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Venezuela expels two human rights monitors

September 20, 2008|From the Associated Press

CARACAS, VENEZUELA — Venezuela expelled two senior monitors from Human Rights Watch hours after they reported that "discrimination on political grounds has been a defining feature" of Hugo Chavez's presidency, officials said Friday.

Jose Miguel Vivanco, the group's longtime Americas director, was expelled along with deputy director Daniel Wilkinson for engaging in political acts while in the country on a tourist visa, the government said.

"We aren't going to tolerate any foreigner coming here to try to sully the dignity" of Venezuela, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said. Vivanco is Chilean and Wilkinson is a U.S. citizen.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, called the expulsion "further evidence of Venezuela's descent into intolerance."

The rights monitors were handed a letter Thursday night accusing them of "anti-state activities." Their cellphones were seized and their requests to contact their embassies were denied, Human Rights Watch said.

They arrived in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Friday morning.

Their report, delivered hours earlier at a news conference in Caracas, said Chavez's government had "tolerated, encouraged and engaged in wide-ranging acts of discrimination" against opponents and that Chavez had "openly endorsed acts of discrimination."

Venezuelan Information Minister Andres Izarra on Friday called Human Rights Watch a "front organization" serving U.S. interests.

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