U.S. Senator George LeMieux (R-FL) today along with several Senate colleagues expressed concern regarding the deepening deterioration of human rights in Venezuela. LeMieux joined with Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK), John Ensign (R-NV), James Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and James E. Risch (R-ID) in sending a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signaling the worsening conditions under Venezuela's leadership. The senators are calling on Secretary Clinton to work with other member nations to assess the viability of invoking the Democratic Charter at the Organization of American States (OAS), a move that would initiate mechanisms to defend and enforce democracy among its members. The OAS requires full adherence to the Inter-American Democratic Charter to gain and retain membership with the OAS.
The letter states, in part:
"We write regarding the deepening deterioration of human rights and democracy in Venezuela. We are concerned that recent events signal the worsening of conditions in Venezuela that could end in dangerous confrontations within Venezuela and have serious consequences for the Venezuelan people, the stability of Venezuela's neighbors and the interests of the United States in the region.
"We ask that you work with other democracies in the region to assess the viability of invoking the Democratic Charter at the OAS in regard to the Government of Venezuela's violations. This invocation of the Charter would be consistent with its past application and would signal a broad consensus on the commitment to human rights and democracy throughout the Americas."
The letter cites numerous examples of the ongoing deterioration of human rights and independent institutions in Venezuela, including the arrest of Judge María Lourdes Afiuni and keeping her in pre-trial detention with general inmate population and the imprisonment of former state governor and congressman Oswaldo Álvarez Paz for speaking on television about Venezuela's growing role in international drug trafficking networks. The most recent example entails the Venezuelan authorities' renewed judicial harassment of Guillermo Zuloaga, president and principal shareholder of Globovision, and Nelson Mezerhane, director of Globovision -- the sole remaining independent TV station in Venezuela.