Venezuela Accuses U.S. of Double Standard over Constitutional Reform Referendum
Caracas, December 4, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com) - The United States government cheered the outcome of Venezuelan's constitutional reform referendum of December 2, which prompted Venezuela's Ambassador to the U.S. to accuse the Bush administration of a "double standard" because of its criticsms of the referendum shortly before the vote.
Claiming that the proposal that would have abolished presidential term limits, allowing for Chavez to stand for reelection, would have let Chavez "stay in power for life," US President George W. Bush said today at a rare unscripted White House press conference that the Venezuelan people "rejected one man rule... they voted for democracy."
However, Venezuelan ambassador to the U.S. Bernardo Alvarez denied that the reforms were anti-democratic and accused the Bush government of having a "double standard" and only valuing the Venezuelan electoral system if the results are in accord with U.S. policies.
Alvarez said U.S government officials made a series of attacks questioning Venezuela's democracy before the referendum and now they express, "their jubilation for the results of the referendum instead of sending an apology and recognizing the transparency of the electoral system and the dynamic of participatory democracy in Venezuela."
Alvarez said that the National Electoral Council, which government opponents have often claimed is stacked with Chavez loyalists, has been vindicated as an independent democratic institution.
In 2004, when an opposition-initiated recall referendum on Chavez's presidency was defeated with 58% voting in support of Chavez, the opposition claimed fraud had been committed by the CNE. However, they did not provide any evidence and the vote was ratified by all international observers including the Carter Center and the Organization of American States as free and fair.
In a statement on Friday, only two days before the referendum, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack questioned the validity of the referendum and the electoral system in Venezuela, saying that there were not enough international observers and that it could not be assured, "if the result would reflect the will of the people" or not.
However, shortly after the result was announced, showing a defeat for the reforms, McCormack told reporters in Washington on December 3, "We don't have any reason to doubt that this result reflects the will of the Venezuelan people."
Political commentator David Brooks, writing for the December 3 edition of Mexico's La Jornada pointed out, "Something apparently changed in two days, because today, as the spokesperson said, there is no reason to doubt the result."
"It appears now there is a consensus that there exists an effective and transparent democracy in Venezuela. Would this consensus between opinion writers, business, and US government functionaries have been the same with the opposite result?" Brooks asked.
José Serrano, US Congressman for the Bronx also criticized the attitude of the U.S. government towards Chavez in a statement on December 3, saying "The Bush Administration and much of the U.S. and international press must come to grips with the idea that Venezuela is a fully functioning democracy and Chávez is a product of that democracy. There is no other way to view this situation that reflects the democratic realities on the ground."
"President Chávez and the Venezuelan people yet again showed that they indeed have a democratic system in place and that the system is operational," Congressman Serrano added. "I hope that Chávez' critics, who often deploy misleading terms like ‘anti-democratic,' will take note of this development and confine their criticisms to policies. The will of the Venezuelan people has been heard and respected.
Significantly, Serrano argued, "a full 49 percent of the people voted in favor of moving towards Chávez' program of 21st Century Socialism. While in this referendum they constituted a minority, their wishes cannot be ignored. Chávez has sought to represent the people's wishes in his programs. This explains his popularity-not hocus-pocus theories about dictatorships."
International institutions such as the EU and the OAS once again ratified Venezuela's electoral system as free and fair. EU spokesperson for external affairs Christiane Hohmann said yesterday, "The Commission notes with satisfaction that the referendum in Venezuela was carried out in a peaceful manner and in a calm atmosphere and that the results have been accepted by the participants in the process in a spirit of mutual respect."
Secretary General of the OAS, Jose Insulza described the electoral process as "exemplary." "The electoral development of the referendum convoked by the government of President Hugo Chavez constitutes an example of the democratic advance that our region is experiencing, and its convocation reflects the decision of the authorities to consult the society over the big national issues," Insulza said.
Published on Dec 4th 2007 at 7.12pm
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