Commissioners: Felipe González, Rose-Marie Belle Antoine, Rodrigo Escobar Gil State: Venezuela In the wake of Venezuela government’s recent decision to denounce the American Convention on Human Rights (Convention), the state’s representatives at a hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR, Commission) expressed strong criticism of the large role that non-State Parties to the Convention nevertheless play in the Inter-American System of Human Rights (IASHR, System), calling this a political double standard—especially in the context of the United States. At the March 16, 2013, hearing on the general situation of human rights in Venezuela, the state’s delegation expressed continued reluctance about their involvement in the current incarnation of the System, suggesting reforms that would protect Venezuela’s sovereignty from non-State Parties and therefore, if adopted, would alter the state’s stance toward the Commission. The Venezuelan delegation largely discussed the ways in which non-governmental organizations, the IASHR, and governments—including the United States, United Kingdom, and France—have sought to discredit the Venezuelan government since 1998. The delegation argued that the Organization of the American States (OAS) and NGOs have used human rights as a way to defeat progressive governments in Latin America. The delegation sought to prove a bias against the late President Hugo Chávez by comparing the IACHR’s relationship with Venezuela before and during his presidency. According to the delegation, the number of complaints the Commission investigated against Venezuela rose from a total of four over a 21-year period ending in 1998 to a total of 102 from 1999 to 2012. Furthermore, prior to 1998, the Commission requested zero precautionary measures; however, from 1999 to 2012, the Commission requested twenty-eight precautionary measures. The delegation also expressed frustration over Venezuela’s inclusion in Chapter IV of the Commission’s Annual Reports since 2002. Countries that have been designated in Chapter IV warrant special attention based on human rights practices in country because of “grave situations of violence that prevent the proper application of the rule of law; serious institutional crises; processes of institutional change which have negative consequences on human rights; or grave omissions in the adoption of the necessary measures which would provide for the effective exercise of fundamental rights.” Despite the Commission’s increased activity in response to human rights concerns in Venezuela, the delegation concluded that the increase is attributed to a bias against the government. Moreover, the delegation stated that Venezuela is one of the few countries to ratify most of the conventions, and that the country has the most advanced constitution in terms of human rights. The delegation further claimed that allegations lodged against the government are lacking proof and furthermore, according to the state, there were sixty-nine false reports in 2012. The government cited this as a “flagrant violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty.” The state concluded by urging the Commission to consider relocating the Commission’s headquarters to a State Party to the American Convention—rather than the United States—in order to no longer allow non-State Parties to “undermine Venezuela’s sovereignty.” The delegation also proposed a plan that would alter the Commission’s financing and diminish the financing role of non-State Parties to the American Convention. The representatives expressed Venezuela’s interest in financing the IASHR, an interest the representatives said they share with Ecuador. The representatives quoted a popular Mexican phrase to demonstrate United States’ influence in the IASHR: “Quien paga el mariachi elige la canción,” which means he who pays the mariachi chooses the song. After the government’s presentation, Commissioner Rodrigo Escobar Gil expressed grave concerns regarding the violence and overcrowding in the penitentiary system, and he requested additional information on what measures the government is taking to reduce levels of overcrowding and to fight violence. Commissioner Rose-Marie Belle Antoine acknowledged the government’s concerns regarding potential political conflicts in an important body like the Commission. She further responded to the delegation’s concern regarding the increase for precautionary measures, and she explained that there has been a general increase throughout the region as the Commission’s capacity has increased. Commissioner Antoine also requested information regarding the state’s plan for the permanency of a judiciary and additional information on how the state is ensuring access to economic, social, and cultural rights. Commissioner Antoine concluded by stating that countries that have not ratified the Convention still have a valuable place in the System. Commissioner Felipe González, the Rapporteur for Venezuela, reiterated his desire to visit the state to fully understand what is happening on the ground and to directly interact with civil society, visit prisons, and meet with the government. The government responded hostilely to the request for a visit and to the Commissioners’ request for additional information, stating that the Commission has the information it seeks in the reports the government has submitted.