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Amnesty presses Venezuela, Argentina to release ‘political prisoners’


NGO’s top directors brand Latin America ‘most violent and unequal’
The directors of Amnesty International’s branches in Argentina and Venezuela have again called on their governments of both nations to release political prisoners, warning them for what the NGO perceives as their worsening human rights record, in a press conference at Amnesty International’s offices in Buenos Aires.
Amnesty International Venezuela Director Marcos Gómez began by criticising the Emergency Decree recently issued by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro adopting “discriminatory measures” that the executive claims will have “an almost criminal effect on the poor.”
Gómez also outlined his worries about systemic arbitrary detentions, and how the intelligence services in Venezuela is not following through with judicial rulings ordering the release of 18 prisoners. Civilians are also being tried in military tribunals, the NGO’s director warned, adding that journalists and human rights defenders are being persecuted and targeted by government-led media campaigns.
One of the human rights prisoners currently being detained is Argentine human rights lawyer Marcelo Crovato, who was first arrested in Caracas, Venezuela, in 2014.
Referring to two high-profile prisoners, both Gómez and Argentine Amnesty Director Mariela Belski stressed that demanding the release of Venezuelan politician Leopoldo López and Argentine activist Milagro Sala from jail were top priorities for the organisation. López is a Venezuelan politician who was first arrested in February 2014, and was later convicted of public incitement to violence.
“We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Leopoldo López,” declared Gómez.
Belski said Amnesty International had involved itself in Sala’s case because they considered that her arrest was an attempt to criminalise the right to protest, which is a constitutional right.
The Túpac Amaru leader was arrested in January 2016 on sedition charges for holding a two month sit-in protest, though the charges against her have since been altered.
Terrible year
for human rights
Belski said that many advances in human rights of previous years were now under threat and criticised President Mauricio Macri’s administration, accusing it of following US President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant and refugee rhetoric.
“They try to identify vulnerable people such as refugees and immigrants, to justify security and economic policies that discriminate and exclude them,” she said.
Last year, 3,258 people were expelled from the country as of September, a rise of more than 1,000 from the 1,908 expelled in 2015 and 1,760 expelled in 2014. Belski also criticised the government’s recent 70/2017 immigration decree, which Amnesty International claimed had created regressive policies that cause harm to immigrants seeking admission and residence in the country.
Belski also accused Macri’s administration of having a double discourse, between what the government says internationally and what they actually do domestically.
“Argentina tries to show itself as more progressive outside of the country than what it really is inside, and it has been historically like this,” she said.
Argentina’s Amnesty International director said 2016 had been a bad year for human rights overall, especially for Latin America, branding it the “most violent and unequal region” on the planet. She remarked that Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, El Salvador and Nicaragua were once against leading the world in the highest homicides.

By Herald Staff

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