Tensions have risen in Zimbabwe since the government of President Robert Mugabe stepped up a crackdown on critics in March. The political opposition has been a particular target with dozens of opposition leaders and others detained and beaten. Demonstrations had been increasing over the country's economic collapse and the government's failed policies. According to human rights groups, government security forces are now targeting members of the general public as well as opposition and civic leaders and have been authorized to use live ammunition.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is recovering from injuries sustained when he was detained. He spoke out against Mr. Mugabe:
"Mugabe's crackdown on our people leaves a trail of broken limbs, rape victims, torture victims, and dead bodies. Such is the reality of Zimbabwe today. The unprovoked and the continuing attacks on all Zimbabweans advocating for peaceful change must stop forthwith."
Zimbabwe's government has also threatened members of the international media and foreign diplomats. Zimbabwe's Information and Publicity Ministry singled out Jan Raath of The Times of London newspaper and Peta Thornycroft of Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper and the Voice of America.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a press-freedom monitoring group, called the threat against the two correspondents "totally unacceptable." "We call on authorities to allow all journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal," said Committee to Protect Journalists Executive Director Joel Simon.
The government's campaign to intimidate diplomats took a turn for the worse on April 3, when The Herald newspaper, a government mouthpiece, publicly threatened the life of a British diplomat for drawing attention to police abuse of detainees.
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the situation in Zimbabwe is "tragic":
"It is unfortunately the Zimbabwean people that are bearing the brunt of the misguided policies of the regime of Robert Mugabe. Whether that's in the decrease in political and human rights or whether it's taking this country down the pathway to economic ruin, it's a sad case."
The United States, said Mr. McCormack, is doing what it can to try to influence Zimbabwe's government, and is encouraging other countries in the region to do the same.