Venezuelan intelligence law draws protests
Slip slidin' away!
A new intelligence decree handed down by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is drawing protests from human rights activists who say it could lead to serious violations of civil liberties and become a tool for cracking down on dissent.
Chávez says the Intelligence and Counterintelligence Law will help Venezuela detect and neutralize national security threats, including any assassination attempts or attempted coups. Human rights activists warn that the law infringes on rights to due process and defense.
Under the law that Chávez decreed last week, Venezuelans who refuse to act as informants for intelligence agencies face up to four years in prison. Security forces don't need court orders for surveillance such as wiretapping and authorities can withhold evidence from defense lawyers if that is deemed to be in the interest of national security.
''Any suspect's right to defense can be violated, and that's unacceptable,'' Carlos Correa, a leader of the Venezuelan human rights group Provea, said on Monday.
Some also fear neighborhood-level spying networks because the law says community-based organizations may be called upon to provide intelligence.