Chavez rejects report citing rights violations

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - President Hugo Chavez said Thursday that Venezuela should boycott the Organization of American States' human rights body, saying the panel wrongly accused his government of political repression.

Chavez took issue with a report issued this week by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which cited widespread human rights violations in Venezuela. The socialist leader called the 300-page report "pure garbage" and described the commission's president, Santiago Canton, as "excrement."

"We should prepare to denounce the agreement in which Venezuela joined ... this terrible Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and leave it," Chavez said during a televised address.

Local rights activists applauded the account issued by the rights committee, saying it sheds light on widespread rights abuses.

The report released Wednesday at OAS headquarters in Washington complains of a lack of independence for Venezuela's judiciary, the closing of news media outlets that are critical of the government, and political discrimination and repression under Chavez.

"We don't recognize the commission as an impartial institution," said Gabriela Ramirez, the Venezuelan government's top rights guarantor. Ramirez said the report incorrectly concludes that "the Venezuelan state threatens democracy and human rights."

The report condemned the procedures for appointing and removing judges, saying the regulations "lack the safeguards necessary to prevent other branches of government from undermining the Supreme Court's independence."

Government opponents have long complained that the Supreme Court - whose members are appointed by the predominantly pro-Chavez National Assembly - has been packed with the president's allies, giving him nearly unlimited power. Chavez denies holding sway over justices.

The OAS commission also called attention to an increase in sanctions against news media, singling out the case of Globovision, a television news network that is fiercely critical of Chavez.

Globovision has been repeatedly fined for allegedly violating broadcast regulations, and Chavez has threatened to shutter the network.

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