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Venezuela's Honorable Ambassador to the USA

By Alexandra Beech,

Never short on blather is Venezuela’s ambassador to the United States, Bernardo Alvarez Herrera. Ignoring that he works in Washington for Hugo Chavez, who called Bush a pendejo, who threatened to cut off oil supplies to the United States, and who called Bush’s government “illegitimate,” The Washington Times reports that Bernardo Alvarez “is warning the White House to condemn political violence in his country or risk being accused of encouraging the overthrow of leftist President Hugo Chavez, even though senior U.S. officials have called for a peaceful end to the conflict.” I agree with him. The US government should condemn political violence, especially the brutal torture of innocent citizens, and the illegal detainment of 410 Venezuelans.

Alvarez’s latest oeuvre is an open letter titled “The Honorable Bernardo Alvarez, Ambassador of Venezuela: Status Report on Venezuela and the Constitutional Process”. Of course, my first impulse was to look up “honorable”, since it seems to dissonate with Mr. Alvarez. “1. Worthy of honor; fit to be esteemed or regarded; estimable; illustrious,” reads Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary. “2. High-minded; actuated by principles of honor, or a scrupulous regard to probity, rectitude, or reputation.” The definitions continue, though I can’t find one that fits Venezuela’s ambassador.

For instance, how is he fit to be esteemed or regarded when he represents a government that only last week tortured Carlos Izcaray, first cellist of the Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra, during 21 hours ? The Financial Times, not the yellowest of papers, reports that Mr. Izcarray sustained “electric shocks and severe beatings, by National Guard troops loyal to Hugo Chávez, the president, at the El Paraíso barracks.” How can Mr. Alvarez stake any claim to honor when he represents a government that has illegally detained 410 people during the past ten days, including a fourteen year old boy? CNN Analyst Andres Oppenheimer also reports that “ Chávez's National Guard engaged in torture, beatings and possibly several killings in clashes with tens of thousands of oppositionists who were protesting the government's refusal to recognize a key portion of the 3.4 million signatures on petitions to recall him.”

If honor means to “show respect towards”, as Princeton University defines it, then how can Mr. Alvarez represent a government that did not honor its commitment to a recall referendum if the opposition collected the required 2.4 million signatures, as stipulated by the Bolivarian Constitution and reiterated in the May 29 Agreement? Everyone, including the OAS and Carter Center, knows that plenty signatures exist. Why does Chavez fear a referendum?

In his letter, Mr. Alvarez writes that “all acknowledge that a very large number of the submitted signatures are invalid because they are signatures of dead persons, foreigners, minors or other non-voters.” Who is all? I have not read one single instance where the OAS, Carter Center, or anyone else not acting on behalf of the government said that the signatures were by “ dead persons, foreigners, minors or other non-voters.” The only one who made that huge gaffe was Chavez himself. During a recent televised monologue, he claimed that he had evidence of fraud. Holding up papers, he said, "I'm sure Emiliano Chavez doesn't exist." Not so fast, Mr. President, cried Emiliano Chavez, when he heard his name and id number. "I'm not dead. I'm alive and kicking." Oops!

In modern times, honor is a quality that is more readily demonstrated through actions than by title, which is how Mr. Alvarez uses the term. A better example of honor is the recent resignation of Venezuela’s ambassador to the United Nations, Milos Alcalay. A seasoned diplomat who represented nine governments, (and all of them with remarkable flaws), Mr. Alcalay decided that he could no longer condone the criminal actions of a criminal government. In doing so, he lost his prestigious position at the United Nations, but gained a rightful place in Venezuelan history as a man who acted on principle.

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