Bipartisan Venezuelan National Assembly Delegation Visits Washington

Eight Venezuelan lawmakers visited Washington, DC, to improve US-Venezuelan relations and discuss ways of strengthening Venezuela's political, economic, and social conditions.

Venezuelan lawmakers in Washington, DC
Venezuelan lawmakers in Washington, DC, reaffirmed their desire to work together as colleagues.
Credit: Embassy of Venezuela in Washington

Washington, DC. April 21, 2005.- Earlier this week, eight Venezuelan National Assembly members, both from the political parties that support President Hugo Chavez and from the opposition, traveled to Washington, DC, for a series of meetings with US Congress members, State Department officials, media outlets, business groups, and Venezuelan diplomats, among others. The trip’s purpose was to improve US-Venezuelan relations and discuss, as a bipartisan committee, ways of strengthening Venezuela’s political, economic, and social conditions.

The delegation’s participants are members of the Boston Group, a bilateral interest group established in 2002 composed of Venezuelan and American members of Congress and financed by the Organization of American States (OAS) to strengthen cooperation between both countries, particularly to promote democratic values, dialogue, and common interests.

Deputies Calixto Ortega, Ricardo Gutiérrez, Francisco Solórzano, and Saúl Ortega represented the colaition of political parties that support President Chavez, while Deputies Leopoldo Puchi, Néstor López, Angel Vera, and Pedro Díaz Blum traveled representing opposition parties. The delegation has great symbolic importance as members of both sides reaffirmed their desire to work together as colleagues.

During a public event held Wednesday at Georgetown University and sponsored by the Inter-American Dialogue, both sides, despite their marked ideological and political visions, showed clear interest in working together and with the United States to support Venezuela’s democracy.

According to Pedro Díaz Blum, the group has sought to “look for points in which to coincide, shed light on the Venezuelan population’s interests, and move forward together.”

Ortega agreed with Díaz’s assertions, affirming that the group, which emerged during a period of intense conflict in Venezuela, resembles a political “think-tank” where discussions may be held without interference from the government or the country’s diverse political parties.

Deputy Ricardo Gutiérrez also expressed the government’s desire for a healthy and vibrant opposition that may further strengthen Venezuela’s democracy. According to Gutiérrez, “while Venezuela, for the most part, overcame this period of conflict…the government wants there to be an opposition.”

Deputy Puchi also urged the Bush administration to not act unilaterally, but multilaterally, and maintain a neutral approach to Venezuela’s relations with Colombia and other neighboring states.

Earlier in the week, the group met with several Organization of American States (OAS) officials, including President of the Permanent OAS Council Alberto Borea, Interim Secretary General Luigi Einaudi, and the Director of the Office for the Promotion of Democracy John Biehl. They also met with the Export-Import Bank and the Venezuelan American Chamber of Commerce.

The Venezuelan officials also held meetings with Senator Norm Coleman (Republican of Minnesota), House Representative Loretta Sanchez (Democrat of California), and the State Department’s Under-Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega.

“The joint presentation of this group shows that there exists in Venezuela policies that allow the exploration of the paths of understanding, in order to advance the building of democracy based on respect, order and sovereignty,” Venezuela’s Ambassador to the OAS, Jorge Valero, told the Associated Press agency.