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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08CARACAS579 2008-04-28 15:07:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Caracas
Cable title:  

NGO PROVEA ON "CRIMINALIZATION" OF PROTESTS,

Tags:   PHUM PGOV ELAB VE 
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VZCZCXRO9937
PP RUEHAG RUEHROV
DE RUEHCV #0579 1191507
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 281507Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1023
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L CARACAS 000579 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

HQSOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
DEPARTMENT PASS TO AID/OTI (RPORTER)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/28/2028
TAGS: PHUM PGOV ELAB VE
SUBJECT: NGO PROVEA ON "CRIMINALIZATION" OF PROTESTS,
DEATHS IN LABOR SECTOR

REF: 07 CARACAS 00699

Classified By: ACTING POLITICAL COUNSELOR DANIEL LAWTON
FOR REASON 1.4 (D)



1. (C) SUMMARY. Prominent local human rights NGO Provea
convoked the diplomatic corps on April 23 to provide a
trimestral update on the human rights issues it considers
most worrisome. Provea outlined the BRV's efforts to
"criminalize" protests by opening criminal cases against
demonstrators. It also expressed concern over the deaths of
pro-government union members as a result of violent
confrontations in the labor sector. Canadian, British,
French, and Scandinavian diplomats as well as members of the
NGO Cofavic attended the presentation. The event forms part
of an effort to increase communication between diplomatic
missions in Caracas and local NGOs on human rights issues.
END SUMMARY.



--------------------------


Criminalizing Protests


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Provea's Director, Marino Alvarado, argued that the
BRV has taken steps to "criminalize" the act of protesting.
According to Alvarado, government security forces have, since
late 2006, increasingly opted to repress peaceful
demonstrations with an excessive use of force. This stands
in marked contrast to the BRV's previous modus operandi where
by the government was tolerant of social protests and
generally chose not to confront demonstrators. Moreover, the
Attorney General's Office has opened criminal proceedings
against demonstrators as opposed to releasing them shortly
after being arrested. Alvarado said this shift in policy was
most evident during the student-led demonstrations against
the government-imposed closure of Radio Caracas Television
(RCTV) in May 2007 where 240 criminal cases were opened
against mostly opposition-oriented demonstrators.



3. (SBU) Alvarado noted, however, that the BRV's
"criminalization" of protests is likely to affect President
Chavez's base of support in the short to medium term because
the majority of protests are carried out by government
sympathizers in the face of unkept social and economic
promises. Lastly, Alvarado reported that 600 persons have
criminal cases open against them for participating in
protests; 50 percent of these cases involve minors.



--------------------------


More Deaths in Labor Sector


--------------------------





4. (SBU) Alvarado also expressed concern over the deaths of
union members caused by violent confrontations among
competing pro-Chavez unions vying for government contracts,
particularly in the construction sector. Eleven union
members have reportedly been killed as of April. (Note: In
2007, 54 union members were killed under similar
circumstances. End Note.) Alvarado said the BRV appears
unwilling to investigate these deaths because many of the
perpetrators are affiliated with pro-government unions.
Provea members reportedly met with the Confederation of
Venezuelan Workers' (CTV), the opposition-oriented trade
union confederation, on two occasions to discuss what they
perceive to be its "passive" behavior in light of the deaths.
(Note: CTV's Secretary General Manuel Cova met with Poloffs
in April 2007 to discuss his concerns over deaths in the
construction sector, some of which involved CTV union members
(Reftel). End Note.)



5. (C) COMMENT: The bi-monthly human rights breakfast series
and these trimestral meetings between the diplomatic corps
and NGOs continue to serve as a space for both parties to
share concerns about human rights topics. As they have done
on other occasions, human rights defenders expressed concern
about their personal safety given continued verbal harassment
by BRV sympathizers and recent physical attacks against their
peers. END COMMENT.

DUDDY