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Venezuela's U.N. Ambassador Resigns In Protest Of Hugo Chavez

By Jim Wurst, U.N. Wire

Thursday, March 4, 2004 - UNITED NATIONS Venezuela's ambassador to the United Nations, Milos Alcalay, resigned this morning in protest against the policies of President Hugo Chavez.

Speaking to journalists, Alcalay said his resignation "is a truly motivated by my love of Venezuela and my desire to see a return to the democratic principles in which it was founded." He said "fundamental principles" of human rights, democracy and "diplomatic dialogue" have been the principles of his diplomatic career. "Sadly," he added, "Venezuela now is operating devoid of these fundamental principles Therefore, it is with a heavy heart today that I am resigning my position."

Opponents of Chavez have been collecting signatures for a recall referendum and in December submitted a petition demanding a referendum be held. On Tuesday, the country's electoral council disqualified more than 1 million of those signatures, which resulted in the petition drive failing to collect enough signatures to force a referendum. Opposition leaders yesterday appealed to the Organization of American States and other international players to convince Chavez to reverse the decision. Chavez was re-elected in 2000 to a six-year term as president.

Alcalay said disqualifying so many signatures is "an incredible fraud." He said he hoped the electoral council "will not continue creating a problem for every solution." Asked why not simply wait for Chavez's term to end in 2006, Alcalay said the referendum option was written into the constitution by Chavez, therefore the referendum drive is "part of the rules of the road."

In a letter dated yesterday to Foreign Minister Jesus Arnaldo Perez, Alcalay said, "I cannot remain indifferent before the sad events in my country." Quoting Perez's own words that diplomats should resign if they do not agree with Chavez, Alcalay wrote, "I am not in a position to endorse these proposals. Our role should not be a diplomacy of confrontation but a diplomacy of dialogue."

Asked if he thought there was outside interference in his country, he said, "It's always easier to put the blame on the others and not yourself. It's always easier to blame Yankee imperialism or Communist Cuba Both extremes are not true ... Only Venezuelans can be masters of their own destiny."

He said he had no plans for what he will do now but said he would return to Venezuela only if Chavez agreed to a dialogue and a government of national unity. After the press conference, Alcalay said his resignation was "a personal matter" and knew of no other diplomats who were planning to resign.

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