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Venezuela suffers a new Carter visit

By Gustavo Coronel

February 27, 2005 | When the outside world wants to retaliate against Venezuelan President Chávez's global tours that often produce social chaos, earthquakes and political conflict, it sends us President Carter or his main representative, Dr. Jennifer McCoy. Usually one single and brief visit by one or both is retaliation enough for all the havoc Chávez generates worldwide. The problem is that we Venezuelans are not to blame for Chávez's destructive capacity. On the contrary, we are also its victims. A Carter visit, then, is a case of the innocent being punished. (As the Spanish proverb goes: "Despues de corneados apaleados", roughly translated as, "After being gored, beaten with a stick"). These visits backfire not only in Venezuela but also in other countries. When Carter visited Cuba with Dr. McCoy, in May 2002, Dr. McCoy said: "Castro allowed President Carter to speak to Cubans and to freely criticize him if he wanted. This was very courageous of him." Dr. McCoy admired Castro because he was letting Carter do, as an exceptional favor, what a true leader should do all the time: let his people, not only Carter, speak freely. Dr. McCoy continued: "Castro agreed beforehand that the entire speech would be broadcast uncensored on Cuban television and radio. It was quite unusual that we had this honor." Again, letting the words of Carter be heard uncensored was considered by Dr. McCoy to be an honor, a gracious favor being dispensed on Carter by the dictator.

This attitude reveals much of what is wrong with the Carter Center approach. It is an approach based on making concessions, which should not be made if principles are to be maintained. In order to truly defend a democratic way of life, no one should accept as a generous gift what pertains to all citizens as a right. In doing this, the Carter visit reinforced the dictatorial system of government prevailing in Cuba for more than 40 years.

The strategy of Carter in Venezuela has been similar. It has been based on the belief (or excuse, many say) that democracy and authoritarianism can co-exist peacefully and that making small or even large concessions to the dictator wannabe somehow will make him become more tolerant and respectful of the rights of others. The opposite is true. Bullies love the weak because they feel the need to control and humiliate. In Venezuela the Carter Center ended up by validating what they knew to be a fraudulent event, the August 2004 presidential referendum. They accepted the existence of numerous irregularities before, during and after the process and yet they gave it a very rapid seal of approval and left the country. When they left, no one in Venezuela wanted to see them return. Chávez, because he felt they had already served his purposes. Venezuelans in the opposition, because they saw Carter as an accomplice of the fraud. Once back in the U.S. they continued to defend their actions. In a meeting held at the Inter American Dialogue in Washington, D.C. in September 2004, Dr. McCoy admitted that the process had been full of irregularities and that their final report would be highly critical of the biased performance of the National Electoral Council. Yet, she defended once more the decision of the Center.

What has taken place after the referendum has been a tragic involution of Venezuelan political processes, now openly authoritarian and arbitrary. Chávez is clearly a satellite of Fidel Castro and events which have taken place in the last six months point to Venezuela being no longer a democracy but a very dangerous rogue state, dedicated to spread political instability throughout the hemisphere and to seek alliances with some of the most unbalanced political leaders in the world. Surely Dr. McCoy is not unaware of these events and of the negative image that the Carter Center now has in Venezuela.

The question, then, becomes: Why have we been punished with this new visit? She has explained her reasons saying: "My trip to Caracas is to understand if we can be of help at this moment", adding that: 'we want to consolidate peace and democracy" in the country. Apparently she has also said that the Venezuelan political environment is now much better and one of her staff adds: "Venezuela can be an example of peaceful and democratic social transformation. . . ."

In Atlanta, where CNN has their main offices, information on Venezuela should not be lacking. It is not necessary to take a plane to Caracas to know that:

* The Supreme Tribunal of Justice, the National Assembly, the so called Moral Power and the Executive power are all in the hands of Hugo Chávez and that there is no separation of powers.

* There is a Gag law that effectively imposes censorship to the private media.

* Colombian terrorists have made a home in Venezuela and have been given Venezuelan identity cards, passports and voted in the referendum that the Carter Center validated so enthusiastically.

* The regime is spending USD $2 billion in arms from Russia, Brazil and Spain, while Venezuelan are poorer every day.

* Private lands, although under production, are being intervened and invaded by squatters protected by the regime.

* Corruption and violence are at an all time high.

* Agreements with rogue countries, contrary to the national interest, are being signed by the executive power without following constitutional procedures.

The Carter Center has no business in Venezuela since they have lost all credibility among us. The only explanation for their presence is to reinforce and validate, once more, a political regime that is no longer a democracy. If they wanted to denounce it as authoritarian and illegitimate they could have done so more effectively from Atlanta.

Their new visit to Venezuela sadly adds to the many small and large indignities and catastrophes, both natural and Chávez made, that the Venezuelan society is being made to suffer.

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