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Venezuela: US Lawmakers Reproach Chavez for Political Persecution

By Alexandra Beech, sixthrepublic.com

New York, New York - Signaling once again that the Venezuelan crisis is now a bi-partisan issue in Washington, senior members of the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives, including Congressmen Henry Hyde (Chairman and Republican), Tom Lantos (Ranking Democratic Member), Robert Menendez (Ranking Democratic Member) , and Doug Bereuter (Chairman – Subcommittee on Europe) sent Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez a letter on Monday condemning its recent investigation of NGO Sumate for having received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy. At least two Sumate board members have been charged with “conspiracy” and, if sentenced, could face years in prison.

In the letter, the Congressmen said that they “believe that the leveling of these charges against Sumate represents a troubling abuse of power and is an attempt to curb, for political purposes, constitutionally protected activities.” In addition, they asserted that “Sumate’s actions, which in small part [$53,000] have been financially supported by the NED, simply have helped Venezuelan citizens participate in a constitutional process that has been endorsed by the international community to resolve peacefully the political impasse which has afflicted Venezuela.”

Defending the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and responding to the government’s accusations it is trying to topple the government, the Congressmen wrote that the “allegations are baseless....In Venezuela, the NED since 1993 has been assisting organizations, like the Escuela de Vecinos and Centro al Servicio de la Accion Popular, to strengthen democracy in the country.”

While the lawmakers commended Chavez for allowing the recall referendum “to proceed pursuant to the Venezuelan Constitution,” they claimed that the charges against Sumate seem “unwarranted and politically motivated. Such quasi-legal actions are inconsistent with the hemispheric commitment to democracy and the ideals which are contained in the Inter-American Democratic Charter.”



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