Chávez government officials accuse a Venezuelan human rights activist in South Florida of being a CIA agent. The mother of two says she’s a victim of political persecution.

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Patricia Andrade, a Venezuelan community activist in South Florida, has joined the ranks of those who have sought her help as victims of political persecution.

After two years of carefully cataloging human rights violations in Venezuela and reporting them to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Andrade today finds herself in an odd situation: She’s preparing a report to detail her own persecution from afar.

Last month, lawmakers allied with President Hugo Chávez denounced her as a CIA agent and a coup plotter in an elaborate press conference that was carried live on Venezuelan television. As proof of the conspiracy, they played tapes Dec. 13 of conversations the lawmakers said were between Andrade and another activist in Venezuela, Tamara Suju, in which efforts to undermine the Chávez government were discussed.

The government is investigating Andrade and Suju for treason and conspiracy. Both women say the tapes are fake.

”This is political persecution, because activists in Venezuela are persecuted,” said Andrade, 43. “The strange part is that I live outside the country, but even so, I’m not breaking any laws.”

She will file her complaint to the commission this week.

The lawmakers went so far as to link Andrade to CIA-trained Cuban exile militant Luis Posada Carriles by playing tapes they said pertained to a phone conversation that Andrade allegedly had with one of Posada’s Miami lawyers. Posada is wanted in Venezuela for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner.

From her West Miami-Dade home, Andrade has worked to denounce human rights violations in Venezuela, alleging that Chávez’s government has abused, tortured and murdered political prisoners. It’s a passion that has so consumed her that it has evolved into a full-time occupation, though she receives no salary through her nonprofit organization, which she says collects modest donations.

Through her organization, Venezuela Awareness Foundation, she has filed 26 complaints with the commission, claiming that prisoners were subjected to abuse ranging from suffocation to denial of urgent medical care.

At the press conference in Caracas, four National Assembly deputies claimed that Andrade’s repeated human rights complaints were intended to isolate Venezuela by undermining the Chávez government’s image abroad. Her efforts, the deputies said, were part of a multipronged plan to destabilize the country and derail Dec. 4 legislative elections.

The deputies also said that U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was conspiring with Andrade. They did not elaborate.

This evidence, Deputy Cilia Flores said, “is related to a plan intended to isolate Venezuela, a plan in which the American embassy, President Bush and Venezuelans without allegiance to their country participate. Patricia Andrade . . . works for the CIA and is an undercover agent and is in direct contact with the destabilizing and terrorist sectors here in Venezuela.”

Assembly President Nicolas Maduro accused Andrade and Suju of being part of a plot to overthrow Chávez through violent means.

Maduro and the other deputies played tapes of conversations between Andrade and Suju — conversations both women say did not take place. They say snippets of their past conversations were strung together to make their talks seem sinister.

The tapes also included a conversation about the U.S. State Department taking the position that Venezuela tortures for political purposes and another discussion about using the U.S. Embassy’s diplomatic mail to transport some documents.

Skeptical Venezuelan journalists at the press conference pressed the deputies for more information, but the lawmakers refused to specify how they had obtained the recordings. Nor would they provide more evidence for their accusations.

Flores and Maduro did not respond to email requests for comment, nor did Venezuela’s Ambassador Bernado Alvarez Herrera in Washington.

”They say publicly to the world that they are not violating human rights, and then they go out and publicly announce that they are using illegal taping against people who are fighting for human rights,” Suju said.“The idea is to shut us up, and there are fewer Venezuelans denouncing [the government] every day because they are afraid.”

Suju, who has 9-year-old triplets, has opted to stay away from her home since the press conference, fearing arrest.

Andrade said the accusations are merely another effort by Chávez allies to distract from the country’s real problems — in this case the massive voter abstention during the Dec. 4 elections. Only 25 percent of registered voters turned out after the opposition parties called for a boycott, claiming that Chávez’s vise grip on power made a fair contest impossible.

”They always point to some conspiracy when they have an internal situation that is delicate, trying to blame another government or another organization or another person,” Andrade said. “Until the torture and the violations of human rights end, I won’t rest, even if they continue to call me a traitor.”

A 2004 report by the Inter-American rights commission, a part of the Organization of American States, condemned Venezuela for not bringing human rights violators to justice. The report stated that “90 percent of investigations of human rights violations never go beyond the preliminary stage.”

The Chávez government has said the commission’s criticisms are part of a destabilization campaign led by Washington.

”This is typical Chávez hysteria, because he’s following the Castro line of distracting from the problems in the country,” Ros-Lehtinen said of the accusations against her and Andrade. “He’s trying to create paranoia that America is out to take over their land and remove him from power illegally.”

© 2006 and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.