June 7, 2007
President Hugo Chávez said it was 'a great defeat for the empire' of
the United States that his government will not be investigated by the
OAS for closing a TV station. A Venezuelan was also named to a
PANAMA CITY, Panama --
Venezuela has rejected a U.S. proposal to receive an OAS mission to investigate the closure of a Caracas TV station, and scored a victory by putting a Venezuelan woman on a key OAS human-rights body.
Venezuela's refusal late Tuesday virtually dooms a suggestion made Monday by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that Organization of American States Secretary General José Miguel Insulza go to Caracas to investigate the recent shutdown of the opposition RCTV station.
Several nations -- including Guatemala, Chile, Canada and Peru -- spoke out in favor of the free press at the OAS General Assembly that wrapped up late Tuesday in Panama, where the RCTV issue loomed large. But the United States was the only country that mentioned the RCTV case by name.
Under OAS rules, Insulza can only investigate when the accused country agrees.
In Caracas, President Hugo Chávez said Wednesday that the U.S. had suffered a humiliating defeat.
''A great defeat for the empire,'' said Chávez, who said OAS member countries had refused ''to play [Washington's] game'' and instead backed his government.
In a late Tuesday vote, Venezuelan candidate Luz Patricia Mejía won a seat as a commissioner on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an OAS body that looks into the rights situation in the hemisphere -- despite U.S. reservations over Venezuela's human-rights record.
Mejía secured 26 votes, second only to a candidate from Brazil, who got 27 votes out of the 34 member states. Candidates from Chile and El Salvador also won with 25 votes each, while candidates from Bolivia and Uruguay lost.
Though the IACHR has a mixed record on getting nations to abide by its recommendations, the seven-member body enjoys more autonomy than the OAS to tackle controversial subjects.
Human-rights groups were critical of Venezuela's previous commissioner, Freddy Gutiérrez, who was seen as doing the bidding of Chávez. Commissioners are supposed to act autonomously, and are barred from dealing directly with issues that impact their home countries.
Mejía, a consultant with a Venezuelan state institution that works on citizens rights, said her victory was thanks to the ''thorough work'' done by the Venezuelan mission at the OAS General Assembly.
However, she said that now she represented all member states -- and not just Venezuela.
''It was not a Venezuelan who was elected,'' she told journalists. ``It is a woman, a defender of human rights, a Venezuelan . . . a representative of the peoples of America.''
She assumes her four-year position Jan. 1.
Among other measures taken at the three-day OAS assembly, the hemispheric group pledged more cooperation between members on energy matters and reiterated support for Argentina's claims over the Falkland Islands.