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Statement by John Kerry on Political Prosecutions in Venezuela

For immediate release

Madison, WI | October 28, 2004 - "President Chavez had an historic opportunity after the recent referendum to take Venezuela in new direction. He could have used his position as the constitutionally elected leader to embrace respect for democracy and the rule of law at home and throughout the region. Unfortunately, he has gone in the opposite direction.

President Chavez declared after the referendum that he was ready to work together with the peaceful opposition. Instead, he has chosen to prosecute some members for the "crime" of accepting a small grant from the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy to promote the referendum. President Chavez should immediately stop these politically-inspired prosecutions and begin fulfilling his promise to move Venezuela forward to a truly democratic future. And we should work with our regional allies to make clear that the world will be watching.

President Chavez should end support for anti-democratic forces throughout the region. By failing to crack down on Colombian anti-government rebels operating from Venezuelan territory and supporting Castro’s repressive regime, he has undermined regional security and progress toward democracy.

For our part, America must do more to lead in our own hemisphere. By largely ignoring the region and supporting undemocratic processes when it suited their purposes, this administration has lost the credibility necessary to become a true force for progress. As president, I will create a true Community of the Americas, built on mutual respect and support for democracy, where neighbors look after neighbors as we work to realize our common goals. "

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