During his term, the peso devalued from 2. The peso was later devalued from 4 per dollar to 7.
The program channeled public funds, which the administration said came largely from privatization of state-owned companies, into impoverished areas to improve roads, the electrical grid, schools, and clinics in order to raise levels of education and health and link remote areas, with lack of oversight in its spending. Salinas's Harvard doctoral dissertation had examined the relationship between social programs and political support for the government.
Given the Salinas's questionable legitimacy as the winner of the election, PRONASOL was seen as a way for Salinas to deliver immediate benefits to the poor and avert their turning to other political parties or worse. It did not prioritize funding for Mexico's poorest states, but rather to states with middle-income populations where elections were most contested and where the PRI had lost.
The Catholic Church and the Mexican government has had a historically fraught relationship, with restrictions on the church's role in national life. In the s, the church saw electoral participation reform and fighting electoral fraud as an issue. Sometime during the presidential campaign, the PRI had indicated to the Church that a Salinas victory would be beneficial to the Church. It has been considered a quid pro quo agreement. Behind the scenes the apostolic delegate to Mexico, the Vatican's representative, Mexican bishops, and government officials had a series of secret meetings that hammered out the outlines of a new Church-State relationship.
In his inaugural address, Salinas de Gortari announced a program to "modernize" Mexico via structural transformation. The implementation of reforms entailed amending the constitution, but before that overcoming opposition on the Left but also in the Catholic Church itself. In the wake of the highly controversial election results, the government initiated a series of electoral reforms.
A major change was the creation of the Federal Electoral Institute IFE in October , taking elections out of the hands of the Ministry of the Interior to create an independent entity. The elections were the first to have international observers, and were considered, at that time, the fairest elections in the century, although not free of controversy. Shifts in emphasis concerned the Porfiriato and the role of foreign investment, Emiliano Zapata , lauding him as a hero despite his having opposed every government in power; U.
The government was compelled to withdraw them in January According to one assessment, "While the textbook controversy disclosed new support for the regime from the right, it also revealed an erosion of support and discipline within officialdom. The centerpiece of Salinas's presidency was his successful negotiation with the U. The agreement was a reversal of Mexico's longstanding policies of economic nationalism and anti-Americanism and was intended to create a single market.
Mexican proponents of NAFTA saw it in a way to secure markets for its exports and attract foreign investment, and create jobs, help the government to be able to service its foreign debt, and overall, promote economic recovery. In Mexico, the reversal was controversial, opposed by organized labor, many academics, and nongovernmental organizations. An issue of importance both domestic and foreign policy is drug trafficking.
In the s and early s, Mexico was a transit country for cocaine produced in Colombia and destined for consumers in the United States. President De la Madrid considered drug trafficking a nation security issue and devoted government funding to it. Salinas expanded this funding, but neither president stemmed the growth of trafficking and its impact on Mexico. Drug trafficking is highly lucrative for those involved with it, and Mexico's weak law enforcement and judicial system could not prevent the wide-scale involvement of Mexico's poorly-paid police from being corrupted.
The Mexican military to a lesser extent was corrupted, along with politicians, and some journalists. Such corruption undermined the possibility of rule of law and it prevented Mexicans from having trust in the state. A rising level of violence by drug traffickers against the state, witnesses, journalists, and bystanders. Salinas also renegotiated Mexico's foreign debt. In , Salinas had traveled to Europe to attract non-North American capital investment, but dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc opened them to foreign investment; Mexico was less attractive to them and Salinas turned to North America.
In , Mexico hosted the Chapultepec Peace Accords , a venue where the parties in the civil war in El Salvador signed an accord ending the long conflict. Mexico reestablished diplomatic relations with the Vatican. Thompson to pardon four Mexican citizens from a quadruple murder known as the Milwaukee Ave Massacre, that took place in in Chicago, Illinois.
As the presidential election approached, Salinas had the crucial decision to designate the candidate for the PRI; that person had always gone on to win the presidential election. Aspe, a graduate of MIT had a high international profile, but was considered unlikely to actually attract voters. The changed circumstances of the Mexican political system, as demonstrated by Salinas's own election to the presidency, meant that being designated the PRI did not guarantee election.
Aspe was not a charismatic prospect as a candidate who could energize and charm voters. Salinas's immediate response was to find for a peaceful solution: offering pardon to deposed arms; ordering a cease fire; appointing a peace negotiator, and sending Mexican Congress a General Amnesty Law. Salinas's presidential successor took a harder line when he was inaugurated.
But Salinas's more peaceful solution Zapatista uprising was legal and politically pragmatic, likely saving many lives in Mexico.
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For Salinas, this had political benefits, since Camacho, having been passed over as the PRI presidential candidate, could have bolted from the party. With this important appointment, he was in the public limelight again. A spectacular political event of was the assassination of Salinas's handpicked PRI presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio in March , upending the already complex electoral situation with elections scheduled for August The Zapatista uprising had ruined Salinas's plans for a peaceful transition of Mexico in the elections. There is evidence that Salinas and Colosio began to disagree, not unusual after the electoral transfer, but this occurred prior to it.
His campaign languished with lack of funding, Colosio had problems getting media coverage, given the high-profile events in Chiapas. Salinas prevented Colosio from going to Chiapas, while the explanation that his presence there would complicate the situation. Increasingly there was the impression that Salinas would reverse his decision for Colosio, substituting someone else, perhaps Manuel Camacho. Salinas made a public statement on 17 January , affirming his choice as candidate, but this was at the insistence of Colosio.
Salinas extracted a pledge from Camacho that he had no designs on the presidency, which he renounced the day before Colosio's assassination in Tijuana 23 March Zedillo had been Secretary of Education, a relatively unimportant ministry; he had resigned to run the campaign of Colosio. Zedillo had never held elective office, sharing that trait with De la Madrid and Salinas, but Zedillo was not otherwise experienced politically. He was perceived as a weak candidate. After considering whether to postpone the general election scheduled for 21 August , Salinas chose Zedillo to run as the PRI candidate for the presidency and the elections took place as scheduled.
Zedillo won a clear victory, in what were considered by foreign observers as free and fair. The murder was not solved during Salinas's presidency, even when Mario Ruiz Massieu Francisco's brother was the attorney general and in charge of the investigation. The economic bubble gave Mexico a prosperity not seen in a generation.
This period of rapid growth coupled with low inflation prompted some political thinkers and the media to state that Mexico was on the verge of becoming a "First World nation". It was known that the peso was overvalued, but the extent of the Mexican economy's vulnerability was either not well known or downplayed by both the Salinas administration and the media. Several economists and historians have analyzed some of the events and policy mistakes that precipitated the crisis of December This budget deficit was coupled with a current account deficit, fueled by excessive consumer spending as allowed by the overvalued peso.
In order to finance this deficit, the Salinas administration issued tesobonos , an attractive debt instrument that insured payment in dollars instead of pesos. The economically orthodox thing to do, in order to maintain the fixed exchange rate at 3. This, in turn, caused an even more dramatic decline in the dollar reserves. These decisions aggravated the already delicate situation, to a point at which a crisis became inevitable and devaluation was only one of many necessary adjustments. This measure, however, was not enough, and the government was unable to hold this line, and decided to let the exchange rate float.
While experts agree that devaluation was necessary, some critics of Zedillo's day-old administration argue that, although economically coherent, the way the crisis was handled was a political mistake. In December the governing coalition in the National Assembly filled their vacancies, as well as the 12 new seats, with political allies. O ver the next few years, this packed Supreme Court fired hundreds of lower court judges and appointed hundreds more to permanent judgeships.
The political takeover of the Supreme Court effectively neutralized the judiciary as an independent branch of government. The packed court has largely abdicated its role as a check on arbitrary state action. Democracy is indispensable for human rights, and an independent judiciary is indispensable for democracy. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights emphasized this link between judicial independence and democratic rule of law in its report on Venezuela:.
In addition to its commitment to democracy under the Inter-American Charter, Venezuela is party to human rights treaties-including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ICCPR and the American Convention on Human Rights-that require it to safeguard the independence and impartiality of its judiciary.
The practical safeguards that this obligation entails are set forth in a series of "basic principles" on the independence of the judiciary endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly. As this chapter shows, in the past several years, Venezuela has flouted all of these principles. In doing so, it has undermined its rule of law and degraded its democracy. In interviews with Human Rights Watch, lawyers from across the political spectrum described a system in which justice had often been for sale to the highest bidder. A report on the Venezuelan justice system by the Lawyer's Committee for Human Rights painted a grim portrait of the judiciary:.
In terms of public credibility, the system was bankrupt. A survey by the United Nations Development Program found that only 0. One of the first acts of the National Constituent Assembly was to declare, in August , that the judiciary was in a state of emergency. It suspended the tenure of judges and created an emergency commission which it empowered to suspend judges who showed signs of wealth incommensurate with their salaried income, and to remove judges who, for example, had adopted decisions "manifestly disregarding the law.
The Constitution created a new Supreme Court, with twenty seats, and established protections for judicial independence, such as the requirement of a two-thirds majority vote of the National Assembly to impeach a sitting justice. In March , the Constituent Assembly selected 20 justices, with a nearly unanimous vote, to sit on the new court. The new constitution also established that international human rights treaties ratified by Venezuela have precedence over domestic laws.
Due to the overwhelming public consensus that judicial reform was needed, these measures to overhaul and strengthen the courts had broad support from across the political spectrum. Each camp controlled some of the court's six chambers. In March , the National Electoral Council Consejo Nacional Electoral, CNE invalidated , of the 2,, signatures that the opposition had obtained in favor of holding a recall referendum, leaving the opposition short of the number of signatures required to compel such a referendum.
The new court-packing law increased the Supreme Court from 20 to 32 justices, adding two justices to each of the court's six chambers. Some proponents of the law justified this increase as a measure for alleviating the justices' workload. Four justices who were in office in , as well as one ex-justice at the time, told Human Rights Watch that only two of the six chambers had any difficulty keeping up with their caseloads the constitutional chamber and the "political administrative" chamber.
Nor, for that matter, is it difficult to imagine ways to alleviate the caseload of those chambers with more cases, such as by assigning them more clerks or creating adjunct tribunals to handle cases in which the jurisprudence is already clearly established. Whatever the justification, however, the impact of the increase in judges on the judiciary's independence was unmistakable. It allowed the governing coalition in the National Assembly, which at the time enjoyed a slim majority of seats, to radically alter the balance of power in the country's highest court, ensuring that each of its chambers was controlled by justices sympathetic to the government's political agenda.
Venezuela's Constitution seeks to guarantee the independence of justices by granting them a single year term and establishing an impeachment process that requires a two-thirds majority vote by the National Assembly, after the "citizen branch"-which consists of the "Moral Council," composed of the attorney general, the ombudsman, and the comptroller-has determined that the justice has committed a "serious offense" falta grave.
The law eliminated this guarantee. While the impeachment of justices still requires a two-thirds majority vote, the law creates two new mechanisms for removing justices, short of impeachment and without the need for a two-thirds majority. One entails suspending justices pending an impeachment vote, the other entails nullifying their appointments. The first mechanism is found in a new provision which establishes that when the "citizen branch" determines that a justice has committed a serious offense, and unanimously recommends the justice's dismissal, then the justice will be automatically suspended pending an impeachment vote by the National Assembly.
However, such deadlines are habitually disregarded by the assembly, and there is no effective mechanism for enforcing them. Consequently, if the president of the assembly chooses not to bring the issue to a vote, the justice could remain suspended indefinitely. The definition of "serious offense" is broad and includes highly subjective categories such as "threaten or damage public ethics or administrative morale" and "made decisions that threaten or damage the interests of the Nation.
The National Assembly has also bestowed upon itself the power to "nullify" justices' appointments by a simple majority vote in one of three circumstances: the justice provided false information at the time of his or her selection to the court; the justice's "public attitude … undermines the majesty or prestige of the Supreme Court" or of any of its members; or the justice "undermines the functioning" of the judiciary. This provision is a clear ploy to circumvent the constitutional requirement that justices must be removed with a two-thirds majority vote of the National Assembly.
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Calling this action the "nullification of appointment" cannot disguise the fact that it entails firing the justice. What makes the provision particularly dangerous is the fact that two of the three criteria for "nullification" are entirely subjective and, therefore, allow the assembly's majority to target justices identified with the political opposition. In fact, at the time, a leading member of the National Assembly's pro-government coalition, Iris Varela, explicitly acknowledged this as the law's intent, saying "the 10 coup-backing justices magistrados golpistas who supported the de facto government of Pedro Carmona Estanga should be off the Supreme Court, and the new law passed in the National Assembly will achieve this goal.
The new law provided the basis for a political takeover of the Supreme Court. And, by the end of the year, pro-government members of the National Assembly had filled their seats, as well as the 12 new seats created by the law, with people known to be political allies. The impact of this political takeover soon extended to the entire judiciary. The packed Supreme Court, in charge of appointing and removing lower court judges, significantly altered the composition of the judiciary. Instead of following the constitutional procedure to impeach the justice, which would have required a two-thirds majority, the National Assembly used the court-packing law, which allowed it to annul his designation with a simple majority vote.
The effort to remove Arrieche had begun the day after the court delivered the controversial ruling in August The grounds for removal had nothing to do with the ruling on the coup. Instead, the commission based its recommendation on a finding that Arrieche had provided false information to the National Constituent Assembly when it appointed him to the court two years earlier.
Arrieche successfully appealed to the Supreme Court to block his removal, arguing that he had never been granted an opportunity to refute the allegations before the commission, and that that the removal violated the constitutional requirement of a two-thirds majority vote. The court issued a temporary injunction, blocking Arrieche's removal, while it decided his constitutional challenge.
In June , a month after the National Assembly passed the court-packing law, the pro-government coalition used it to do what it had been unable to do two years earlier: remove Arrieche without a two-thirds majority vote. The coalition applied the provision of the new law that allows for the annulment of judicial appointments with a simple majority vote.
Arrieche again appealed to the Supreme Court. This time, however, the constitutional chamber rejected his petition, arguing that the National Assembly was merely applying the new law. The chamber inexplicably disregarded the fact that the removal of a justice without a two-thirds majority vote violates the Constitution  and failed to consider that Arrieche's removal was incompatible with Venezuela's international human rights obligation to guarantee the independence of the judiciary. A few months after Arrieche's removal, the constitutional chamber revoked the Supreme Court's decision on the April 11 coup that the justice had drafted in Facing the threat of an indefinite suspension as a consequence of the court-packing law, the two justices opted for retirement.
Under the new law, justices accused by the "citizen branch" of committing a "serious offense" are indefinitely suspended from their positions until the National Assembly votes on whether or not to remove them from the court. The assembly also appointed 32 substitute justices-who temporarily fill in for justices who are on leave or recused in a specific case-bringing the total to 49 appointees in one day.
Leaders of the congressional majority made it clear they were only appointing individuals who would not rule against the government.
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The impact of the court-packing law extended to the entire judiciary. Over the next several years, the newly packed Supreme Court would fire hundreds of judges and appoint hundreds more. This massive turnover of judges only compounded the damage already done to the credibility of Venezuela's judiciary. Under Venezuelan law, the Supreme Court is responsible for the appointment and removal of all the country's lower court judges through a "Judicial Commission" made up of six justices.
He was then was appointed by his colleagues in the packed court to serve as president of the Judicial Commission. In theory, one positive effect of the overhaul of the judiciary has been reducing the number of provisional and temporary judges. In only 20 percent of the country's judges held permanent appointments and enjoyed the rights established in the constitution. Unfortunately, however, the value of this development, in terms of strengthening the independence and credibility of the judiciary, is overshadowed by the fact that it was carried out by the Judicial Commission of a Supreme Court that was itself subject to a political takeover.
Since the political takeover of , the Supreme Court has repeatedly failed to fulfill its role as a guarantor of the rule of law in the face of arbitrary state action. The court has failed, in particular, to respond to assaults on the separation of powers, such as the court-packing law and the constitutional reform package. Among other issues, their petitions challenged new provisions for removing justices on the grounds that such measures did away with the constitutional requirement of a two-thirds majority vote.
Despite the urgent nature of these appeals, it took the court three years to rule on the petitions, at which time it dismissed them on procedural grounds without ever addressing the merits. The court attempted to justify this evasion by claiming, inaccurately, the petitioners were no longer "interested" in the matter.
As one justice who disagreed with the court's handling of these cases explained to Human Rights Watch, the petitioners had already completed their submissions and were waiting for the court to respond. Moreover, even if there had been omissions on the part of the petitioners, the Supreme Court could still have addressed the merits of the case. Indeed, the Supreme Court law expressly establishes that the court can "supplement, de oficio, the deficiencies of petitioners" in cases involving constitutional challenges like these.
The reforms included measures that would have dramatically expanded the powers of the executive branch by, among other things, authorizing the president to suspend fundamental rights indefinitely during states of emergency without any Supreme Court oversight. Specifically, the proposed changes would have eliminated the constitutional prohibition on suspending due process guarantees during states of emergency-including the presumption of innocence, the right against self-incrimination, and other guarantees of a fair trial-in violation of international law.
The reform would also have made it possible for a wide range of other fundamental rights to be suspended indefinitely, including the guarantee of equality and non-discrimination, and the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, all of which are considered so fundamental that countries are not permitted to derogate from their obligations to respect them even in a state of emergency. In addition, the reform would have eliminated specific time limits on states of emergency and it also would have lifted the requirement that the Supreme Court review the constitutionality of any emergency decree that suspended rights.
They argued that this procedure violated the constitutional provision that requires that a constituent assembly be convoked to enact any reforms that modify the "fundamental principles and structure" of the document. The Supreme Court declined to address any of these challenges. It argued that it could not review them until after the referendum had been held. According to the court, given that that the constitutional reform process is "complex" and composed of various steps, the process could not result in any effects gravamen on individuals until it concluded.
The credibility of the rulings in both the court-packing and constitutional reform cases was further marred by the Supreme Court's unwillingness to recognize and address the blatant conflicts of interest of certain justices in each case, thus compromising their impartiality. Clearly, the three justices had a direct interest in the final decision of the case, given that if the law were annulled, their appointments would no longer be valid.
Yet the court argued, inexplicably, that there was not even "a possibility" that this could influence their decision. Disregarding the evident conflict of interest that was the basis of the recusal request, it claimed that these arguments did not overturn the presumption that justices are supposed to be honorable. According to the court, their honorability "cannot be doubted given that they must decide on the validity of a law that could affect them indirectly.
According to the rules governing the presidential commission, it had to "permanently inform the president" about its work, which would be carried out "in conformity with guidelines established by the head of state in strict confidentiality. The court simply argued that there was no evidence that Morales's participation in such a commission would undermine her independence when deciding the case. The packed Supreme Court's pattern of passivity and acquiescence has been evident as well in critical cases involving government infringement on fundamental rights.
On occasion, the court has issued rulings protecting basic human rights. For example, in October , it protected the right to freedom of expression when it ruled that the attorney general could not sue the newspaper El Universal for an editorial criticizing his office and the judiciary, given that the article was an expression of opinion and did not amount to an institutional insult.
However, the court has failed to uphold basic rights in several of the most prominent and politically sensitive cases. The Supreme Court failed to protect the right to freedom of expression and the right to due process and the rule of law in the high profile case of Radio Caracas Television RCTV. Three months later, his communication and information minister formally adopted a decision to refuse to renew RCTV's license, without giving RCTV an opportunity to respond to the public accusation of criminal actions and broadcasting infractions cited by government authorities as grounds for the decision not to renew its concession.
RCTV and some of its supporters turned to the Supreme Court for relief, submitting appeals aimed at blocking the implementation of the president's decision. RCTV journalists and owners requested the court to protect their rights to freedom of expression, due process, and equal treatment. The Supreme Court, however, failed to protect these fundamental rights. Instead, the court put off making a final judgment on the claims and refused to issue a temporary injunction to protect the petitioners while they awaited that judgment.
In decisions by two separate chambers, the court, in questionable maneuvers-including disregarding key facts-evaded addressing the petitioners' claims. At this writing, more than a year after RCTV's license expired and it was taken off the public airwaves, the court still had not issued a final judgment on the legality of the government's actions. In stark contrast with its handling of the RCTV petitions, the Supreme Court responded immediately to a petition by opponents of RCTV, issuing an injunction that allowed a newly created state channel to take control of RCTV's transmitters so that it could broadcast across the country.
The Supreme Court similarly failed to uphold the freedom of association of Venezuelan workers when it dismissed a petition to clarify the proper role of the state in union leadership elections. The court's failure to issue a clear ruling has effectively allowed the government to continue to violate workers' basic right to freely elect their representatives.
At the same time, when questioned by the International Labor Organization ILO about this practice, which is inconsistent with international law, the government has claimed that state certification of union elections is not in fact mandatory. In May , the National Press Workers' Union asked the Supreme Court to resolve this ambiguity and bar mandatory government involvement in union elections.
The union argued that such mandatory state organization of elections violates international law and thus contravenes the Venezuelan constitution. Rather than affirm workers' right to freely elect their representatives, the Supreme Court skirted the issue. The court dismissed the request for legal interpretation on the grounds that there was no contradiction between Venezuelan and international law. Yet it failed to indicate which of the two contradictory interpretations of the law-the one that the government presented before the ILO or the one that it applied in practice in Venezuela-was the correct one.
As such, the Supreme Court left the ability of workers to freely organize their elections in limbo. At this point, there is no easy way to reverse the damage done to the independence of the Venezuelan judiciary by the court-packing law, especially given the fact that the credibility of the National Assembly, which is responsible for judicial appointments, was itself damaged by the opposition's boycott of the legislative elections. Under these circumstances, Human Rights Watch recommends as an extraordinary measure that, after the legislative elections, the new National Assembly implement a one-time ratification process to legitimize the composition of the Court, for example, by requiring a two-thirds majority affirmation vote for each Supreme Court justice whose appointment occurred after the passage of the Supreme Court law.
Once the National Assembly has completed the ratification process, the new Supreme Court should seek to reassume its role as an independent guarantor of fundamental rights. Specifically it should:. They have extended and toughened penalties for speech offenses; implemented a broadcasting law that allows for the arbitrary suspension of channels for a vaguely defined offense of "incitement"; limited public access to official information; and abused the government's control of broadcasting frequencies to punish stations with overtly critical programming.
However, in its efforts to gain ground in this "media war," the government has engaged in discriminatory actions against media airing opposition viewpoints, strengthened the state's capacity to limit free speech, and created powerful incentives for government critics to engage in self-censorship. Should the government choose to utilize the expanded speech offenses and incitement provisions more aggressively to sanction public expression, the existing political debate could be severely curtailed.
They also justify the measures as being part of a broader effort to "democratize" the media so that it reflects viewpoints that were largely excluded from the commercial media in the past. States have a right to sanction media that incite violence, the commission of crimes, or breaches of public order. However, under international norms on freedom of expression, broadcasting regulations must be precisely defined in order to avoid overbroad or arbitrary interpretation by officials that constrain free expression and the public's access to information and opinion.
Permissible restrictions on speech do not include sanctions for expressing critical opinions of government officials, however offensive they may be. Governments are also fully justified in seeking to regulate the concentration of media ownership and in backing public service and community outlets in order to promote a more diverse and plural public debate.
However, governments may not abuse their control of broadcasting frequencies to discriminate against outlets whose editorial line is not to their liking. The Venezuelan government's "media democratization" efforts have produced positive results in at least one area. By licensing and giving financial support to hundreds of start-up community broadcasting ventures, the Venezuelan government has taken a leading role in the region in promoting local radio and TV stations. However, the government's legitimate efforts to promote alternative media at the local level have been overshadowed by its efforts to restrain critical opinion.
Specifically, they have:.
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Under reforms to the criminal code enacted in they increased the number of public officials benefiting from the protection of insult laws and greatly increased penalties, including prison terms, for criminal defamation. These measures are inconsistent with Venezuela's obligations under international legal norms of press freedom. Were the government to aggressively pursue prosecutions under the new provisions, it would dramatically shrink the space for free expression in Venezuela. The Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television hereinafter Social Responsibility Law , which replaced broadcasting regulations enacted in , expanded the scope of an already broad prohibition on incitement and established severe penalties for broadcasters that violated it.
Under the law, broadcast media can face suspension and ultimately revocation of their licenses for broadcasting material deemed to "promote, justify, or incite" war, breaches of public order, or crime. The transmission of such material can also be banned under this law. The broad and imprecise wording of the incitement provisions, the severity of the penalties, and the fact that the law is enforced by an executive branch agency all increase the broadcasts media's vulnerability to arbitrary interference and pressure to engage in self-censorship.
On several occasions officials have warned channels covering protests or showing repeated images of violence in demonstrations that they could be sanctioned under the incitement provisions. Given that government officials often claim there are subversive intentions behind critical news coverage, journalists and broadcasters have good reason to fear that these loosely-worded provisions could be used to sanction them for legitimate news coverage.
Government officials routinely deny or fail to respond to requests for information by the press and the public. This lack of transparency contravenes Venezuela's obligation under international law to guarantee the right to "seek, receive, and impart" information-which includes a positive obligation to provide access to official information in a timely and complete manner. Access to official information is crucial to ensure democratic control and transparency, and to promote accountability within the government. While the right to official information is recognized in Venezuela's Constitution, the government has failed to promote legislation to define the grounds under which information may legitimately be denied.
It has also failed to provide a mechanism to hold accountable those officials who arbitrarily reject or ignore requests for information. This shift has been accomplished by stacking the deck against critical opposition outlets while advancing state-funded media that are heavily slanted in favor of the government. Instead of exercising its crucial role as guarantor of freedom of expression, the Supreme Court has effectively backed the government in these policies.
It has declared insult laws to be constitutional and declared that the findings of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights are not binding on Venezuela if they conflict with the Constitution. Most notably, the court failed to protect the right to freedom of expression and respect for due process in the RCTV case. The court requisitioned RCTV's transmitters-without a time-limit or compensation-for use by a newly created state channel, and yet failed to address the central human rights issues of freedom of expression, due process, and discrimination affecting RCTV's journalists and owners.
Both the government and its critics have used the media at their disposal as tools to attack each other and to mobilize their own supporters. Media coverage has tended to be extremely partisan on both sides. This partisanship was most evident during the short-lived coup. The print media was also predominantly in the opposition camp. Two long-established daily newspapers- El Universal and El Nacional -were persistent critics, and another critical paper, Tal Cual, although with a much smaller circulation, also had considerable influence.
One state television program openly attacks the opposition and the government's press critics. A nightly show on VTV, La Hojilla The Razorblade , has used secretly recorded conversations, private documents, and similar material to expose or ridicule media critics. In addition to the opposition and government media, a vibrant community media sector has emerged since the events of April They worked with Chavista lawmakers to draft legislation on alternative media that is among the most advanced in the hemisphere.
The Venezuelan law establishes a duty on the government to support community radio stations by granting licenses and providing seed capital, infrastructure grants, and training. They accused the United States of leading the international media and their Venezuelan counterparts in a "media war" to smear and destroy his government. Government officials vigorously engaged the media "enemy. These tirades, often delivered in speeches all media were obliged to transmit, fueled street violence between Chavez's supporters and opponents.
Although the number of such incidents declined after , journalists working for media identified with the opposition have remained vulnerable to physical attack and threats of violence. Alongside its verbal onslaught against the private media, the government expanded the number of outlets under its control. The Social Responsibility Law introduced wide-ranging restrictions on the content of radio and television broadcasting. As this chapter details below, these legal constraints gave the state tools with which to interfere in free expression and intimidate media critics. Indeed, prior to , the only interruptions of broadcasting came during the short-lived coup of , when coup supporters backed by police shut down VTV and National Radio and the police raided three community television and radio stations.
Despite a national and international outcry, RCTV-the only remaining channel left on nation-wide public airwaves with an overtly critical line- was taken off the air on May 27, Its frequencies and national network of transmitters were taken over by a new government-funded channel, TVES, which has failed to deliver the plural and balanced public service broadcasting the government promised it would.
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RCTV was obliged to convert to cable in order to continue broadcasting. Although the government has significantly shifted the constellation of broadcast media forces in its favor, political opponents continue to have access to critical outlets, albeit fewer in number. Nevertheless, as the rest of this chapter shows, the government now has an array of legal weapons with which it can clamp down on government critics at any moment. By promoting self-censorship, these laws constrain the expression of critical opinion, even when they are not rigorously enforced.
The government's discriminatory use of its control of the airwaves and its repeated threats to use this control against critical channels also represent significant threats to freedom of expression. These measures are inconsistent with international legal principles on press freedom. International human rights bodies have long called on governments around the world to decriminalize speech that may displease public officials so as to allow the press to effectively monitor government actions. But Venezuela has gone in the opposite direction.
It has reaffirmed and extended insult laws desacato -which directly violate international freedom of expression norms-and introduced prison sentences of up to four years for defamation. Insult laws known in Spanish as leyes de desacato , which criminalize expressions deemed to offend the honor of public officials and institutions, directly contravene international human rights norms.
The Inter-American and European systems on human rights both consider insult laws incompatible with the free debate essential to democratic society. The commission wrote, " [t]he special protection desacato laws afford public functionaries from insulting or offensive language is not congruent with the objective of a democratic society to foster public debate. More recently, in Palamara Iribarne v. Chile , the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held that "in the case of public officials, individuals who perform public services, politicians, and government institutions a different threshold of protection should be applied, which is not based on the specific individual, but on the fact that the activities or conduct of a certain individual is of public interest.
The European Court of Human Rights has stressed that the protection of freedom of expression must extend not only to information or ideas that are widely accepted, but also to those that "offend, shock or disturb. In a joint declaration, the Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Organization of American States recommended in that "laws which provide special protection for public figures, such as desacato laws, should be repealed. International rights bodies also hold that defamation involving public officials should be decriminalized in the interest of promoting the vibrant public debate necessary to a democracy.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has held recently that the use of criminal proceedings for defamation must be limited to cases of "extreme gravity," as a "truly exceptional measure" where its "absolute necessity" has been demonstrated, and that in any such case the burden of proof must rest with the accuser. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression also holds that for a court to establish defamation it must be proven that "in disseminating the news, the social communicator had the specific intent to inflict harm, was fully aware that false news was disseminated, or acted with gross negligence in efforts to determine the truth or falsity of such news.
Even while decriminalizing defamation is the more urgent task, excessive civil damages can also close down freedom of expression and should be prohibited. As the joint declaration of the UN, OSCE, and OAS experts stated, "civil sanctions for defamation should not be so large as to exert a chilling effect on freedom of expression and should be designed to restore the reputation harmed, not to compensate the plaintiff or to punish the defendant; in particular, pecuniary awards should be strictly proportionate to the actual harm caused and the law should prioritize the use of a range of non-pecuniary remedies.
In his report covering the Americas for , the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression of the OAS concluded that "the continuous use of criminal trial proceedings against journalists for desacato and defamation demonstrates, in the great majority of cases, both State intolerance of criticism and the use of these to frustrate investigations of acts of corruption. Ever since its ground breaking report on insult laws was published in , the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has urged OAS member states to repeal these provisions from their criminal codes. Killings often take place when rival gangs compete with each other for access to the mines, in various cases with military involvement, but summary executions occur frequently and street crime is rampant.
Sindicatos started to take control over mining areas — sometimes from now defunct state mining companies — in the municipalities of El Callao, Roscio and Sifontes from on, which led to a dramatic increase in homicide rates. En este caso, ingresaron a una comunidad colombiana para intercambiar combustible por productos alimenticios.
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Hide Footnote Por lo tanto, aunque las condiciones no son favorables en la actualidad, el Estado colombiano y los aliados internacionales no deben cerrar la puerta a futuras conversaciones con las guerrillas. Entrevista de Crisis Group, alto funcionario del gobierno colombiano, 20 de enero de Hide Footnote A pesar de que sus familias han huido de Venezuela, los hombres regresan a las minas cercanas en Amazonas para trabajar mientras sus familiares permanecen en Colombia.
Las personas que trabajaron en las minas venezolanas y huyeron a Colombia dicen que se ha vuelto demasiado violento. The U. El marco de debida diligencia de la OCDE proporciona un punto de referencia internacional para los esfuerzos de limpiar las cadenas de suministro de minerales. Hide Footnote Sin embargo, estas normas son compromisos voluntarios que se incentiva a las empresas a adoptar y depende de cada Estado miembro decidir si las hace legalmente vinculantes o no.
Most of them are subsistence miners and are not in it for the riches. Facebook Email. Loading Video. Varias fuentes comentaron que parte de las fuerzas armadas [