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Venezuela rights chief disputes critical OAS report

[JURIST] The top Venezuelan human rights official on Thursday criticized [press release, Spanish] findings in a report [text; JURIST report] issued by the Organization of American States (OAS) [official website] Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) [official website]. Ombudsman Gabriela Ramirez [official profile, in Spanish], Venezuela's top rights official, said that the report makes unfair characterizations and undermines Venezuelan democracy. Ramirez responded to statistical findings in the report that suggest the perpetuation of undemocratic processes, saying that the data actually show an improved rights record. In a related statement issued Friday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] reaffirmed his belief that the IACHR, which has seven members elected by the OAS General Assembly, is an instrument of US imperialism [press release, in Spanish].

Venezuela has long been criticized for rights abuses, allegations that the Chavez government has repeatedly denied. Last year, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) added Venezuela to its "watch list" [JURIST report] of countries that limit religious freedom. Also last year, the US State Department criticized Venezuela for press restrictions [JURIST report] in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. In 2008, Venezuelan officials ordered two senior Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] staff to leave the country [JURIST report] after the group released a report concluding that democracy and human rights have suffered during the Chavez administration.

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