Jesse Jackson Says Venezuela No Threat, Praises Venezuelan Government Concerns

U.S. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson is visiting Venezuela for three days, where he is meeting with a vareity of groups and individuals and representatives. He held a speech at the National Assembly, in honor of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech and said that Venezuela is no threat and that the government is concerned with the "great themes of our time."

Caracas, Venezuela, August 28, 2005 — U.S. Civil Rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson said in Venezuela today that there is no evidence that the country represents a threat to the region and praised the Chavez government’s most important issues.

Jackson is on a three-day visit to Venezuela, during which he will meet with local religious leaders, Afro-Venezuelan groups, the president of the oil giant PDVSA, President Hugo Chavez, and visit some poor-neighborhoods to see Venezuela’s social programs at work.

“Your focus on foreign debt, debt relief, and free and fair trade to overcome years of structural disorder, unnecessary military spending, land reform… these are some of the great themes of our time. They can change our world condition,” said Jackson.

When asked about Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s statements that Venezuela represented a threat to the hemisphere, he said, “There is no evidence that is stated and established that this government is in fact a source of instability. Secretary Rumsfeld, in every speech he made in Latin America, said Venezuela is a threat to stability, that they are a menace. This is the same language used about Iraq,” added Jackson.

Rather than Venezuela being a menace to the region, Jackson said, “it is the flow of drugs that is the menace.”

Jackson said that his trip had been planned several months ago and that its purpose was to address the concern of stability and commitment to democracy in the Western Hemisphere. Jackson emphasized that the commitment to democracy should include not just the right to vote, but also the right to access to health care, education, and decent wages.

"It is not enough to have the right to vote. It is also important to have the right to education, to healthcare and all social services… Democracy cannot survive if some have too much and the majority too little; that’s why people need access to land. Countries’ resources should be used to empower the people," Jackson added.

He was accompanied by various members and supporters of Rainbow/PUSH coalition that he leads, as well as a son and a daughter of his. Following a press conference, Jackson participated in a commemoration of the 42nd anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, where he held a speech on “The Dream: A Call for the Moral Imperatives” that summarized some of the lessons that can be learned from King’s speech and life.

After summarizing how President Chavez had been elected and ratified in his mandate, Jackson said, “We must therefore affirm this government in the family of nations.” Jackson also emphasized that he is concerned about human rights, which “should be measured by one yardstick.”

Jackson went on to state, “We are neighbors in the same hemisphere, we are trading partners… Venezuela has 75 major league baseball players, including the winningest baseball manager, Oswaldo Guillen of the Chicago White Sox. We have much to build upon. So, I hope we would reduce rhetoric that exacerbates tension. I hope our government will stop pursuing any policy that suggests isolation.” He also said that both sides ought to reduce the confrontational rhetoric.

Jackson also addressed the issue of Reverend Pat Robertson’s recent remarks that called for Chavez’s assassination, saying that Robertson’s remarks were “immoral,” “illegal,” and “repugnant.” Jackson said it appeared that Robertson, though, was merely reacting to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s statements, who had said that Venezuela is a threat.

Robertson’s clarification that he really wanted the U.S. to kidnap Chavez, not kill him, “is no shift at all.” Also, Jackson emphasized that the U.S. government Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should investigate Robertson for violation of FCC rules.

With regard to the question about whether Jackson shares Chavez’s complaint that the Bush administration is funding opposition civil society groups in Venezuela, Jackson said, “If [Venezuela’s] government were to fund opposition groups in the U.S., it would be unacceptable. Democracy demands that we play the game by one set of rules.”