OAS opens summit with warning against ‘silencing’ opponents

PANAMA CITY, June 3, 2007 (AFP) – The head of the Organization of American States opened a hemispheric summit late Sunday with a warning against “silencing” political opponents, a week after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shut down an opposition television station. “The first duty of a democratic government is broadening democracy,” OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza told delegates at the organization’s 37th General Assembly.

“By contrast, if a government is silencing opponents, excludes them from the political process and resorts to repression, it embarks on a path toward certain weakening of democratic rule,” Insulza added without mentioning Chavez directly.

He urged Latin American nations to promote a climate of tolerance as they confront multiple political, economic and social challenges.

Venezuela’s oldest and most popular television channel, RCTV, went of the air a week ago, after Chavez refused to renew its broadcasting license, accusing the station of subversion.

The country has been in turmoil ever since, with thousands of students and other opponents of Venezuela’s mercurial ruler taking to the streets to protest the move.

Thousands of demonstrators marched in Caracas again Sunday, slamming Chavez’s shutdown of RCTV th