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World in brief: Second opposition lawmaker slain

Fri., Feb. 1, 2008

A second opposition lawmaker was shot dead Thursday in this western Kenyan city, sparking a brief blaze of demonstrations across the volatile Rift Valley and sinking the edgy nation even deeper into a violent, post-election crisis.

Police officials quickly characterized the killing of David Kumutai Too as a “crime of passion,” saying that he was shot by a traffic cop whose girlfriend was having an affair with Too.

But opposition leader Raila Odinga just as quickly cast the murder as the second political assassination in as many days, saying that Too and opposition lawmaker Mugabe Were, who was gunned down in his driveway Tuesday, were killed to erase the opposition’s slender majority in parliament.

The woman riding in the car with Too was also shot and killed.

Odinga has accused President Mwai Kibaki of rigging the country’s Dec. 27 presidential election, a charge bolstered by international observers who have said the tally was so flawed that it is impossible to know who won.

New York

Venezuela left off closed countries list

Human Rights Watch on Thursday said Venezuela does not belong to a group of nations like Pakistan and Russia that use the veneer of democracy to mask autocratic rule – directly contradicting U.S. government assertions.

The group’s position also runs contrary to allegations by many opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez that he is undermining democracy at home and around Latin America.

Chavez and his government have long argued that Venezuela is fully democratic, with regular elections, a free news media and an organized opposition. The president accepted his defeat in a close vote on constitutional revisions last year.

“We did not include Venezuela in the list of closed countries because it is not,” Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said, unveiling the organization’s 2008 World Report, which highlighted leaders who claim to be democratic but take autocratic measures.

Roth acknowledged that “the trends were negative in Venezuela,” saying Chavez stacked the Supreme Court and denied an opposition station a broadcast license, among other excesses.

“There are serious problems in Venezuela, but we shouldn’t pretend that Venezuela is a closed society,” he said. “There still is significant political competition, and indeed the best evidence of that was the fact that Chavez just lost his referendum.”

The report identified Kenya, Pakistan, Bahrain, Jordan, Nigeria, Russia and Thailand as nations where rulers claim democracy but violate basic rights.


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