WRI supports Venezuelan Human Rights organisation PROVEA

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Eleven years ago, during those 47 hours when a right-wing faction had detained Hugo Chavez and Pedro Carmona had declared himself the new president of Venezuela, one of the first groups to issue a condemnation of the coup was PROVEA, the Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos. At a time when the governments of the USA and Spain had recognised the 'new government', PROVEA - regardless of the risks their own organisation might face - circulated nationally and internationally their denunciation of the coup and their call for respect of the 1999 constitution. The courage and the determination to investigate and state the truth that marked PROVEA's action at that time has continued to characterise its research and reports. It is therefore alarming that Ernesto Villegas, the Venezuelan government minister for Communication and Information, should now smear PROVEA as "the rearguard of fascism" and "accomplices of murder and attacks".

War Resisters' International know well the kind of pressures, manipulation and dirty tricks that the USA and its agencies will resort to in pursuit of its own interests, and the crimes carried out by the US military. WRI and our affiliates (we have more than 80 affiliates in more than 40 countries) consistently campaign against such policies and the institutions behind them. In this work, we rely heavily on information supplied by non-governmental human rights defenders, and among such groups we especially value the accurate and independent information supplied by PROVEA. Their reports are carefully researched and credible, and their commitment to democratic values remains as firm now as when they stood against the coup in 2002.

In 2011, PROVEA hosted a three-person WRI delegation to Venezuela, knowing WRI as an organisation that consistently opposes military intervention and promotes nonviolent action for human and social rights. They took us to some of the country's most inspiring projects - such as the cooperative Cecosesola in Barquisimeto and the Barrio 23 de Enero in Caracas - and arranged for us to meet workers from various sectors and representatives of women's, indigenous and other groups. This confirmed our impression that PROVEA is an independent organisation, defending international human rights standards, and rigorous in its pursuit of the truth.

Since the April 2013 Venezuelan presidential election, the levels of tension inside the country have been inflamed. Opposition activists have been accused of setting fire to 'dozens' of local health centres, yet investigations by PROVEA and by independent journalists and social networks indicate that 'between 15 and 18 April 2013, no CDI [Centre for Diagnostico Integral - local health centre) has been seriously burned or vandalised'. For this, a government minister - who should have been putting the record straight about what was rumour and what was reality - has smeared PROVEA with the term 'fascism'.

PROVEA, while calling for the investigation of acts of violence as an essential step in re-establishing peace and social dialogue, has also criticised the use of the Law Against Terrorism and Organised Crime as a tool of repression against opposition activists. WRI and its affiliates have experience of 'anti-terrorist legislation' being used in many countries to suppress the right to peaceful protest and to permit arbitary detention on anonymous evidence.

Human rights groups such as PROVEA should be honoured, for their unflinching commitment to denounce the abuse of power by whatever ruler and their determination to find out the truth no matter who it might 'benefit' politically. WRI calls on Minister Villegas to withdraw his insulting remarks about PROVEA, and to recognise the valuable role played by PROVEA in defending the space for dialogue and debate in Venezuela.

The WRI will continue in the future to use the reports of PROVEA in order to follow the human rights situation in Venezuela. As an international peace network, we call on the Venezuelan government to activate democratic and nonviolent mechanisms to resolve the conflicts in Venezuela.

WRI Executive Committee
23-04-2013

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