Venezuela should close a recently created office that grants the Chávez administration broad powers to limit public debate, Human Rights Watch said today. The government should also stop seeking to discredit human rights defenders and prosecuting critics.
On June 1, 2010, President Hugo Chávez issued a presidential decree creating the Center for Situational Studies of the Nation (Centro de Estudio Situacional de la Nación, CESNA), which has broad powers to limit public dissemination of “information, facts or circumstance[s]” that it decides should be confidential.
In addition, Chávez has called for criminal investigations of human rights organizations that are alleg ed to receive funding from the United States. The government has also failed to provide protection for human rights defenders who have received threats and has prosecuted critics of government actions or policies.
“Chávez has created a new tool for controlling public debate in Venezuela,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The new decree would allow the president to block the discussion of topics that are inconvenient for his government, blatantly violating the rights of expression and to information, which are at the heart of a democratic society.”