Venezuela derided Thursday a U.S. State Department report that said President Hugo Chavez’s government had violated human rights, calling the document “toilet paper.”
The response from Caracas followed weeks of verbal jousting between the United States and Venezuela after both governments expelled diplomats in one of their worst disputes since left-winger Chavez came to office seven years ago.
“These reports are just toilet paper, exactly that, toilet paper, because U.S. State Department officials have no authority to judge any country in the world,” Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel told reporters.
“If any country or any government violates human rights and is a center of corruption, it’s the U.S. government,” he said.
State Department annual report
The U.S. Statement Department released its 2005 report on world human rights on Wednesday, pointing out harassment of Chavez foes, restrictive laws on the media and use of the judicial system for political ends.
The criticisms echo those made by domestic opponents of Chavez, an ally of Cuba who has promised to bring socialist revolution to the world’s No. 5 oil exporter. A former soldier, Chavez has promised to introduce sweeping social reforms.
While supporters praise the Venezuelan leader for financing health and education programs for the poor, his foes denounce him as a fledgling dictator who has eroded democracy by controlling independent institutions such as the courts.
Washington has branded Chavez a threat to regional stability and frets over his close ties to countries such as Iran and Cuba. Chavez rejects those charges as propaganda and accuses U.S. officials of plotting to topple him.