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USA on Venezuela's democracy: hitting a raw nerve

From | VenEconomy

19.11.05 | For the second time in a month, the Hugo Chávez administration has received a blow on the diplomatic front. The first was the adverse reaction of several of the hemisphere’s governments to the belligerent stand taken by President Chávez at the Summit of the Americas held in Mar del Plata. The Venezuelan President tried to hide this negative reaction behind a frontal attack on Mexico’s President, Vicente Fox, an attack that has even led to these countries recalling their ambassadors; a situation that has still not been solved.

The second diplomatic setback was the convening by the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs of a hearing on the state of democracy in Venezuela. The mere fact of convening a hearing of this type highlights the considerable danger that the Hugo Chávez administration poses not only for Venezuela but also for the region.

One of the most striking things at the hearing was the contribution made by Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Thomas Shannon, who raised the profile, tone and intensity of the debate between Washington and Caracas when he alerted the U.S. Senate on the most harmful aspects of the process headed up by Hugo Chávez: 1) the undermining of democratic institutions and the restriction of the rights of those who oppose it; 2) the gradual and sustained undermining of economic freedoms; 3) the rejection of the opportunities of globalization; 4) the use of the criminal justice system to inspire fear in the media inclined to criticize the regime; and 5) the unbridled purchase of weapons and the regime’s support of radical political movements.

While this alone was a blow for the process headed up by the Venezuelan President, the fact that Súmate was invited to take part in the hearing was an even greater blow. This reveals Washington’s concern over the situation in Venezuela, as Súmate has been the banner ONG in the defense of the electoral rights of all Venezuelans. Because of the order forbidding Maria Corina Machado and Alejandro Plaz to leave the country, it was Ana Julia Jatar who represented Súmate at the hearing. Dr. Jatar gave a very clear, coherent presentation of the political situation affecting the country and clarified that she did not attend the hearing “in search of help or to persuade the U.S. Congress of the need to interfere in our destiny,” because Venezuela has a long history of self-determination and will continue to fight for it.”

Unfortunately, also for the second time in a month, President Chávez reacted emotionally using harsh words, attacking the messenger to distract people’s attention from the message, which was openly negative for his process. In Chávez’ eyes, while Fox is a “pup of the empire,” Bush is an “assassin, a person guilty of acts of genocide, and a madman.” The President Chávez’ reaction merely serves to confirm the underlying concern: the threat to democracy in Venezuela and all that means for the hemisphere.

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