Venezuela intimidates opponents, media: HRW report

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro of runs a "feigned democracy" and intimidates opponents and the media, US-based Human Rights Watch charged Tuesday in its annual report.

"Under the leadership of president (Hugo) Chavez and now President Maduro, the accumulation of power in the executive branch and the erosion of human rights guarantees have enabled the government to intimidate, censor and prosecute its critics," the document said.

Venezuela was included on HRW's list of countries with "authoritarian governments" that have learned "it is possible to adopt the form but not the substance of democracy," the report said.

"This feigned democracy rejects basic principles, such as that governments must be accountable under the rule of the law, limited by the human rights that protect minorities, and committed to allowing free and continuous public debate," the report said.

HRW, which termed this status "abusive majoritarianism," also placed Egypt, Syria, Myanmar, Thailand, Kenya, Russia and Ukraine in the same category.

Jose Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch for the Americas, said he is concerned about reduced space for critical journalism in Venezuela as a result of government attacks on the media and special powers given to Maduro.

Moreover, Venezuela's judiciary is an "unconditional appendage" of the president, he said.

Maduro was elected president in April with just a 1.5 percent margin of victory, after Chavez's death.

HRW has previously issued several reports on human rights conditions in Venezuela, which Chavez rejected.

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