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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

VenEconomy: Crippled Fundamental Rights

From the Editors of VenEconomy

Events this week have made it even more apparent the extent to which the rights of Venezuelans have been crippled.

Sadly, the drama of the biologist and farmer Franklin Brito continues to go from bad to worse after eight years of hardships. In 2002, Brito had the nerve to draw up a project to solve a problem involving the cultivation of yams in Sucre Municipality, Bolívar state, using a different approach from the one adopted by Sucre’s mayor, Juan Carlos Figarrella, a member of the government coalition party MVR. The regime’s response to Brito’s project was to deny Brito and his wife the right to work, take away their land, and deprive their family of the right to live in peace and their right to protest.

In vain has Brito gone on hunger strike five times and amputated a finger in attempts to get the authorities to given him back his land. In these past eight years, the only thing he has come up against time and again has been the broken promises of different government agencies.

Today, Brito is being held prisoner at the military hospital for insisting that the authorities respect his rights. Now, the government plans to inter him in the underworld of the mentally disabled. The most frightening aspect of this case is how the authorities have made abusive use of their powers to try to get Brito to toe the line.

The statements by the Prosecutor General to the press announcing that she would not abide by a precautionary measure issued a few days ago by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in favor of Brito, for example, are aberrant.

According to Prosecutor General Luisa Ortega Díaz, Brito is mentally incompetent, is suffering from diminished mental capacity, and his behavior is not that of clinically “normal” person. Ortega Díaz stated, “the IACHR undoubtedly is not aware of this, because he cannot take any decision given the degree of mental disability he is suffering from. The court decided to declare him incompetent on medical grounds.” This way of dealing with dissidents is typical of the world’s worst dictatorships, including the former Soviet Union.

Neither his family nor the doctors who have been treating Brito understand this diagnosis of the Prosecutor General’s. Not only that, they reject it as being totally false and because it is not based on clinical tests.

But the case of Franklin Brito is just one of hundreds of cases of violations of human rights that are happening in Venezuela today involving citizens who have crossed the line of what is admissible according to Chávez’s regime by voicing their criticisms, dissenting from its decisions or even acting independently and enforcing the law, among them the journalist Gustavo Azócar, Police Captains Vivas, Forero, and Simonovis, and Judge María Lourdes Afiuni.

Brito’s case also clearly demonstrates the government’s discretionary use of its powers in dealing with people’s protests to suit its purposes. Whereas the government has shuffled Brito’s case from pillar to post for years, as it involves just one individual, it rapidly backtracked on its decision to implement electricity rationing because of widespread protests. Could this change of heart have been prompted by fears that popular unrest might get out of control?

VenEconomy has been a leading provider of consultancy on financial, political and economic data in Venezuela since 1982.

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