From the Kremlin Playbook: Chavez Expels HRW

vivanco092008.jpgIt seems that Vladimir Putin has a thing or two to teach Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and vice versa. The expulsion of Jose Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch from Venezuela is eerily familiar to Russia-watchers, who recall the fiasco involving HRW executive director Kenneth Roth. Roth was denied a visa to enter Russia after publishing a critical 72-page report on the country’s human rights situation under the Putin administration, and Vivanco has similarly been ejected from Venezuela after publishing the tome “A Decade Under Chávez: Political Intolerance and Lost Opportunities for Advancing Human Rights in Venezuela.” As you may imagine, HRW had little positive to say about the condition of human rights and liberty in either petro-authoritarian state. The executive summary of the report states: “President Chávez has actively sought to project himself as a champion of democracy, not only in Venezuela, but throughout Latin America. Yet his professed commitment to this cause is belied by his government’s willful disregard for the institutional guarantees and fundamental rights that make democratic participation possible. Venezuela will not achieve real and sustained progress toward strengthening its democracy—nor will it serve as a useful model for other countries in the region—so long as its government continues to flout the human rights principles enshrined in its own constitution.” I believe this is a very disappointing development, and I hope that Vivanco is able to continue his good work in Venezuela in the future. Government leaders should not fear these types of civil society groups, even when they strongly disagree with the conclusions of their studies.