VENEZUELA: The power amassed by the government under the late president Hugo Chavez has enabled it to “intimidate, censor, and prosecute Venezuelans who criticize the president or thwart his political agenda,” writes Human Rights Watch. Reprisals against government critics have unnerved judges, journalists and human rights defenders. Chavez adopted laws that “dramatically reduce the public’s right to obtain information held by the government.” In addition, he packed the Supreme Court, which “has largely abdicated its role as a check on executive power.” Voters narrowly chose a hand-picked Chavez ally to succeed Chavez in a disputed April election.
ECUADOR: This is the country that gave asylum last summer to Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. He is now advising Snowden from inside the embassy of Ecuador in London, where he has been for a year.
Human Rights Watch in its latest annual report notes that journalists and media figures who criticize the government are subjected to “public denunciation and retaliatory litigation.” In addition, it says, “Corruption, inefficiency, and political influence have plagued Ecuador’s judiciary for years.”
The group cites a “terrorism and sabotage” section of the criminal code that it says authorities are using against people protesting about issues like the environment. There’s also a 2011 decree from President Rafael Correa allowing the government to monitor the activities of all international NGOs with offices in Ecuador, and rescind their authorizations to operate if, among other things, they resort to “political interference” or “attack public security and peace.” And just last week, Human Rights Watch scored Ecuador for a new law it termed an “assault on free speech.”
Like the other nations on Snowden’s sanctuary search, this does not seem like his type of place.