The Other Gaviria

The OAS Secretary General's comments in defense of the Bolivian government, sharply contrast with his attitude towards the Venezuelan government and the coup plotters that threaten it.

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Cesar Gaviria, has given his total support for the government of Bolivia and its president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada; threatened by a popular insurrection that demands his resignation. I listened on CNN Mr. Gaviria’s speech and, I was sincerely astonished.

The former Colombian President, offered support to Bolivia’s democracy in such a determining language, without any reservations and dissimulations, that forced me to establish inevitable comparisons with regard to his conduct assumed towards Venezuela.

I don’t want to go deep into the specific case of Bolivia, because it is not the objective of these lines. I want to limit myself to comment on Mr. Gaviria’s attitude, first towards Venezuela, and then towards the sister nation to the south. Mr. Gaviria hasn’t said until now, any clear, determining and unequivocal word to defend the Venezuelan democracy against the coup d’etat that threatened it before and after April of 2002, and that still threatens it today through terrorist strategies.

We have not heard from him a single word of solidarity with a government that was elected by the people as also was the Bolivian one. That is said without getting into details about the percentages of votes with which they were elected, because if we do so, very few Latin American governments have the popular legitimacy that President Hugo Chávez has.

We Venezuelans keep also hoping to hear a clear explanation from Mr. Gaviria with regard to the hesitating or winding attitude he assumed in April of 2002, when he attempted to get Jorge Valero -the legitimate ambassador of Venezuela before the OAS-, out of the assembly hall of that organization, with which he, in fact, was giving recognition to coup plotter and dictator Pedro Carmona Estanga and his partisans.

And that is just to mention only two non-balanced attitudes assumed by the General Secretary of the OAS in the case of Venezuela. Let’s not even talk of his lamentable positions on the alleged threats to freedom of expression in Venezuela by the government, nor of his scandalous silence on the only two media closings that have happened in Venezuela with Chavez as President; the one of Venezolana de Television (VTV, the state TV channel) promoted by the April 2002 coup participants, and the closing of Caracas’ popular community TV station Catia TVe, ordered by the Mayor of Caracas, Alfredo Peña, a key figure of the opposition.

In contrast, the Gaviria who spoke on Bolivia seemed like another person. He spoke very insistently about the defense of the constitutional order “represented by President Sanchez de Lozada,” and made a call for “closing ranks around the country’s democratic institutions.” Not a single word on the dozens of deaths as a result of the repression ordered by President de Lozada, which until now exceeds sixty. Not a single word either on the censorship of the Bolivian media, when several newspapers have been taken out of circulation, three TV channels have reported being pressured by the government, (one of them had its antenna sabotaged), and some radio stations have been sabotaged, all of which have forced several journalists to go on strike.

I repeat, I do not criticize Mr. Gaviria for his defense of a democratic regime, what I sincerely regret is his two-sided sppech. There isn’t another term to define his attitude, which fits well to a character like Condolezza Rice, a representative of a government that insists on promoting destabilization in Venezuela. But to Gaviria, although his anti-Chavez feelings can be seen seeping out of the pores of his skin, corresponds keeping up the appearances, the formalities, so that things are not so evident.

In consequence, the conduct that Mr. Gaviria has assumed towards the events in Bolivia, contributes once again to blur his attitude towards Venezuela. Had Gaviria condemned firmly, from the first moment, the coup d’etat and the opposition’s anti-democratic attitudes in Venezuela, he would have all the moral authority to keep looking for institutional solutions to the different situations that countries in the American continent may face. Now his words to condemn the popular insurrection in Bolivia sound hollow, lacking solidity and fairness.

Vladimir Villegas is a lawyer and a journalist who serves as Venezuela’s Ambassador to Brazil.

Orginally published in El Mundo (Venezuela) on October 16, 2003.

Translated by Venezuelanalysis.com. A few additions were made to the original article in order to adapt it to non-Venezuelan audiences.