HRW report: repression and electoral fraud are signs of weakness of authoritarian regimes

In the publication of the 32 th edition of its world report, in which it describes the human rights situation in almost all of the approximately one hundred countries where it operates, the The NGO Human Rights Watch regretted the violations of these rights in dictatorships such as China, Venezuela and Cuba, but expressed optimism, highlighting that the increase in repression and fraud in the democratic game in these countries represents a weakness of authoritarian regimes.

“In one country after another, large numbers of people have taken to the streets, even at the risk of being arrested or killed, which shows that the call for democracy is still strong,” said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director from HRW, in a statement released by the organization.

“But elected leaders need to do more to face the main challenges and show that democratic governments deliver on their promises”, he added.

In the statement, in addition to the repression of pro-democracy demonstrations such as those held in Cuba and Hong Kong, HRW highlighted that “as autocrats can no longer rely on subtly rigged elections to preserve their power, an increasing number, from Nicaragua to Russia, are resorting to overt electoral fraud to secure the desired outcome, which does not confer the expected legitimacy of a process electoral”. “This escalating crackdown is a sign of weakness, not strength,” Roth said.

China is one of the main targets of the report, mainly because of the crackdown in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. HRW has counted more than 150 people arrested for violating the severe National Security Law imposed in the autonomous territory in June 2020.

In addition, he denounced that the Beijing authorities “turned the quasi-democratic institutions of Hong Kong into bodies of mere formality”, by imposing “electoral reforms” so that only those loyal to the Chinese Communist Party could occupy seats in the local legislature.

In Xinjiang, HRW pointed out the crimes against humanity that victimize the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, which include mass arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearances, mass surveillance, cultural and religious persecution, separation of families, forced return to China, forced labor and sexual violence.

The organization highlighted that the control of information about abuses in the region has become stricter due to restrictions on movement due to the pandemic of Covid-19.


The HRW report found that the dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, used the state of emergency decreed by the arrival of Covid-19 to intensify his control over the population.

The organization stated that the Maduro regime and its security forces “are responsible for extrajudicial executions, disappearances for a short period of time, as well as for the arrest of opponents, for trying civilians in military courts. and torture prisoners.”

“They used the state of emergency established in response to Covid-19 as a pretext to intensify their control about the population. The lack of judicial independence contributed to the impunity of their crimes. Judicial authorities participated in or were complicit in the abuses,” the organization said.

HRW said that the UN independent international fact-finding mission on Venezuela “identified patterns of violations” of human rights and crimes that were part of a systematic and generalized conduct. He also recalled that the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, announced in November last year his decision to formally open an investigation into possible crimes against humanity committed in Venezuela.

The The report highlighted that Venezuela faces a serious humanitarian emergency with “millions of people without access to health care or adequate nutrition.”

“Limited access to safe drinking water in homes, health centers and a vaccination plan affected by the opacity may have contributed to the spread of Covid-19”, reads the text.

Still in agreement With the report, the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU-EOM) in the November 21 local and regional elections reported that some opponents were “arbitrarily disqualified” and that there was “unequal access to the media”.

In addition, “the lack of judicial independence and the lack of respect for the rule of law min or the impartiality and transparency of elections.”

Remaining concerns include “abject conditions” in prisons, impunity for human rights violations, and harassment of human rights defenders and independent media.

“The exodus of Venezuelans fleeing repression and the humanitarian emergency represents the biggest migratory crisis in the recent history of Latin America”, he reiterated.

In the report, HRW also said that “the government detained political opponents”, eliminating them from possible candidates for elections. He cited the report by the Venezuelan NGO Foro Penal, released on October 27, which reported that there were 254 detainees classified by it as political prisoners, number updated this week to 243.

It also highlighted that security agents and security forces “tortured several detainees and their families”, recalling that the report by 2020 of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported cases of alleged torture and ill-treatment of detainees.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, Félix Plasencia, rejected HRW’s annual report. “Mr. (director of the NGO’s Americas Division, José Miguel) Vivanco says goodbye to HRW doing what he does best: manufacturing files to please his funders. His latest report, full of inaccuracies and without any mention of the harmful effects of coercive measures against the people of Venezuela, is pure myth,” the chancellor said on Twitter.


Regarding Cuba, HRW highlighted in the report that the regime continues to “repress and punish virtually all types of dissent and public criticism” on the island. The Cuba part of the study highlights the “brutal repression” carried out after the anti-government protests of 11 in July last year, the largest in the country in decades.

The NGO said that more than a thousand protesters, most of them peaceful, were detained, as well as activists, artists and journalists, in a “systematic” and “arbitrary” manner.

The arrests of members of the dissident artist collectives San Isidro, 27N and Archipiélago were also mentioned, as well as people related to the protest song “Patria y Vida”, which became the “anthem” of the demonstrations.

The report highlighted the detention of “political prisoners”, their persecution “without judicial guarantees”, “disproportionate” sentences and the use of “summary trials” after the July protests, in which the Cuban Justice “acted in practice” in favor of the regime.

HRW particularly denounced the case of the opposition José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), a party considered illegal in the country. He was arrested in July on his way to the demonstration.

Ferrer was sentenced in August to more than four years imprisonment after a court found that he did not “strictly respect the laws” or did not have an “honest attitude towards work”, sufficient grounds for imprisonment in his situation, as he was already serving a previous sentence – “arbitrary”, according to the HRW – from “restrictions on liberty” for aggression.

The report also criticized the restrictions on the right to information and on freedom of the press and expression, which were reinforced in the middle of last year with a new law of cyber security. The NGO points out that independent journalism is still prohibited on the island.