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Rights activist threatened after health study publication in Venezuela

(IPYS-Venezuela) - On October 11, 2012 anonymous threats were issued by phone, to Luis Alfonso Cabezas, director of Convite. Convite is a Caracas-based civil association that works for the promotion and defense of health in Venezuela. The human-rights activist told IPYS-Venezuela that he received threats in the wake of the publication of a piece by El Nacional newspaper on October 7, 2012, entitled "Free and suitable hospital care is not guaranteed".

The article was based on the results given by the study "Health Equity" made up of a group of organizations working in the field of health in the state of Vargas. The work represented a public report on failing medical equipment, shortage of medicine and failures in the facilities of 365 health centers in the Capital District, as well as in the states of Vargas and Miranda. Cabezas said that he received three anonymous calls to his personal phone from unknown numbers. In the first call "a song that was played during the electoral campaign could be heard in the background". The song that Cabeza referred to is a song associated with President Hugo Chávez, who was reelected in the Presidential elections held on October 7. The human-rights activist said that "I then heard a woman speaking. I hung up the phone as I thought it was a bad joke. Then they called me again and a man told me not to hang up the phone as he wanted to warn me. I asked for his name and he said it was the 'organized people'". The person told him they had all his personal information and they knew where his office was.

Cabezas said that the person told him "What you do is a lie", in an obvious reference to the study on health in Venezuela. At that point, the representative of Convite decided to hang up the phone again, and he received a third call where the man told him "Don't hang up. The report on hospitals is nothing but a bunch of lies". The person discredited the piece and said that the organization he belongs to represents foreign interests. At the end of the call the person said "Watch out, we hope nothing happens to you because you will have to go to a public hospital".

Cabezas said that as of now, no threats to representatives of other organizations that took part in the study have been reported. He also told IPYS-Venezuela that since October 19, the Convite web page, has had technical failures. When he spoke to IPYS-Venezuela he said that the personnel in charge of technical support to its web page are analyzing the causes to determine whether it is an error in the content management, or the product of a cyber attack.

IPYS-Venezuela calls upon national authorities to guarantee the minimum conditions for the exercise of freedom of speech in Venezuela. Furthermore, IPYS-Venezuela also rejects any act of intimidation, or threat, against individuals, journalists and human rights activists because of statements given and studies published in the national media.

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