Venezuela Expels Human Rights Watch Director for “Meddling Illegally”
by James Suggett
Human Rights Watch Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco was expelled from Venezuela Thursday for violating the conditions of his tourist visa because he engaged in political activity in the country. (YVKE)
Mérida, September 19, 2008 , The Venezuelan government expelled two employees of the U.S-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco and Americas Deputy Director Daniel Wilkinson, after the two presented a report that praised Venezuela's 1999 Constitution but harshly criticized the "government's willful disregard for the institutional guarantees and fundamental rights that make democratic participation possible."In a press release, the Venezuelan Foreign Relations Ministry said Vivanco and Wilkinson "have done violence to the constitution" and "assaulted the institutions" of Venezuela by "meddling illegally in the internal affairs of our country."The ministry also said the HRW report is linked to the "unacceptable strategy of aggression" of the United States government. The ministry said the expulsion of Vivanco and Wilkinson was in the interest of "national sovereignty" and "the defense of the people against aggressions by international factors."Constitutional lawyer and National Assembly Deputy Carlos Escarrá explained to the press, "The constitution of Venezuela expresses that a foreigner with a tourist visa cannot make commentaries against the President of the Republic."Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro warned in a press conference that "any other foreigner... who attempts to come to Venezuela and use our democratic order, with the total freedom of expression, to assault our institutions in a rude manner... will receive the same reply." The most recent report and the expulsion of Vivanco and Wilkinson come during a time of relatively high tension between the U.S. and Venezuelan governments. Last week, the Venezuelan government discovered a coup plot by retired Venezuelan military officers, and U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy was expelled. The U.S. responded by dismissing Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez and reiterating its accusations that the Venezuelan government facilitates drug trafficking and has links to terrorist groups.