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World Digest: Opponents of Venezuela's Chávez jailed in crackdown

Environmentalists who campaigned against expanding Heathrow Airport celebrate the ruling outside the High Court in London.
Environmentalists who campaigned against expanding Heathrow Airport celebrate the ruling outside the High Court in London. (Lefteris Pitarakis/associated Press)

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

VENEZUELA

Chávez opponents jailed in crackdown

Two foes of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez who had publicly criticized the socialist government in recent days found themselves in jail this week as part of a crackdown on opposition figures that has prompted alarm about the state of democracy in the oil-rich Latin American country.

On Monday, former state governor and opposition presidential candidate Oswaldo Álvarez Paz was charged with spreading false information after he said that Venezuela has become a haven for drug traffickers, an accusation long made by U.S. and Colombian officials.

"No one can stand up to defame, to lie, to manipulate in the media here," Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami said after the arrest of Álvarez, who remains in jail.

On Thursday, Guillermo Zuloaga, owner of the anti-Chávez television station Globovisión, was arrested for making remarks deemed offensive to the president. Zuloaga, who was released after several hours, was also accused of disseminating false information that could "cause public panic."

The State Department and Human Rights Watch have said that Chávez is abusing his authority. Santiago Cantón, executive secretary of the human rights arm of the Organization of American States, said Friday, "It's very grave that state power be used punitively to chase down opponents."

Constitutional experts and rights groups in Venezuela say that dozens of government adversaries have been jailed for their political activities. An additional 2,000 Venezuelans are under investigation.

-- Juan Forero

ISRAEL

2 soldiers, 2 militants killed in border clash

Two Israeli soldiers and two Palestinians were killed in an exchange of fire along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on Friday after an Israeli army patrol spotted Palestinians planting explosives, the army said.


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