Posted on Thursday, 05.24.12
Human rights report highlights regional violence, abuse
The U.S. State Department released its 2011 human rights report
highlighting violence in Honduras and Mexico, and civil rights abuses in
Cuba and Venezuela
BY JIM WYSS
Drug fueled violence in Mexico and Honduras, mass detentions in Cuba and
an executive power grab in Venezuela were highlighted in the U.S. State
Department's 2011 human rights report released Thursday.
The annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices often ruffles
feathers in the region where the U.S. is accused of using the study as a
foreign policy bludgeon even as it ignores its own problems at home.
In Cuba, the study found that the island continued its systemic
repression of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedoms
of speech, assembly, and association. The report also accused the
government of organizing mobs to intimidate opposition groups and
resorting to arbitrary detentions to muzzle activists. Short-term
detentions doubled from 2010 to 2011. In December, those detentions hit
a 30-year high when almost 800 people were detained to keep them from
marking Human Rights Day, the report found.
In Honduras, most of the human rights abuses were connected to the
nation's gang and drug-cartel violence, which have made it the most
dangerous country on the planet. However, "deep-seated and unaddressed
corruption" in the police force was also leading to rights abuses. On
Dec. 7, gunmen killed Alfredo Landaverde, a former senior government
advisor on security, after he accused police leadership of being linked
to organized crime.
In Mexico, the most serious human rights challenges in 2011 emanated
from the country's fight against organized crime and the ongoing gang
battles over drug trafficking routes. "They engaged in human trafficking
and used brutal tactics against citizens, including inhumane treatment,
murder, and widespread intimidation," the report found. Gangs have also
had a chilling effect on the media, executing bloggers who reported on
their activities and threatening journalists who criticized them, the
In Venezuela, the report found that the "concentration of power in the
executive branch continued to increase significantly," as President Hugo
Chávez used special decree powers granted to him by the outgoing
legislature. Using that authority, Chávez had passed 26 laws, "including
a number of provisions restricting fundamental economic and property
rights," the report found. The government also failed to respect
judicial independence and had turned a blind eye to "corruption at all
levels of government," the report found.
The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices were started more than
three decades ago to help guide U.S. lawmakers' decisions, U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in the preface to the study.
"Today, governments, intergovernmental organizations, scholars,
journalists, activists, and others around the world rely on these reports."