"People have the right to know whether the president-elect is to rule"
Ayala claims that the president's health is in the public interest
"Complex, difficult and delicate surgery," "complex postoperative as well," "bleeding," "conscious and in progressive recovery," "slight improvement," "pulmonary infection," "stable within his delicate condition," "respiratory distress," and "stationary condition."
These are some phrases and terms used by the Venezuelan government in its 28 "official press releases" to inform Venezuelans of the progress of President Hugo Chávez, who turned one month after undergoing in Cuba his fourth cancer surgery.
Nevertheless, more than one and a half year after the very president avowed that he was ill, Venezuela does not know yet about the type of cancer he suffers, affected organs and the prognosis of treating doctors. For the ex-president of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Carlos Ayala Corao, this impairs fundamental rights to freedom of expression and citizen's participation.
"People have the right to know whether he, who was elected, is able to govern," said the jurist.
The right to privacy argued by the government in refusing to supply further information on the president's condition lacks, according to him, any legal grounds according to the case law of organizations, such as the Inter-American and European Courts of Human Rights, let alone the Venezuelan Constitution of 1999.
"The Constitution affirms that citizens are entitled to seek and get information and that government authorities may not cover the information handled by them," he warned. "The Inter-American Court, in trials against Costa Rica and Paraguay, noted that privacy of public servants is not similar to that of ordinary people, because due to their status, they could affect the society."
Ayala's opinion is supported by the Regional Alliance for Freedom of Expression, a pool of about 20 human rights advocates in the Western Hemisphere, including Transparency Venezuela.
Cristian Fonseca, a businessman in La Candelaria district downtown Caracas, was doing the accounts in his small shop office on Sunday December 21, 2008. The Christmas shopping season kept him working late hours into the night. It was around 11 p.m. and his phone rang. A friend broke the bad news to him over the telephone.