General Secretary Says OAS had a “Problem” with Venezuela’s Opposition

José Miguel Insulza, the General Secretary of the Organization of American States, said that the OAS had a problem with the opposition's withdrawal from the Dec. 4 parliamentary elections, after it had assured it would participate once all its conditions were met.

Caracas, Venezuela, December 26, 2005—The OAS observer mission had a problem with the opposition parties that boycotted Venezuela’s parliamentary elections three weeks ago, said OAS General Secretary José Miguel Insulza in an interview with the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio that was published yesterday.

“We had a problem with the Venezuelan opposition, which assured us that they would not withdraw from the [electoral] process if certain conditions were met. These were met and despite this, they withdrew,” said Insulza. “This had an impact on the high abstention,” he added.

According to Insulza, “if the path of abstention is chosen, then one cannot complain that the entire parliament is in the hands of one’s political adversary.”

Insulza did acknowledge, though, that there were, “some problems here and there with the elections, which appeared in the [OAS] report, but in the election itself there was nothing abnormal.”

The OAS report, which was presented to the public shortly after the December 4th parliamentary elections, included a variety of criticisms about the electoral process, such as the lack of opposition trust in the electoral council, the use of presidential recall referendum signatures for providing government services and employment, and the lack of an audited electoral register, among other problems.

President Hugo Chavez and various government officials strongly criticized the report for interfering in Venezuela’s internal politics and for supposedly having been written with the input of the U.S. embassy in Venezuela. According to Chavez, the OAS report represented a “gross maneuver” to “destabilize” his government.

Insulza said he does not know of any consultations that took place with the U.S. about the report, but considers it possible that OAS member country representatives might have been consulted for their opinions about the process. “But this does not mean that there was collusion,” said Insulza.

Insulza also said that the OAS does not have any recommendations to make to Venezuela. “I do not believe that the OAS now needs to pronounce itself with respect to what needs to be done politically in Venezuela,” he said.

Venezuela’s ambassador to the OAS, Jorge Valero, welcomed Insulza’s comments in the interview, saying, “It seems very significant to me [Insulza’s] perception that domestic politics correspond to Venezuelans. That the OAS must respect sovereignty, must respect self-determination…”

The December 4 parliamentary elections ended with Chavez-allied parties winning all 167 seats, thereby doubling their previous representation in the legislature.