I guess it's no surprise that Human Rights Watch chose to make Venezuela the subject of it's longest Latin America report ever. Judging from the performance at the National Press Club last Friday, journalists just aren't that interested in nuanced, wonky topics like "death squads," "mass-graves" or "Presidents with direct ties to known terrorist groups." These days it takes a good "weakened institutions and separation of powers" story to really move the newspapers off the shelves.
So you won't find any long, boring descriptions of extrajudicial killings in the 230-page report. Or dreary accounts of cabinet officials involved in kidnapping schemes. Or another tired denunciation of military impersonation of Red Cross officials. In fact, you won't read a single account of torture, illegal wiretaps, or human trafficking in this baby. I for one say good riddance to those pre-9/11 human rights concerns.
These days, the hemisphere's most pressing human rights issues involve a weak judicial system and a president who "routinely denounces his critics." And while the report makes clear that Venezuela "enjoys a vibrant public debate in which anti-government and pro-government media are equally vocal in their criticism and defense of Chávez," it doesn't let the president off the hook for creating more publicly run TV stations, which are a top target of human rights defenders worldwide.
Speaking of that vocal public debate, did you notice that nearly 20% of the report citations come from opposition sponsored newspapers like El Universal, El Nacional and Tal Cual? It's true! Even more vibrantly, footnote number thirty cites a noted crazy person and torture fetishist. It's a proud day for Latin America indeed when Aleksander Boyd becomes a voice of human rights in the hemisphere. Kudos to everyone involved!