MEXICO CITY -- The Venezuelan government under President Hugo Chavez has steadily concentrated its power, enabling it to "intimidate, censor, and prosecute" critics and perceived enemies, a new report says.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch says in an extensive report released Tuesday that personal liberties under the Chavez government have continued to deteriorate. In his 13 years in office, Chavez has stacked the legislature and supreme court with supporters whose loyalty has removed checks and balances on his own executive power, the report say.
"For judges, journalists, broadcasters and human rights defenders in particular, the government’s actions have sent a clear message: The president and his followers are willing and able to punish people who challenge or obstruct their political aims," the 133-page report says.
Human Rights Watch released a similarly scathing report in 2008; in response, the Chavez government detained and expelled the group's representatives in Venezuela. The human rights situation is even more precarious today, the group said.
Chavez, who has been battling cancer, is campaigning for another term in an election scheduled for October.
-- Tracy Wilkinson
Photo: Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez cheer Saturday as he arrives at a campaign rally in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. Credit: Ariana Cubillos / Associated Press