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Human Rights Watch warned that “abhorrent” abuses were committed in Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba

Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Nicolás Maduro (Venezuela) and Miguel Díaz-Canel (Cuba)
Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua), Nicolás Maduro (Venezuela) and Miguel Díaz-Canel (Cuba)

The Human Rights Watch organization accused the governments of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba of committing “aberrant abuses” in its most recent annual report, in which He urged Latin American leaders to press for a democratic transition in those countries.

In its World Report, which was released on Thursday, HRW expressed concern about the upsurge in violence, poverty and the deterioration of human rights in Latin America and the Caribbean, stating that these problems have prompted millions of people to abandon their homes, which has deepened the migration crisis in the region.

The director for the Americas of HRW, Tamara Taraciuk, affirmed in a videoconference that some countries of the region face a “very serious deterioration of democracy and the rule of law” and a “direct frontal attack” on democratic institutions, electoral systems, the judiciary, the independent press, and civil society by democratically elected leaders, some of whom are populist and authoritarian.

In this context, Taraciuk admitted that “there is a risk of shaking the fundamental pillars that sustain democracy” in the region.

Tamara Taraciuk, HRW Americas Director
Tamara Taraciuk, HRW Americas Director

When evaluating the situation of Cuba, the organization maintained that the regime continued for the past year to “repress and punish any form of dissent” and that Cubans continued to suffer a severe economic crisis that impacted their basic rights.

He also questioned the trials that were carried out last year against hundreds of protesters in which “the basic guarantees of due process” were violated and “disproportionate prison sentences” were agreed. The Cuban authorities have denied that they seek to silence the opposition and have assured that there is enough evidence to prosecute those detained for crimes such as sedition or attack.

The same situation arose in the case of Nicaragua. The regime of Daniel Ortega was singled out for deepening “the systematic repression against critics, journalists and human rights defenders” and intensifying “violence against members of the Catholic Church”. Referring to the processes against opponents, Ortega recently said that “we have to firmly defend justice and the application of justice against criminals.”

The Latin American and Caribbean Episcopal Council denounced that the Nicaraguan Police extracted "with violence" the bishop of Matagalpa and critic of the government, Rolando Álvarez, from his residence, where he had been held for two weeks, investigated by "destabilize" the country (AFP)
The Latin American and Caribbean Episcopal Council denounced that the Nicaraguan Police “violently” extracted the Bishop of Matagalpa and critic of the government, Rolando Álvarez, from his residence, where he had been held for two weeks, investigated for “destabilizing” the country (AFP).

HRW drew attention to the risks faced in Venezuela by journalists, human rights defenders and civil society organizations who are persecuted and criminally prosecuted.

“The judicial authorities have been participants or accomplices in abuses, serving as a mechanism of repression,” said the report that accused the Venezuelan police forces of engaging in “brutality.” The Venezuelan authorities have denied the accusations and maintain that the processes that have been launched against dissidents and activists are in accordance with the law.

The organization expressed concern about the “complex humanitarian emergency” facing Venezuelawhich keeps Millions of people without access to health or adequate nutrition and that has led more than seven million Venezuelans to emigrate since 2014.

The organization also questioned the situation in Mexico and affirmed that during the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which began in 2018, the problem has worsened while the ruler “has deepened the failed militarization strategies”.

The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (REUTERS / Raquel Cunha)
The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (REUTERS / Raquel Cunha)

López Obrador, who before coming to government was in favor of the military returning to the barracks, last year changed his mind and promoted a Constitutional reform so that the Armed Forces can carry out public security tasks until 2028. The ruler justified the change in position alleging that the participation of the military is necessary to deal with criminal organizations that have powerful weapons and assured that the uniformed officers act respecting human rights.

“While authorities often attribute this violence to criminal cartels, most crimes go uninvestigated and those responsible are never identified or prosecuted,” said the report, which highlighted that Mexico is one of the “most dangerous countries in the world for journalists and human rights defenders”.

During 2022, 15 journalists were killed and 331 threats, attacks or other forms of aggression against journalists were reported, according to records from the Article 19 organization that defends the rights of journalists.

“It is common for the authorities to not adequately investigate crimes against journalists,” HRW said.

In his evaluation of The Savior questioned the performance of President Nayib Bukele and his allies in the Legislative Assembly for having “systematically dismantled the system of democratic counterweights” and for creating a “hostile environment” for the media and members of civil society.

The President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele (REUTERS / Jose Cabezas)
The President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele (REUTERS / Jose Cabezas)

In addition, condemned the state of exception imposed in March when certain constitutional rights were suspended in response to an escalation in gang violence. “The authorities committed widespread human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests”, said the report, which stated that during the period of exception, more than 54,000 people were detained “which contributed to the increase in the prison population to an estimated number of 97,000 detainees, more than three times the official capacity”.

Bukele justified the state of emergency by claiming that it is a “tool” to deal with “terrorists”.

The report also questioned the president of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, and the Public Prosecutor of that country for having “obstructed judicial proceedings for acts of corruption and other serious crimes” and promoting “spurious criminal proceedings” against judges, prosecutors, and independent journalists. Giammattei has denied that his government has exerted any kind of pressure against the Judiciary and has ratified respect for the rule of law.

When assessing the massive migration that has occurred in the region, HRW criticized the fact that many of the migrants are denied the possibility of seeking international protection and obstacles such as restricted access to visas are imposed on them, and pointed to US President Joe Biden to promote among Latin American governments the application of “abusive” immigration policies.

(By Fabiola Sánchez – AP)

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