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OAS Concerned Over Venezuela's 'Polarization' - 2002-05-10

The Organization of American States Human Rights Commission is expressing concern over the high degree of polarization in Venezuela following political unrest. Commissioners raised their concerns as they wound up a five-day visit to the nation. The mission found little hope for reconciliation in the wake of last month's failed coup.

The Inter-American Human Rights Commission came to Venezuela this week at the invitation of President Hugo Chavez, who was ousted last month in a brief coup that ended in failure.

The seven-member commission met with Mr. Chavez and other government officials, and also with the parliamentary opposition and representatives of non-governmental organizations.

Commission head Juan Mendez says the objective of the mission was to get a sense of the state of democracy and human rights in Venezuela. But Mr. Mendez tells VOA he leaves Venezuela concerned about the high degree of polarization in the wake of last month's coup.

"Unfortunately, a month has passed since those events and the animosity between different actors here does not seem to have abated," he said. "There does not seem to be an attitude of reconciliation and dialogue."

During its visit, the human rights commission also investigated the deaths of some 50 people in the demonstrations and riots during the April coup and countercoup. Pro and anti-Chavez forces cannot agree on how to conduct an impartial investigation into the killings.

The commission heard accounts from families of the victims, human rights groups, and Congressional leaders. However, Mr. Mendez said he sees little willingness to find out the truth.

"I'm disappointed that we have heard a lot of people having made up their minds already about what really happened and who was responsible for it, without letting the facts of an investigation guide their understanding of what happened," he said.

The commission will prepare a report on the situation in Venezuela that will be presented to the OAS general assembly meeting in Barbados in June.