Dear Mr. Kerry,
The US citizen members and supporters of the International Bolivarian Circles of the US (social groups that sympathize with the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez) would like to openly express our support for your candidacy, and assure you that we will go to the polls this November to welcome you into the Whitehouse.
As you stated so clearly in your May 27, 2004 statement on Venezuela “[the Bush administration’s] tacit support for the ill-conceived April 2002 military coup against Chavez” determined this long ago.
Our members will be voting for John Kerry. Those who have been following your statements on Venezuela may find this odd considering that you have made some pretty harsh accusations against President Chavez. Those who have read your May 27 statement may even find our support shocking given that you claimed “[Chavez] has undermined the constitution and used his Bolivarian Circles to repress peaceful dissent….” While we refute this statement, we understand that you have been ill informed about what is going on in Venezuela today, what the constitution includes, and what the Bolivarian Circles are and do.
We are aware that this is an election year and that there is a lot at stake! In Southern Florida our last Presidential election sadly departed from democracy and we recognize the perceived importance of this area to your campaign. In light of this, we do have confidence that once the election is over, your political advisors will take the time to learn the truth about the profound social movement that has swept across Venezuela and that is inspiring people around the world.
We would like to take this opportunity to: first, give you a glimpse at the goals and early achievements of Bolivarian Revolution; second, address two assertions made in your statement on Venezuela; and lastly, direct your attention to some informational materials that may help you understand the Bolivarian Process further.
Mr. Kerry, over the past 40 years a hand full of elites became extraordinarily rich while the majority of Venezuelans were left landless, malnourished and/or illiterate. President Chavez inherited a broken health care system, a rampant culture of violence and a political structure plagued with corruption.
President Chavez’ goal, and the goal of peaceful Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela is to invest the country’s oil wealth in the people of the nation. Already many social reforms and programs have produced impressive benefits to the great majority of the population, many of whom have lived in dire poverty for decades. For example since 1998, 3 million people have received access to potable water for the first time and another 1 million have received sewage service. The military has built or refurbished over 30 thousand homes, built 700 new schools and refurbished over 2 thousand--employing 36 thousand new teachers. Over the past year 8 hundred thousand illiterates have graduated from the second phase of a 3 phase literacy program, 28 thousand children have received free vaccinations, and 18 million patients have been seen by clinic doctors in areas that had no medical facilities just 2 years ago. Thanks to micro-credits and grassroots empowerment, there are over 10 thousand cooperatives with over 6.5 thousand members. Similarly, hundreds of thousands of dollars have gone into the hands of women-owned, small businesses and cooperatives through the Women’s Bank. Landless campesinos have received over 2.5 million acres of productive land and over 30 thousand titles have been given to urban squatters. The airwaves have been opened up to accommodate dozens of independent radio and TV broadcasters who provide much needed uncensored news. These are just some of the current national programs; there are also tens of thousands of state, local, and community projects in complement. Mr. Kerry, in the past a minority of elite controlled the oil revenues of Venezuela; now the wealth of Venezuela belongs to all Venezuelans.
On May 27 you stated, “When the referendum process presented a legitimate challenge to his leadership, President Chavez lost an opportunity to demonstrate the popular support he claims to enjoy, instead showing a troubling disregard for the rule of law.” First, we would like to ask if you know of any other country, including our own, that has provided a Presidential recall referendum measure in their Constitution? Let us point out that it was President Chavez himself who proposed that a referendum be included in the Constitution in 1999. Second we would ask you to read the rule of law. The text of the 1999 Constitution in English can be found at: http://cybercircle.org/english/constitution.html. It clearly spells out the steps for arriving at a referendum.
Chavez has followed these steps to the letter. Because this is a new Constitution and because the referendum process had never been tried before, there were many legal details that had to be worked out in court. These proceedings were absolutely necessary for defining the process and setting precedence for the future. Those advocating that Chavez “call for” a referendum vote were in effect advocating that he take a dictatorial stance over the judicial branch and diverge from the Constitution. This is the 26th Constitution of Venezuela. It is a fragile document that cannot afford to be undermined by political pressure. The Chavez government chose to stick by the Constitution and the rule of law instead of bowing to political pressure.
The signature drive for the recall came up short. Due to countless irregularities thousands of signatures were of undeterminable validity. Instead of throwing these out, the Chavez administration agreed to a repair process through which those whose signature was considered controversial, could verify their signature, thus allowing several thousands of suspect signatures to be included in the final count as well as tens of thousands of signatures to be proven fraudulent. The November 2000 elections in the US may have ended quite differently for us ifa repair process had been invoked.
Finally reaching a referendum by strict Constitutional means has been a relief to all of us in the Chavez camp. This will give the President the chance to be elected legally and democratically for a 3rd time since 1998, but this time with the world watching, finally ending the daily attacks and sabotage of the opposition. To keep yourself informed and to learn more about Venezuela’s recent history we suggest you visit www.venezuelanalysis.com an English language news and analysis source directly from Venezuela. We also suggest you read “In the Shadow of the Liberator: Hugo Chavez and the Transformation of Venezuela”.
Regarding your May 27 mention of the Bolivarian Circles, it appears that your campaign advisors are getting their information only from the opposition run press. We invite you to an open dialogue with us. We welcome you to visit individual Circle websites such as http://www.angelfire.com/nb/17m/index.html and to read the Circle’s official literature found at www.circulosbolivarianos.org For your convenience we have attached here an English summary of what the Circles are and do taken directly from this literature followed by a list of links that you may want to pass on to your Presidential advisors at your discretion.
In closing, let us share with you Mr. Kerry that both President Chavez and the Bolivarian people of Venezuela have a profound respect for the people of the United States. For the past century Venezuela has supplied oil to the USA, and will continue to do so into this century. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the government of President Chavez deeply respect the democratic process and the autonomy and sovereignty of nations world-wide and, honestly, expect the same respect in return.
We sincerely appreciate your taking the time to read our heartfelt words.
The Bolivarian Circles of the US
About the Bolivarian Circles
Bolivarian Circles (CB’s) in Venezuela began appearing in 2000 as community groups studying the Constitution and working on very localized community improvement projects. Later, neighboring groups began addressing larger issues such as health and education. Eventually these groups expressed their desire to participate directly in the making of decisions that affect their communities. In 2001, President Chavez responded by calling for the creation of the CB’s as a mechanism for this participation.
There are now 2.2 million people registered as CB members. Each Circle consists of 7- 10 individuals whose members enjoy equal status. Each Circle’s immediate function is community involvement consistent with the needs of their specific location. This participation may manifest in diverse forms such as repairing neighborhood infrastructure, promoting cultural events, or participating in nationwide programs.
The CB’s have recently begun organizing themselves into Bolivarian Houses (Casas Bolivarianas). This new structure seeks to unify the efforts of the Circles, along with various other civil society associations, in order to tackle complex issues that are regional, national or even international in character. In the next two years 1078 Casas will be opened.
CB literature describes Bolivarian Houses as “community spaces for meetings, interchanges, articulation, unity and fortification of the organizations, movements, and institutions linked to the construction and consolidation of popular power and oriented in the defense, construction, and development of the proposed project of the country and the new society described by the Constitution.”
Participating civil associations are organizing themselves among 10 areas of activity according to their interests and abilities: planning and development; education; social economy and productive work; culture, and communications; food security; health and environment; safety and social services; infrastructure, urbanization and transport; tourism, recreation and sports; and Latin American integration, international solidarity, and sovereignty.
Circles get no funding as an entity. Circles are specifically instructed to seek funding through the local channels established by the government for all groups of organized citizens. This is in keeping with the Bolivarian imperative that the Revolution is of the people. They must create it themselves.
Bolivarian Circles International.
Members of the international community are adopting the Revolution’s fundamental principles and joining “the process” by taking it home with them. International Bolivarian Circles have emerged in over 60 countries including the USA, Canada, France, Italy, Argentina, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, and Chile.
International Circles not only to perform acts of solidarity with Venezuela, but they also work for the improvement and empowerment in their own communities. This is a very important departure from the usual patronizing stance of solidarity movements. While encouraging international solidarity, cultural and social enrichment, and grassroots connection of the human race, the International Circles go one step further and demonstrate a genuine recognition and emulation of the Bolivarian process.
List of informative sites:
- Government Online www.gobiernoenlinea.ve
- Women’s Bank www.banmujer.gov.ve
- Cooperatives www.sunacoop.gov.ve
- Literacy Campaign www.misionrobinson.gov.
- Inside The Neighborhood clinics for the Poor www.barrioadentro.gov.ve
- Internet centers www.infocenter.gov.ve
- Adult high school program www.misionribas.gov.ve
- Continuing Education program www.misionsucre.mes.gov.ve
- FTAA alternative proposal: http://www.alternativabolivariana.org/
- Intergovernmental Fund for Decentralization http://www.fides.gov.ve/
- Federation of Bolivarian Students www.fbe.org.ve