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U.S. and Venezuela Clash at OAS Meeting

Caracas, June 5, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— The United States and Venezuela clashed sharply yesterday at a special session of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Panama. After US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice requested that an OAS mission be sent to Caracas to investigate the case of the private television channel RCTV, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro responded by calling it an "unacceptable intervention" in the internal affairs of Venezuela and accused Washington of heading a new destabilization plan against the government of Hugo Chavez.

In her speech on Monday at the 37th General Assembly of the Organization of Americas States, Rice requested that General Secretary of the OAS, Jose Miguel Insulza, travel to Venezuela to make a report about Chavez’s decision to not renew the broadcast license of RCTV. According to Rice, the RCTV decision represents an undemocratic move that violates freedom of expression.

"When you start closing television stations because they express opposition to authorities, it is indeed a strong move against democracy," said Rice on her way to the OAS meeting. "This is not the first move of this kind in Venezuela, but it is perhaps the most drastic one," she said.

"In keeping with Article 18 of the Democratic Charter, we urge the Secretary General to go to Venezuela to consult, in good faith, all interested parties and to present a full report to the foreign ministers through the Permanent Council," Rice said at the OAS meeting, even thought the case of RCTV was not included in the agenda.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro responded to Rice's statement declaring that "the intervention of the United States representative constitutes an unacceptable intervention in the internal affairs of a democratic, sovereign republic."

"The OAS would have to make a special commission in order to study the daily violation of human rights along the southern borders of the United States," he replied denouncing "the wall of indignity" that Washington is building along the border with Mexico.

Maduro also made reference to the violation of human rights that takes place in the military base of Guantanamo, Cuba. "How many prisoners do you have in the Guantanamo prison, we ask the government of the United States. How many are there? Who are they? Do they have the right to a trial? Where did you kidnap them from? Do they have due process? Men and women, without a face, without a name, kidnapped," said Maduro who went on to denounce a "new destabilization plan" behind which is the government of the United States.

Maduro emphasized that Rice had "violated the agenda of the General Assembly," and reminded the ministers that the central topic of the meeting was "energy for sustainable development."

Secretary of State Rice responded by saying that the United States has a "free and independent" press which "debate and criticize" the government.

"On any issue, I am quite certain that it would be difficult for any commission to debate more fully, to investigate more fully, to criticize more fully the policies of the United States government than is done every night on CNN, on ABC, on CBS, on NBC and on any number of smaller channels in the United States," said Rice. "The citizens of the United States have that assurance. I sincerely hope that the citizens of Venezuela will have that assurance as well," she continued.

Rice then got up and left the meeting without listening to Nicolas Maduro's response. Maduro continued to emphasize the violations of human rights on the part of the United States in secret prisons around the world and he also emphasized that Venezuela sees itself on equal terms with the United States.

"We have more freedom of expression than many countries that try to fly the flag," he said. "Venezuela demands respect for its sovereignty. We have a completely consolidated, participatory, and open democracy. We are not superior or inferior countries. We don't see ourselves as less than anyone, we see ourselves as equals."

Destabilization Plan Headed by the United States

Maduro also accused the United States of being behind a plan to destabilize the government of Hugo Chavez. Maduro claims that the intervention of the US in the OAS meeting shows a clear connection between the United States government and the Venezuelan opposition, including the recent protests in Caracas which he claims had the intention of spilling blood.

"Look how perfect it fits, the strategy of the right-wing opposition in Venezuela , united to the Embassy of the United States, with the request from the OAS" said Maduro. "They were looking for blood in the streets of Caracas all these days so that they could ask for the intervention of the OAS. Since they can't do anything else about the leadership of President Chavez, with the strength of our people, then they ask for outside forces to come do the work that they are incapable of doing because they don't have leadership, truth, or a political project."

"We denounce a new plan against the government of President Chavez, that the government of the United States finances and directs. Today it has been revealed before the world who is behind the plan against President Chavez again, and we say, in the name of the legitimacy of the leadership of Chavez, that we are going to defeat this plan with the people of Venezuela and the solidarity of the honest men and women of this continent," he concluded.

Published on Jun 5th 2007 at 5.40pm