A report (pdf) released today by Human Rights Watch accuses the government of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela of consolidating power in the executive branch and using that power to intimidate his opponents.
"The accumulation of power in the executive, the removal of institutional safeguards, and the erosion of human rights guarantees have given the Chávez government free rein to intimidate, censor, and punish Venezuelans who 'offend' the president or obstruct his political aims," the report found.
Chávez and his supporters, Human Rights adds, "have made ample use of these powers over the past four years."
The AP notes that the report from Human Rights Watch comes four years after "its regional director and his deputy were forcibly expelled from Venezuela after presenting a report that reached a similar conclusion."
The AP adds:
"Its release comes as Chavez, after 13 years in power promoting a socialist agenda that has included expropriation of private businesses, faces re-election on Oct. 7 against an opponent who accuses him of unfairly using state resources and monopolizing broadcast airwaves to his advantage.
"'With conditions of a very solid consolidation of power, it is a real challenge,' the Americas director for Human Rights Watch, Jose Miguel Vivanco, said of the situation confronting opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles."
The Venezuelan government has not addressed the report.