On March 5, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died of complications from cancer at the age of 58. Chavez was and remains a controversial figure in world politics, and his significance is undeniable. Despite how one might feel about some of Chavez's economic policies, and his reported championing of the poor, anything Chavez might have done for "the greater good" was done at the expense of human rights.
Though the 1999 constitution had over 100 articles devoted to human rights, Chavez's actual policy often flew in the face of these promises. 2004 saw a political takeover of Venezuela's Supreme Court, effectively ending any ability to check executive power. Pressures were put on judges to be intolerant of any government opposition. In 2009, Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni was arrested on charges of corruption, after following the United Nations' advice and releasing a political prisoner. Chavez himself recommended she spend the next 30 years in prison. She remains in detention.
Freedom of the press has been extremely elusive in Venezuela. Most of the media outlets are privately owned, but the state still had significant control. RCTV, a major cable television news network in Venezuela has faced repeated challenges from the government for its airing of anti-Chavez views. In 2007, RCTV lost its radio broadcast license for its role in a 2002 coup, and in 2010, they were sanctioned with temporary closure. Two directors of the weekly newspaper 6to Poder remain in detention for an August 2011 article satirizing the Supreme Court.
In 2010, The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights published a report on Venezuela, that addressed many of the concerns about the Chavez government. The administration rejected that report, and demanded an apology from the IACHR for their supposed support of the attempted 2002 coup. Two years later, Venezuela withdrew fully from the American Convention on Human Rights. During the course of his administration, Chavez had human rights activists detained and expelled from the country. On the international front, Chavez routinely voted against condemning human rights abuses in other countries, and bestowed the country's highest honors on Syria's Bashar al-Assad, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Less obvious, but no less unscrupulous, was Chavez's debated antisemitism, brought to light by a 2005 speech that spoke of the Jews in helping to "crucify" Simon Bolivar. He spoke against interests of "wandering Jews" and sanctioned two government raids on a Jewish school in Caracas, searching for subversive material.