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Statement by Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, Venezuelan ambassador to the United States

December 5, 2005

Ambassador Alvarez wrote the following to Caracas Connect:

"The elections proceeded peacefully and transparently, further attesting to the fact that the Venezuelan people remain committed to peaceful democraticdevelopment. The decision of the opposition parties not to participate was unfortunate, but more importantly,verifies the fact that some members of the opposition seek to undermine a legitimate democratic process for purely political gain. When the opposition parties raised concerns with elements of the country's electoral system, the National Electoral Council agreed to a set of 11 changes. With these changes in place, the OAS, the Electoral Council and the opposition agreed to go forward with the elections, recognizing that Venezuela's electoral system was free, fair, and transparent. In spite of these agreements, the opposition parties withdrew, deliberately seeking to sabotage lawful elections they knew they would lose. Even Jose Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch, recognized this, telling the New York Times,"It's really hard to understand what exactly the political opposition leadership has in mind. But certainly it is not going to help them to present themselves as victims that deserve solidarity from the international community. With these kinds of tactics I don't think they'll gain any ground."

I believe the American people should see this election as further proof of President Chavez's commitment to participatory democracy. President Chavez and the National Assembly can now concentrate on implementing programs and policies that fight poverty and social exclusion, promote economic growth, and expand the avenues through which the Venezuelan people can truly benefit from their democratic system."

What's your opinion about the elections in Venezuela? Please post your thoughts.

25 Comments:

Blogger Gary Freedman said...

Rock on, President Chavez!

December 05, 2005 3:58 PM

 
Blogger Administrator said...

What's your opinion about the elections in Venezuela?

Please post your thoughts.

December 05, 2005 4:05 PM

 
Blogger Administrator said...

While searching the U.S. State Department's website, I came accross no press statement regarding the recent elections. I did, however, find this one-page leaflet on "The State of Democracy in Venezuela." Here's the link: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/scp/2005/57630.htm

December 05, 2005 4:33 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's all a sham. Yesterdays elections peeled away what was left of the democratic facade. I think this blog is another one of the regimes attempts at disinforming and I bet this comment will be erased.

December 05, 2005 4:34 PM

 
Anonymous ew01 said...

Well, it's a little troubling to me. The opposition brought a big list of demands to the OAS last week, and each of those were met. The next day they announced a boycott of the elections.

I'm afraid that they would rather drive the democratic system into the ground rather than lose. It could be dangerous for Venezuela.

December 05, 2005 4:34 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll do you one better with Senator Bill Frists article yesterday:

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/opinion/13333171.htm

December 05, 2005 4:37 PM

 
Anonymous ew01 said...

Well it's nice to see Frist commenting on a country he's never been do. That would be like a doctor diagnosing a patient based on a video tape--er, forget it.

Anyway, most Venezuelans prefer Chavez. The opposition is having a hard time articulating a message that resonates with people. That's how a democracy works. You don't just take your ball and go home if you can't win.

December 05, 2005 5:14 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can prez Chavez run here in the U.S.? I'll wait after his 2 or 3 terms. At least there'd be hope for this country.

Go Hugo!!!

December 05, 2005 5:16 PM

 
Blogger ConsDemo said...

The State Department did make a comment that was picked up in the Venezuelan media:

http://www.el-nacional.com/Articulos/DetalleArticulo.asp?idSeccion=64&id=71660

"Estados Unidos señaló la "muy alta" abstención en las elecciones legislativas del domingo en Venezuela, así como la falta de confianza en la transparencia del proceso electoral. "

[The United States said the "very high" level of abstention in Sunday's legislative elections in Venezuela demonstrates a lack of confidence in the transparency of the electoral process.]

The level of abstention was much higher than in previous elections but it is immaterial in the big scheme of things. The Chavistas ran the table.

December 05, 2005 11:39 PM

 
Anonymous Peric O'verde said...

What just happened in Venezuela worries me at several levels:

1) I can't understand how the pro Chavez people (since the opposition is) are not enraged with regards to the finding that their vote was not secret. I am talking about how it was found that the Smarmatic machines commissioned by the CNE were keeping a record of each person's vote. In any other country with a democratic tradition this would have been enough ground to halt elections and investigate those responsible for the electoral process. Those who are in favor of Chavez perhaps do not feel they should take any action because it does not affect them; I mean, after all the results were in their favor. However, once this door of illegality has been opened, nothing prevents that it will not be used against them as well if it is convenient for the government to do so. Chavez's supporters may well be today pushing the "aplanadora" ... tomorrow they may be the ones run over by it.

2) "Official" figures put the abstention in 75%. The 25% who voted include those that were forced to do so and those who voted "null". Thus:
a) Despite all the blah, blah of His majesty tHugo, only below 25% were convinced they should back his government. The 10000000 figure is far, very far away indeed.
b)We now have essentially a one party congress. No checks, no balances. Any ideas passing through tHugo's paranoid mind will become reality without further discussion. "Que Dios nos agarre confesaos" as they say. I do not think that most people (especially Chavistas) realize how dangeorus this is.

3) The only good thing I see coming out of this is that now tHugo cannot blame anyone for whatever happens in Venezuela. They now have every single institution under their grip. Thus, whatever happens is solely his responsibility. I hope that people will open their eyes now.

4) Absolute power corrupts absolutely. This has always been true and it will be in this case as well. We are just about to see the real face of tHugo and his regime.

December 06, 2005 12:49 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peric,

1) The vote was secret. Before the elections, the CNE had planned on using digital fingerprint scanners alongside electronic voting machines to ensure that no person could vote twice. During some tests of the two machines, it was revealed that in some instances the fingerprint and the vote could be matched, thus allowing the government to see who voted for who. Seeing this problem, the CNE, after meeting with the OAS and the opposition, agreed to not use the fingerprint machines. All in all, the CNE agreed to 11 changes proposed by the opposition, and in exchange, the opposition promised the OAS they would participate. As you know, they did not, even though the OAS twice announced that Venezuela's electoral system was free, fair, and transparent.

2) Abstention is a difficult beast to explain. While some say that the rate of abstention proves that the Venezuelan people have no faith in Venezuelan elections, one could also look at it another way. With the opposition parties boycotting (even though they promised to participate) and a resounding victory predicted for the government, would the Venezuelan people feel compelled to go out and vote? That is, if you know your slate will win no matter what, what is your exact motivation for standing in line and voting? Voters are a fickle bunch, so quoting the abstention rate can be difficult on multiple levels.

3)You're right -- now Chavez and his adherents control the National Assembly, and as such, will be held responsible for everything that happens. But is this their fault? Not at all. That's how the elections -- judged free and fair by international observers -- panned out. The opposition has been disorganized and without direction for years now, and given Venezuela's economic growth, it's no surprise that they swept the elections. This may cause them trouble in the long-run, but they couldn't have simply granted the opposition half the National Assembly if the voters did not want it that way.

December 06, 2005 10:05 AM

 
Blogger bugs said...

Greg Wilpert in Caracas has an insightful analysis: http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/articles.php?artno=1621.

And regarding turnout, it's all relative. For many state and local elections here in the U.S., 25% turnout is (unfortunately) about the norm. We had a very competitive city council election recently with a big push by multiple community groups for voter turnout, and we got it all the way up to 30%. Yet noone says that election was illegitimate -- in fact, the winner is seen as having a broad mandate.

December 06, 2005 1:35 PM

 
Blogger Krupa said...

I like this blog, and i hope we can get to the bottom of things without degenerating into a flamewar every time.

regardless of what anyone thinks about chavez, a one-party govt. is no good for anyone. they always end up corrupt, and often totalitarian. and if one-party govt's are bad, one-party govts based on a single strong, military personality are even worse.

so say whatever you want about the corrupt government the chavistas booted out, and I'll probably agree with you. my only point is that chavez cheerleaders should stop and take a serious look at what history has to tell us about how these kinds of situations always end up.

at the very least, a healthy opposition would be... well... healthy.

December 06, 2005 3:43 PM

 
Blogger bugs said...

Agreed, Krupa -- a government controlled by a single tendency is highly problematic. When there are multiple parties, each party has its own internal debates over how to tackle issues, and then the parties take their positions to the formal decision-making process (e.g., the National Assembly) and have a public debate. With only one tendency, internal debates are likely to take the place of public debate within the democratic, constitutional framework.

It should be noted there are still mutliple parties represented in the AN, though all are pro-Chavez. But the MVR now has an overwhelming majority, and without an opposition, it seems to me it won't need the support of the other parties at all..)

So, yeah, an opposition is needed. But the current opposition has consistantly engaged in self-destrucitve behavior, and the election boycott may be its death knell. Maybe a new, smarter and more realistic political opposition will rise from its ashes...

December 06, 2005 6:54 PM

 
Anonymous Peric O'verde said...

And so it has started. Read the following news published by the Chinese News Agency:

CARACAS, Dec. 6 (Xinhuanet) -- New deputies elected to Venezuela's National Assembly, to be sworn in January, will legislate to keep President Hugo Chavez in office until 2030, National Assembly President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday.

The legislation would be revolutionary and would ensure that Chavez remains in power not just till 2021, but till 2030, Maduro said at a ceremony celebrating the victory of pro-government deputies in Sunday's elections.

He said the new parliament also planned to pass several laws that are "for the people and with the people."

"One cycle of the Assembly has completed and another one has begun which will speed the revolution: of changes made in favor of the people," Maduro said. "The main contribution of this new assembly will be to consolidate the revolution."

According to the current Venezuelan constitution, approved six years ago in a referendum, only one presidential re-election is allowed and a full presidential term is six years.

Chavez had said he wanted to retire from political life in 2021,but this year he extended his horizons to 2030.

Maduro said the new deputies should defend Chavez. He also accused US President George W. Bush of conspiring against the Venezuelan government.

The year 2006 would be a decisive year, with presidential elections due which would give people the alternative "Chavez or Bush," he added.

The pro-government alliance won all the 167 seats in the National Assembly, as well as 12 Latin American Parliament seats, and five in the Andean Parliament.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2005-12/07/content_3887865.htm

Scary times await us all indeed.

December 07, 2005 12:54 AM

 
Anonymous ew01 said...

Bugs makes a good point. Although the winning parties have been labled as "chavista," in some cases that just means recognizing the President as a legitimate elected leader. This is fundemental for stability and the democratic process.

There will still be criticism and dissent--it just won't be coming from the old parties. That's probably a good thing for Venezuela, considering that in the last 5 years, COPEI, AD, and Primero Justicia have:

1) attempted violent overthrow of the president

2) tried to collapse the economy through an ill-advised oil strike, and

3) advocated citizen abstention from elections.

Perhaps now, the dissent will take on a more democratic nature.

December 07, 2005 9:52 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this blog is funded by the venezuelan government and is run by a hack called Sarah Wagner who's work for the regime can be seen here:

http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1517

Sarah, you are pathetic.

December 07, 2005 11:18 AM

 
Blogger Administrator said...

We would like to thank our correspondent, "anonymous," for posting these remarks, which give us an opportunity to provide our readers with the following information:

1. Anonymous is absolutely mistaken; this blog is entired funded and sponsored by The Center for International Policy, a progressive foreign policy think tank based in Washington, DC. Neither this blog, nor the Center itself, receives any money whatsoever from any government, foreign or domestic.

2. This blog does not know, does not employ, and has never heard of Sarah Wagner.

3. If Ms. Wagner is reading our postings, she is welcomed to write and defend herself.

As a rule we frown upon the fighting words contained in the posting by "anonymous." But in the spirit of this blog -- which is meant to encourage discourse and learning about Venezuela and US policy toward Caracas and the hemisphere itself -- we've printed it in full. That said, this subject involves a lot to talk about and a lot to be passionate about; if readers can participate without being mean-spirited about it, all the better.

December 07, 2005 11:19 AM

 
Blogger Krupa said...

why would anyone need funding for a "blogspot" blog... sheesh, if that's the best venezuela propaganda could do, that's pretty lame. anyway, adolf hitler himself could be running this blog, I wouldn't care, as long as the discussion is relevant. this whole "for us or against us" false dichotomy that both sides are slinging is stupid, so cut it out.

and ew01, the worrying thing is that the Chavistas won't let a new opposition arrise, ie- by making new legislation against media outlets and threatening them with litigation in order to keep them quiet and pulling other nasty tricks with the entire legislature and the entire judiciary knowing which side their proverbial bread is buttered on. those "new york review of books" articles linked to in the side bar have it right on... tal cual editor Petkoff says that chavez has two peddals he's standing on, democracy and authoritarian, and as long as things are going his way he'll step on the democracy peddal, but otherwise he won't hesitate to lean on the authoritarian side.

December 07, 2005 11:45 AM

 
Blogger Krupa said...

(oh, and also, posting a long statement from a venezuelan ambassador is about as relevant as posting a statement from bush's press secretary... this is why free media is so important, because you can NOT believe politicians.)

December 07, 2005 11:46 AM

 
Anonymous ew01 said...

Hey Krupa, You bring up "new legislation against media outlets." I've done some reading on the media law, and I think there are lots of misconceptions about it. Maybe we could start a separate thread on it?

December 07, 2005 4:01 PM

 
Anonymous El Pulpo said...

Krupa:

"at the very least, a healthy opposition would be... well... healthy.

In theory an opposition would indeed by healthy in strengthening the democratic value, and in some cases opposition to governments have successfully conveyed thier actions into a legitimate base of influence where they can effect change through the democratic process. The Venezuelan opposition exhibits none of these charachteristics. It has been said in the past the the opposition never misses a chance to shoot itself in the foot, and the actions taken in the last elections is but one more example of the truthfulness of this claim.

Instead of participating they tried to subvert the system, perhaps relying on sympathy from outside sources, and diffusion of its message throughout the Venezualan private media. While they may have gotten a small degree of sympathy from the likes of Frist, they surely did not get it from the observers, or even from Human Rights Watch who criticized the withdrawal as an attempt to gain sympathy after the CNE had agreed to forego the fingerprinting machines, cited by the observers as irregular. All of this leads to the conclusion that this act was planned in advance, and if PJ announced thier withdrawal after the three major parties withdrew it was due to pressure from the umbrella of the opposition. It makes perfect sense since they are the only party to field a candidate for the presidential elections, and withdrawal would have implications on that election also, for this party.

While a healthy opposition is always welcomed in a democratic state such as Venezuela, the manner in which they conduct themselves must be taken into consideration. When political parties refuse to participate in all that is thier reason for being, citing claims that are unsubstantiated, where does that action leave those parties in the eyes of those participating?

Abandoning the process was never the choice of the Ukranian orange revolution. They stuck it out, challenged the system and ultimately won, despite calims of malfeasence by the opponents. In certain circles there have been made comparisons to the orange revoltuion to the Venezuealn opposition. The Ven. Oppo may want to take some lessons, because thier manner of participation lacks all the democratic spirit of the ones they cite as examples.

In order for the Ven. Oppo. to become healthy they must take thier dose of medication. They must come to a realization that the status quo they remember as being beneficial to them is out the door. The success of the missiones have made that clear. An honest mindfullness of the majority poor of the country is necessary to gain some semblence of governance, which until this government, was hitherto neglected with its consequences noted by the increasing income disparity between rich and poor. Until some oppo can relate to these matters with a higher degree of sincerity, Hugo Chavez will reign, and more power to him. God Speed Hugo Chavez!

December 07, 2005 9:49 PM

 
Blogger Krupa said...

El pulpo, you scare me. I said "a healthy opposition" not "this particular opposition." but you obviously already had your anti-opposition screed locked and loaded. plus I'm generally opposed to any political leader who "reigns".

ew01, sure. show me what you've got.

December 09, 2005 9:38 AM

 
Anonymous El Pulpo said...

"El pulpo, you scare me. I said "a healthy opposition" not "this particular opposition.""

Did you miss the part where I make the comparison to the Orange revolution?

You state: my only point is that chavez cheerleaders should stop and take a serious look at what history has to tell us about how these kinds of situations always end up.

My point is to highlight the historical achievments of sucessful opposition attempts and how the Venezuelan model lacks all the components to lend credibility to thier cause. In essence, it is not the Chavez "cheerleders" who need to be more circumspect, it is the opposition and thier supporters who do, including yourself.

December 11, 2005 12:27 PM

 
Blogger Krupa said...

"... Hugo Chavez will reign, and more power to him. God Speed Hugo Chavez!" doesn't exactly sound like the model of circumspection.

and what is this all or nothing crap, implying that I support everything "the opposition" stands for (and further implying that everyone in "the opposition" stands for the same thing) just because I'm worried about chavez?

this is where dialogue breaks down, when chavez supporters assume that detractors are all part of some subversive conspiracy.

eh, this is ridiculous.

December 12, 2005 12:15 PM

 

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