Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, October 5, 2009
Julio Cesar Rivas, 22, spent about three weeks in jail after taking part in a protest. He was released last Monday and launched a hunger strike to protest jailings of dissenters. (By Juan Forero — The Washington Post)
CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chávez’s government says Julio Cesar Rivas is a violent militant intent on fomenting civil war.
Rivas’s supporters say the 22-year-old university student is just one of many Venezuelans jailed for challenging a populist government that they contend is increasingly intolerant of dissent.
As the Chávez government approaches 11 years in power, many of its most prominent opponents are in exile in foreign countries or under criminal investigation here.
But human rights and legal policy groups say that even more worrisome is the growing number of government foes in jail for what they allege are politically motivated reasons. There are more than 40 political prisoners in Venezuela, and 2,000 Chávez opponents are under investigation, the groups and human rights lawyers say.