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Speech by Foreign Relations Minister Roy Chaderton at the 58th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

New York, Septiembre 26, 2003

Mr. President
Your Honor the Secretary General
Esteemed Delegates

I am starting this speech with mixed emotions: First of all, happiness over your election to preside over this body as Chancellor of our sister country Santa Lucia.

But also grief, because our United Nations has lost one of its best people, and Brazil an exemplary member of one of the world's strongest diplomatic systems.

Sergio Viera de Mello died for peace and human rights, causes which illuminated his life as a diplomat and a Brazilian.

We have other unfortunate examples from other times.

We lost Anna Lindh, a Swedish Chancellor, a daughter of one of the countries most attached to social justice, educated in the Nordic tradition of social advancement and commitment to peace and democracy. Some years earlier, we saw the death of another Swede, Olaf Palma, a man of peace and good will, to whom the international community bade farewell with the song "Thanks to Life" written by a Chilean, Violeta Parra, as a tribute to his struggles on behalf of the persecuted, the disenfranchised and the impoverished.

At the beginning of the sixties, the Secretary General of the UN, Dag Hammarskjold, also from Sweden, died while on a peace mission in what was apparently an accident amidst the tangled political turbulence in a Congo assailed by its enemies at home and the international factors that were depriving its sovereign leadership of vital oxygen. Still earlier, yet another Swede, Count Folke Bernadotte fell a victim to terrorism on his peace mission from the UN in Jerusalem. And even before that, at the end of the Second World War, the Swedish diplomat Roul Wallemberg, who, from Budapest opened the way to freedom for Jews who were being persecuted by the barbarism of the Nazis, disappeared without a trace.

It seems that nothing has changed Social injustice goes on forever, the conflicts repeat themselves, the leading spirits of historic changes are physically eliminated or morally destroyed and the advocacy of violence is dragging us toward terrorism and war.

Mr. President:

Inspired by the values of social justice, democracy and peace, in the name of the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frías, I wish to reaffirm to you our support of the UN, from a position that is critical but unambiguous and totally consistent with its highest goals.

These same values inspire us in Venezuela, a country that has prided itself on being the richest and most democratic nation in Latin America, but has squandered its unique historical opportunities and has fallen into a a process of ethical and social decay that has brought us close to the abyss. As a result, we must embark on a profound process of change in the direction of peace and democracy.
The sectors affected by the democratic transformation resorted to force to frustrate this commitment of the majorities; they resorted to the military coup, to oil sabotage to financial panic and to indirect terrorism. Thank God, they failed, but they caused much damage.

The provisions of a constitution approved by the people in a referendum which expands the bases of democracy in a social state founded on law and which is truly our plan of peace for everyone, have generated opposition that is violent and anti-democratic. Opening the way to a participatory democracy and to am economy that is free but not anarchic, that protects private liberty without bowing down to the Gods of the market, has stirred up the most egoistic and insensitive sector of our country and the international community: the neo-liberals.

On this subject, His Holiness Pope Paul VI, in his Encyclical "Populorum Progressio" of March 1967 said that this unrestrained liberalism would lead to dictatorship, rightly denounced by Pius XI as the source of international financial imperialism. Never, he said, will abuses of this kind be sufficiently condemned, reminding us most solemnly once again that the economy is made to serve the human being.

Entrepreneurs who ran no risks, protected by a collaborative Government under a captive market, who would not compete and who would evade taxation, promoted a conspiracy against the legitimate government of Venezuela, allied with international sectors that had been its beneficiaries in the past.

Now, therefore, our democracy, threatened in vain by certain Venezuelan Citizen Kanes, is inviting the members of the international community to come to Venezuela and see for themselves the strength of our society and the immense civil liberties available in our country, including the broadest freedom of expression in our entire hemisphere.

We will form our opinion with the aid of impartial witnesses who come to Venezuela and see our television, read our newspapers, talk with the owners of the private media, listen to commentators and hosts – and draw their own conclusions. We need them to familiarize themselves with the most carefully hidden threat against democracy: the dictatorship of the media, the fountainhead of the culture of violence and mediocrity.

Our process of social change in the direction of peace and democracy was interrupted by the assault against legality led by the media and their hypnotized followers. In barely three days during their ephemeral de facto government, all the democratic institutions had been abolished, before the people and the street soldiers brought things back to normal.

Today, our goal is peace and reconciliation among the Venezuelans. In our democracy, there is hope and space enough for everyone.

Peace is also the goal of the members of the United Nations, but there will be no lasting peace without social justice, there will be no stable democracies without social justice and liberty will be a fraud without social justice.

Mister President:

I also wish to express my special congratulations to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan, for his balanced and firm guidance of the Organization in the difficult period that the world is going through at present, and for his wise and heartfelt message to this Democratic Assembly.

This year, our activities in the General Assembly were overcast by the devastating attack on the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad and the sequels to the war in Iraq, the tense situation that exists in the Middle East and the alarming indications of poverty throughout the world. This scenario is the occasion for profound reflection and is obliging us to strengthen the response capability of our Organization.

The action taken by Venezuela has been aimed at restoring and promoting multilateralism as a medium and background for the structuring of a multipolar world.

Unilateralism is monochromatic, sluggish and oppressive. Multilateralism is colorful, animated and democratic.

In this conviction, we took the responsibility of chairing the Group of the Seventy-Seven (G-77) last year and the Group of the Fifteen (G-15), whose Summit Meeting will be held next year in my country. Through these mechanisms, the Developing Countries are expressing their multilateral voice and their aspirations for the universal common good and for international social justice.

The UN should help to generate a new international order.
Due to the historical developments since 1945, we must have a more democratic and representative Security Council. We must reinforce the democratic and participatory nature of the Assembly General. And we want the Economic and Social Council to become the powerful organ that it has not yet been allowed to be.

The Charter of the UN cannot be tailored to order for our unilateral conveniences. War is not a romantic adventure which brings us to a happy ending where the villains are put to rout by the superheroes. Sometimes, war turns into a death-trap that causes harsher sufferings than those which in theory it claims to alleviate. Sometimes, it brings other wars, more violence, more terrorism in its wake.

Force should not be used by a Government at the discretion of whoever happens to be interested at the time. The responsibility of the members of this Organization is collective; the international security that we are seeking to protect and guarantee should also be collective.

We all desire a better world for the coming generations, and – why not? – for ourselves as well. We are all players in this global drama; hegemonies are archaic and authoritarian. We look forward to a UN that is fortified, universal and democratic.

A year ago, in this same hall, we condemned the abominable terrorist attacks of September 11, in which we lost thousands of citizens of the United States and other countries.

This sudden Holocaust was perhaps the product of religious fundamentalism, but it would be unjust to point the finger at the believers of a single faith for acts of extremist minorities, when other minorities among groups of believers have also committed crimes against humanity in the name of the Lord.

Terrorism destroys the life of both innocent humans and combatants. It is a calamity that afflicts family members, friends and nations.

There is no good terrorism. Not in the name of a race or a nationality. Not in the name of justice or liberty. Not in the name of God.

Four days ago, on behalf of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, I filed the documents for the ratification of the Convention Against Terrorist Attacks with Bombs, the Convention Against the Financing of Terrorism and the Organizational Protocol for the Convention on the Rights of the Child with regard to the Participation of Children in Armed Conflicts. Yesterday, the Venezuelan Parliament converted the Inter-American Convention against Terrorism into a Law of the Republic. We expect that the ratification procedure will be completed as described above.

However, we must persevere in our head-on struggle against the most widespread and destructive forms of terrorism: poverty and social disenfranchisement. Otherwise, we shall not be able to realize the objectives of the Millennium Summit Meeting to reduce world poverty 50% by the year 2015, and we shall be defrauding our populations and sowing further conditions for violence, terrorism and war.

The Developing Countries are suffering the terrible scourge of hunger, misery and disenfranchisement, caused by an unjust economic system, enveloped in the practices of savage neoliberalism and in the globalized economy, with an unbalanced system of commercial interchange which generates unemployment, inequality and resentment. It is a system that offends against the dignity of the human individual.

One measure that President Hugo Chávez Frías has initiated to combat poverty is the creation of an International Humanitarian Fund, which we have proposed at Monterrey, at Johannesburg, and, once again, here at the General Assembly of the UN.

The fund is designed to be a strong and innovative source of financing for non-repayable funds. It will be an effective form of international assistance to generate opportunities for economic and social progress in the countries that are excluded from the existing schemes of financing. A Fund of this kind will facilitate the transfer of technical assistance among developing countries in all the areas that they require to address urgent social problems; it will supply the financial deficiencies of the developing countries to handle situations threatening the poorest sectors, to stem emergencies produced by natural catastrophes, epidemics, post-war problems and famines. Auxiliary proposals give us hope that this kind of initiative will be successful.

This is the reason, Mister President, why all the members of our Organization should concentrate our efforts to find the necessary means that will enable us to ensure social justice, peace and democracy, at home and in the international community, availing ourselves of the best antidote to violence: social justice.

I shall conclude with a quote from His Holiness John Paul II in 1994:

"The world is longing for peace, it has an urgent need for peace. And nevertheless, wars, conflicts, increasing violence, situations of social instability and endemic poverty continue to cut down innocent victims and to generate divisions between individuals and nations. Peace, at times, seems to be a truly unattainable goal! In a climate that is hostile as a result of indifference and frequently envenomed by hate, how are we to hope that an era of peace will come, when only feelings of solidarity and love can make it possible?"