROVEA, “Aumentan denuncias por despedidos en la administración pública por motivaciones políticas”, Boletín Informativo 142, 6-19 de agosto de 2004, (consultado el 30 de junio de 2008); Ana Julia Jatar, Apartheid del siglo XXI: La informática, al servicio de la discriminación política en Venezuela (Caracas: Súmate, 2006).

    15 Giuliana Chiappe, “42 organismos públicos incurrieron en discriminación,” El Universal, November 11, 2006, (accessed June 28, 2008); Maria Lilibeth Da Corte, “La oposición tiene la derrota pintada en la frente,” El Universal, October 18, 2003, (accessed June 13, 2008).

    16 Letter from President Hugo Chávez Frías to Francisco Carrasquero, President of the CNE, January 30, 2004. Chávez then announced on television that he had requested the signatures. Transcript of “Aló Presidente,” No.180, February 1, 2004, (accessed June 23, 2008).

    17 Hugo Chávez stated on a live broadcast on VTV on February 15, 2004, “There’s the list of all these things, above all the ID card numbers of those who supposedly signed. I call on the Venezuelan people to check so that the faces appear. There it is! Check it out!” Video of VTV broadcast, Ciudadanía Activa, La Lista: Un Pueblo Bajo Sospecha, (accessed June 14, 2008).

    18 Taynem Hernández, “MVR asegura que 72 dirigentes opositores no firmaron solicitud,” El Universal, January 15, 2003.

    19 Yolanda Ojeda Reyes, “Firmar contra Chávez es un acto de terrorismo,” El Universal, March 21, 2004, (accessed June 4, 2008).

    20 Ibid.

    21 “Ministro de Salud niega despidos por razones políticas,” Radio Nacional de Venezuela/Venpress, March 22, 2004, (accessed June 4, 2008); Marielba Núñez y Leidys Asuaje, “Capella; fue un error decir que se despedirá a médicos por firmar,” El Nacional, March 23, 2004.

    22 Capella’s words may not have been idle threats, as there were already reports of politically motivated firings of doctors and health workers emerging in the press. Eva Riera, “Médicos en Falcón denuncian represalias por participar en El Reafirmazo,” El Nacional,March 27, 2004; Nadia Pérez, “Podrían llegar a 35 los médicos despedidos del Pérez de León,” El Nacional, March 20, 2004.

    23 “Empleados de Pdvsa que firmaron referéndum revocatorio podrían ser despedidos: Alí Rodríguez admite que puede despedir a firmantes,” El Nacional, March 13, 2004; “Rodríguez Araque admite factibilidad de despedidos de firmantes,” El Universal, March 12, 2004.

    24 For example, Henry Omar Arteaga, a manager at Petroquímica de Venezuela (Pequiven) with more than 20 years of service, was fired in March 2004. He claimed he was told by a supervisor that the reason was his participation in the recall petition, and that the decision had come from the company directors and possibly its president. In March 2007 a labor court ordered Pequiven to pay compensation to Arteaga. The company did not contest that his dismissal was unjustified, though they did not say it was politically motivated. Ana Julia Jatar, Apartheid del siglo XXI: La informática al servicio de la discriminación política en Venezuela, (Caracas: Súmate, 2006), p. 59; Fifth Instance Court, Carobobo state, Zurima Escorihuela Paz, March 30, 2007, (accessed June 12, 2008).

    25 “Presidente Chávez ordena ‘enterrar’ lista de firmantes del revocatorio,” Radio Nacional de Venezuela, April 16, 2005, (accessed June 14, 2008); Maria Lilibeth da Corte, “Chávez exigió enterrar ‘la famosa lista’ del diputado Luis Tascón,” El Universal, April 16, 2005, (accessed June 14, 2008).

    26 “Diputado Tascón: yo saqué la lista de mi pagina web desde 2004,” Radio Nacional de Venezuela/MINCI, April 16, 2004, (accessed June 30, 2008).

    27 “Ministerio Público inició averiguación sobre uso de listados por solicitud de referendos en 2004,” Attorney General’s Office press release, April 27, 2005, (accessed July 24, 2008).

    28 “Denuncian existencia de lista más sofisticada de oposición,” El Nacional, August 24, 2005.

    29 “The Maisanta Program,” (accessed June 30, 2008).

    30 Aleksander Boyd, “Lista de Tascón: Maisanta software explained,” post to, September 15, 2005, (accessed on June 16, 2008).

    31 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Annual Report 2005, OEA/Ser.L/V/II.124, doc. 5, February 27, 2005, Chapter IV, Venezuela, para. 327; “Denuncian lista discriminatoria en organismos públicos,” El Universal, August 8, 2005; PROVEA, “Aumentan denuncias por despedidos en la administración pública por motivaciones políticas”; PROVEA, “La causa continúa vigente para personas despedidas por razones políticas”; Citizens Control for Security, Defense and the National Armed Forces (Control Ciudadano para la Seguridad, la Defensa y la Fuerza Armada Nacional), “Informe sobre la Discriminación Política en Venezuela (2003-2007), Estudio de Casos,” (accessed July 6, 2008); Jatar, Apartheid del siglo XXI.

    32 PROVEA, “La causa continúa vigente para personas despedidas por razones políticas.”

    33 PROVEA, “Derechos laborales,” Informe Anual 2004-2005, (accessed July 21, 2008), p. 13; Carlos Chirinos interview with Marino Alvarado, director of PROVEA, “Venezuela: Discriminación política,” BBC Mundo, May 22, 2004, (accessed July 21, 2008).

    34 For example, the Ombudsman (Defensoría del Pueblo) received 57 allegations of political discrimination in 2004 of which 16 cases were known to be from the private sector and 15 from the public sector. Ibid.

    35 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Pedro Elias Carrasco, nephew of Juana Bautista, Caracas, January 18, 2008.

    36 FOGADE is an institute attached to the Ministry of Finance which, among other functions, guarantees bank deposits held by the public. FOGADE, (accessed June 27, 2008). Several press reports emerged about the firings: Miguel Angel Santos, “FOGADE: Crónica de un colapso anunciado,” El Universal, June 21, 2004; Oscar Medina, “Purga Laboral,” El Universal, August 4, 2004.

    37 Medina, “Purga Laboral,” El Universal.

    38 “Despedidos ilegales impactan las cuentas de FOGADE,” El Universal, February 23, 2008, (accessed May 26, 2008).

    39 “Situation of employees and workers at FOGADE as of March 30, 2004,” on file with Human Rights Watch; “FOGADE, otra lista para investigar: Aqui tienes pruebas, Isaías,” Tal Cual, May 2, 2005. Yadira Pérez, a secretary at FOGADE until she was fired in 2004, told Human Rights Watch that the list was created by a Bolivarian circle within the organization (Círculo Bolivariano José Félix Ribas), with the assistance of an official in the human resources department ). Human Rights Watch interview with Yadira Pérez, FOGADE secretary (1993-2004), Caracas, September 22, 2007. Another employee, Glenda Fermín, similarly told the press that the list came from a Bolivarian circle with the assistance of the personnel department. Medina, “Purga laboral,” El Universal.

    40 “FOGADE transfiere 320 inmuebles a misión Vuelvan Caras,” Radio Nacional de Venezuela, May 17, 2004, (accessed June 14, 2008). [“En Fogade operará un cambio y una transformación profunda… La revolución tocó el alma y la esencia de Fogade, y nosotros en el marco de la ley, en el marco de la Constitución, vamos a propiciar los cambios que sean necesarios.”]

    41 “Despedidos ilegales impactan las cuentas de FOGADE,” El Universal.

    42 Medina, “Purga Laboral,” El Universal; Human Rights Watch was also told that 140 FOGADE workers were fired by the end. Human Rights Watch interview with Antonio Suárez, president of FEDEUNEP, Caracas, September 13, 2007.

    43 Human Rights Watch interview with Yadira Pérez, FOGADE, September 22, 2007; Testimony of Glenda Fermín in Medina, “Purga laboral,” El Universal.

    44 Human Rights Watch interview with Yadira Pérez, September 22, 2007.

    45 General Law of Banks and Other Financial Institutions [Ley General de Bancos y Otras Instituciones Financieras], Official Extraordinary Gazette of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Gaceta Oficial Extraordinaria de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela), No. 5.555, November 13, 2001, (accessed May 18, 2008), art. 298, establishes that FOGADE employees are civil servants. In a memo, Caldera Infante argued that since FOGADE was a guarantor of the stability and security of the financial system, all its work was confidential. Under an administrative decree amending the General Law of Banks and other Financial Institutions, Caldera Infante stated that staff could be hired and fired at the discretion of its president. This memo and administrative act was attached as a preamble to the firing letters received by staff in 2004. Providencia Administrativa No. 045, 2004.

    46 “Despedidos ilegales impactan las cuentas de FOGADE,” El Universal.

    47 As the court found in the case of one FOGADE employee, “To exclude all the positions of FOGADE from the administrative career broke with the general established constitutional and legal principle.” Second Administrative Court, Alejandro Soto Villasmil, Case No. AP42-R-2005-001719, May 2006, (accessed June 13, 2008); First Administrative Court, Neguyen Torres López, Case No. AP42-R-2006-00180, June 2006, (accessed June 13, 2008). Pérez was asked to accept financial compensation in exchange for signing a statement that she had voluntarily resigned. Human Rights Watch interview with Yadira Pérez, September 22, 2007. By that point, Caldera Infante had resigned in the midst of a corruption scandal. Victor Salmeron, “Caldera Infante, Gestión revolucionaria en FOGADE,” El Universal, August 6, 2005, (accessed May 16, 2008).

    48 Human Rights Watc h interview with Rocío San Miguel, legal counsel to the CNF (1994-2004), Caracas, September 16, 2007.

    49 Ibid.; Rocío San Miguel, “Discriminación en el Palacio de Miraflores: Consejo Nacional de Fronteras,” in Jatar, Apartheid del siglo XXI, pp. 159-174.

    50 Human Rights Watch interview with Rocío San Miguel, September 16, 2007.

    51 Article 146 of the Constitution establishes that contract employees are separate from political employees, and the Supreme Court confirmed that the dismissed CNF employees were contract employees. Supreme Court Constitutional Chamber, Marcos Tulio Dugarte Padrón, Case No. 04-2194, May 26, 2005, (accessed July 29, 2008).

    52 Organic Electoral Law [Ley Orgánica del Poder Electoral], Official Gazette of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (Gaceta Oficial de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela), No. 37.573, November 19, 2002, (accessed March 23, 2008), arts. 54, 55.

    53 Letter from Francisco Carrasquero, President of the CNE, to Jorge Luis Suárez, February 10, 2004, reproduced in Jatar, Aparteid del siglo XXI, p. 132.

    54 Letter from Julio César Barroso, Director, Oficina Regional Electoral, Estado Miranda, to Jorge Luis Suárez, August 9, 2004, reproduced in Jatar, Aparteid del siglo XXI, p. 133.

    55 Human Rights Watch interview with Jorge Luis Suárez, lawyer and El Hatillo municipal board president (2004), Caracas, September 17, 2007, and telephone interview June 30, 2008.

    56 Organic Electoral Law, art. 55.

    57 Ibid.

    58 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Jorge Luis Suárez, June 30, 2008. Human Rights Watch sought a copy of the resolution at the CNE offices in Caracas, but officials could not locate it in the files open to the public.

    59 Government supporters collected signatures to call referenda against nine opposition legislators in May 2004. “Sesenta por ciento de diputados opositores van a revocatorio,” Radio Nacional de Venezuela, May 25, 2004, (accessed July 2, 2008).

    60 Human Rights Watch interview with Ezequiel Zamora, former CNE Vice-President, Caracas, September 22, 2007, and telephone interview June 30, 2008.

    61 Letter No. DNE 2004-072 from Amelia García de Ordaz, president of CAPMI-NE, the association of artisans of small and medium-size enterprises in the state of Nueva Esparta, to Patricia Perazzo, director of FUS (Nueva Esparta), June 28, 2004; “FUS,”, 2005, (accessed May 22, 2008); “Todo aquel que no esté con el régimen... Caso FUS Margarita,” Tal Cual, May 3, 2005.

    62 Ibid.

    63 Ibid.

    64 Human Rights Watch interview with María Isabel Graciani, FONDEMI administrative assistant (2002-2004), Caracas, March 17, 2007, and telephone interview July 28, 2008. FONDEMI provides small loans at low-interest rates to cooperatives and social production projects through Venezuela’s communal banks. FONDEMI, (accessed May 22, 2008).

    65 In December 2002, PDVSA’s managers and workers called a work stoppage that shut down the state-owned oil company for two months. The strike organizers were angered by Chávez’s management changes and increasing control of PDVSA, and joined with business and labor leaders in a general strike to regain control of the company and demand Chávez’s resignation. The strike almost halted oil exports and temporarily crippled the economy, causing billions of dollars in damages.

    66 ILO, “Complaint against the Government of Venezuela presented by the National Union of Oil, Gas, Petrochemical and Refinery Workers (UNAPETROL) and the National Single Federation of Public Employees (FEDEUNEP),” Case No. 2249, Report 333, Vol. LXXXVIII, 2004, Series B, No. 1, para. 1059.

    67 ILO, “Complaint against the Government of Venezuela presented by the National Union of Oil, Gas, Petrochemical and Refinery Workers (UNAPETROL) and the National Single Federation of Public Employees (FEDEUNEP),” Case No. 2249, Report 337, Vol. LXXXVIII, 2005, Series B, No. 2, para. 1478.

    68 Ibid., para. 1478. The ILO has held that the refusal to rehire workers for their organizing-related activities “implies a serious risk of abuse and constitutes a violation of freedom of association.” “Sanctions (Right to strike),” ILO Committee on Freedom of Association Digest of Decisions, 2006, para. 666.

    69 Many press reports emerged that PDVSA blacklisted former employees from oil sector companies. Nathalie Malinarich, “Venezuela’s middle class feels the squeeze,”, November 29, 2006, (accessed June 29, 2008); Human Rights Watch met with Trina Zavarse, associate director of Gente de Petroléo, an NGO of former oil workers, who said that both private and public oil companies blacklisted the former workers. Human Rights Watch interview with Trina Zavarse, Caracas, September 13, 2007.

    70 Letter from Freddy Caraballo, managing director, business with third parties, PDVSA, to the presidents of Ameriven, Cerro Negro, Petrozuata and Sincor, May 9, 2005, reproduced in Jatar, Apartheid del siglo XXI, p. 63.

    71 ILO, Case 2249, Report 333, para. 1050.

    72 “General Guidelines for the Hiring of Staff and Providers, Criteria to Verify,” memo from Rafael Ramírez to senior PDVSA executives, July 31, 2007; Patricia Clarembaux, “Discriminación a Medias,” Tal Cual, September 24, 2007.

    73 Allegedly, the loss prevention and control department of PDVSA, along with the NGO Association of Oil Workers (Asociación Nacional Petroleros por Venezuela, Asopetroleros), circulated a blacklist of former PDVSA employees who participated in the oil stoppage. ILO, Case 2249, Report 337, para. 1453.

    74 “No nacionalizarán Coca-Cola Femsa,” Últimas Noticias, June 19, 2008.

    75 “Chávez: ‘Pdvsa es el corazón económico de la patria y no pueden haber traidores,’” Venpress, February 16, 2003, (accessed June 15, 2008).

    76 Video of speech by Rafael Ramírez to PDVSA employees, posted to YouTube, November 3, 2006, (accessed June 23, 2008); “Chávez al ministro Ramírez: ‘Vaya y repítale a Pdvsa cien veces lo que usted ha dicho,’”, November 3, 2006, (accessed June 23, 2008); “Detalles del mensaje,” El Universal, November 3, 2006, (accessed July 3, 2008).

    77 Ibid.

    78 Ibid.

    79 Meeting minutes recorded by Alexis Brancho Bozo, PDVSA, Distribución Eléctrica, Reunión de Equipo, October 18, 2006, 10:30 AM, on file with Human Rights Watch. [“Toda persona (de lideres para abajo) que no esté identificada con el proceso será ubicada en actividades irrelevantes, se le eliminará el sobretiempo y serán sacados de actividades los días sábados y domingo. El que no esté con Chávez no deberá estar en PDVSA.”]

    80 Patricia Clarembaux, “Despedidos políticos en Sincor,” Tal Cual, July 18, 2007; Patricia Clarembaux, “Pdvsa ‘nacionaliza’ la discriminación,” Tal Cual, July 19, 2007, (accessed June 18, 2008).

    81 Patricia Clarembaux, “¿Puedo llamar a un amigo?,” Tal Cual, July 25, 2007, (accessed June 18, 2008).

    82 Patricia Clarembaux, “Se oficializó la lista Tascón,” Tal Cual, July 26, 2007, (accessed June 18, 2008).

    83 TRICAL, (accessed May 29, 2008).

    84 “Mercado Laboral: Trical de Venezuela, C.A. solicita Comisionista con contactos gubernamentales,” October 3, 2007, on file with Human Rights Watch.

    85 Industry experts also complained that a blacklist not to hire PDVSA managers and technicians resulted in substantial drops in oil production. U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Issues Related to Potential Reductions in Venezuelan Oil Production,” June 2006, (accessed June 29, 2008), p. 20.

    86 Memo from Rafael Ramírez to senior PDVSA executives, “Lineamientos Generales para la Contratación de Personal o Proveedores,” July 31, 2007.