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USA ill equipped to command electoral transparency in Venezuela

By Alexandra Beech,

February 17, 2004 - Over dinner the other night, I commented to a friend about the damage that the US electoral scandal had inflicted on US credibility abroad. To many foreigners, Gore should have won, not just because more Americans voted for him than for Bush, but because he seemed to have also won Florida. The ridiculous chad business only augmented the perception that Jeb and Harris had secured Florida for him, and thus the presidency.

When the US administration has demanded fair and transparent elections in Latin America, many snicker and say, “OK, President Gore.”

To add insult to injury, a grungy Saddam Hussein emerged from a hole in the ground – with no Weapons of Mass Destruction around him. All of a sudden, the US government’s intelligence wasn’t that at all. It was a nebulous and flawed strategy.

Every would-be dictator in the world had reason to celebrate. The US government had lost all credibility in its fight against unjust regimes.

Die-hard Republicans find a rainbow in the bleakest of storms. They say that Syria and Iran have been warned, that the House of Saud is now poised to crumble, that terrorists have nowhere to go. However, terrorism is alive and well, aided and abetted by the foibles of the Bush administration.

Let me describe how my friends and family live in state-inspired terror in Venezuela.

When the president screams orders into television cameras, inciting his followers to violence.

When the president has created such a state of chaos that people die on television from gun shot wounds.

When the president characterizes everything that is peaceful and democratic as “coup-plotting”.

When the president threatens to imprison his enemies, and innocent people are held without bail in Caracas and Tachira.

When the president fires mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, and children – just regular folks - on national television.

When the president who caused the worst economic collapse in a country’s history promises to be in power until 2021, ignoring democracy and rule of law.

When the president financially and emotionally supports the totalitarian dictator of Cuba who systematically executes or imprisons dissenters.

When the president orders the National Assembly to change the structure of the Supreme Court in his favor.

When the president withholds dollars, and your business is forced to close.

When your loans or scholarships are rejected or cancelled because you exercised your constitutional right to sign a petition calling for a referendum.

When you get fired for signing petitions for a recall referendum.

When violence kills more people in your country on a yearly basis than any modern war.

When political persecution, economic ruin and bankruptcy forces you to seek work in Iraq or anywhere else.

When Amnesty International does nothing.

When the BBC finances a shamelessly biased propaganda film that wins awards all over.

When African American activists salute the president who called Condoleeza Rice, an example to all, an “illiterate” for promoting democracy.

When Don King, a felon and accused murderer, endorses the actions of the government and people celebrate.

When globalization activists celebrate Chavez, even as he signs multi-billion contracts with multi-national corporations.

When you succeed constitutionally, but the constitution doesn’t count.

When you succeed legally, but the laws don’t count.

Chavez is now claiming that the Bush administration has no credibility when it calls for transparency in the referendum process. This is very dangerous, not only because it promotes his nefarious agenda, but because it erodes American policy effectiveness in Latin America.

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