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Re Toro Hardy’s Popular Lawmaking in Venezuela

By Aleksander Boyd

London 02 Dec. 04 | I know Ambassador Toro Hardy personally; without compunctions of mind I can say, from the rather brief moments that we have shared, that I believe he is a man of integrity. However when I read comments of his, such as the one appeared recently in the “Letters to the Editor” of the Economist entitled “Popular lawmaking” certain doubts as to his moral stature invade me. Do bear with me.

At our request London was the first city, of a handful worldwide, whose Venezuelan Ambassador permitted for the organization of a “special electoral registration day”, which was to be held on a Saturday, outside the regular working schedule. Ambassador Toro Hardy expressed then that the Embassy did not have the financial means to send invitations to the 2.260 Venezuelans registered with the Embassy in the UK, and a group of private individuals from the Venezuelan community, generously donated monies to cover for the expenses that such an event would generate. Nevertheless Ambassador Toro Hardy gave his approval. So a group of voluntaries, myself included, spent one day at the Embassy filling envelopes with the letters we had brought to be sent to the registered Venezuelan residents, whose addresses were provided by the Embassy.

On the occasion of the recall referendum I got back in touch with Ambassador Toro Hardy for I was in charge of coordinating the team of opposition witnesses to oversee the normalcy of the voting event here in London. Our interaction was most cordial. Moreover, I was pleasantly surprised by his behaviour and adherence to legislation and the rule of law and I say this with absolute responsibility. Upon conclusion of the vote at 8PM on August 15, the officials in charge of the voting, according to article 169 of the Law of Suffrage and Political Participation, accepted the presence of a group of electors whom wanted to witness the scrutiny of the ballots. Thus around 50 people got into the Bolivar Hall to see how the president of the voting centre, Mr Manuel Rodriguez, counted each and everyone of the votes, resulting in a humiliating defeat for the option of letting Chavez cling to power (93% in favour of recalling Chavez). As the process was about to finish I got a couple of phone calls; one from Vienna and the other one from Frankfurt. Colleagues were informing that the Ambassadors of those cities had arbitrarily stopped the vote count. Alarmed, I had a word with Ambassador Toro Hardy. He said that instructions were given by the Vice Foreign Minister, to all Venezuelan embassies around the world, to stop the vote count with the purpose of avoiding any favouritism that would undoubtedly manifested upon learning of the results abroad. Ambassador Toro Hardy, clearly disturbed by the news, decided to disregard the order, probably considering that he had: a) to maintain the order in a room full of people and b) to uphold electoral legislation.

Due to his decision I was able to report at around 12GMT that, in London at least, Hugo Chavez had been recalled.

However when I read that the very same learned man, who took it upon himself to respect and abide by the law, writes in a widely distributed magazine that “…an opposition with little democratic vocation has carried on with a coup d’etat…” knowingly ignoring the ruling of the highest court of the land in Venezuela, which resolved that there had not been a coup but a “vacuum of power” acquitting the accused generals; and carries on with misleading and factually inaccurate statements such as “…devastating oil strike that cost the country over $10 billion, and has continuously promoted civil disobedience, incited violence and systematically harassed public officials…” [sic] I can not help but doubt about his integrity, as I do with any other Venezuelan official. Hugo Chavez admitted in front of the diplomatic corps and international journalists that the crisis with PDVSA was of his making. Hugo Chavez led a coup d’etat in 1992 against a democratically elected president; his companions attempted to oust the same president in that very same year; he has not only promoted civil disobedience, moreover he has made the instigation of violence amongst classes and races his political trademark; hours upon hours of his vitriolic hateful speech have pestered the airwaves of Venezuela for six years; in sum no opposition politico, although my intention is not to defend them but to point out the errs of Chavez, has characterized himself for having built a career upon hate and resentfulness as Chavez has done. That is his one and only oeuvre, apart from the scores of assassinations and death left along his path.

Today that ‘beacon of independence’ known as Venezuela’s Attorney General, clearly abusing his powers and violating all legal logic, introduces a petition with the Constitutional Chamber for the revision of the sentence of the plenary of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, which acquitted the generals on August 2002. This legal trick can indeed “open the floodgates” for all decisions against the current regime could be also revised by a subservient chamber, should the ‘chavista test of justice’ be applied.

Do not be cynic Ambassador Toro Hardy, we all know that you are doing your job and following orders. I know you did not mean to say that “Chavez’ set of laws aims at re-establishing the principle of authority, the rule of law and the citizen's right to television that does not incite violence” for it is mere official propaganda sent from Caracas. Re-establishing the principle of authority? For sure, by assassinating dissenters and terrorizing the population. The rule of law? As in Nazy Germany of Apartheid South Africa? I know you are a learned and intelligent individual and I am convinced that deep inside, you are as disgusted by the actions of Chavez and his administration as I am. I know it, I have seen it in your eyes. It comes the time in life for every decent and intelligent person, to analyse the past, present and future actions. You told me once that you were holding onto your job for moral principles; what’s more you said “¿y si yo renuncio a quien mandan para aca?” notably showing your preoccupation for maintaining a minimum level of professionalism and integrity within the diplomatic corps of Venezuela. I conceded then that you were right, today I diverge. There are two Venezuelas, the one made up of decent people and the other one made up of opportunists, rabble, resentful individuals riddled with complexes of inferiority desperately seeking personal benefit over the welfare of the nation. To which one you belong Mr Toro Hardy? I sincerely hope I am correct in thinking that you are on our side.

Popular lawmaking

SIR - You describe an authoritarian Hugo Chávez as passing a set of repressive laws and harassing measures against dissidents ("Red tide rising", November 6th). These past few years an opposition with little democratic vocation has carried on with a coup d'etat and a devastating oil strike that cost the country over $10 billion, and has continuously promoted civil disobedience, incited violence and systematically harassed public officials.

Based on its power over the media and economy, it has continuously denied legitimacy to the government, notwithstanding the fact that Mr Chávez, his policies and supporters have won nine successive elections in the past six years. Mr Chávez's proposed set of laws aims at re-establishing the principle of authority, the rule of law and the citizen's right to television that does not incite violence.

Alfredo Toro Hardy
Venezuelan ambassador

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