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Over 150 European Parliamentarians Declare Support for Venezuelan Reform

Over 200 representatives from 13 European countries - including over 150 MPs, MEPs and regional politicians together with representatives of trade unions, national student bodies, women's organisations, peace movements, writers and academics - have backed a statement in support of the Venezuelan government's policies of social progress and democratic inclusion.

They have called for the outcome of the Venezuelan referendum on proposed constitutional changes, on 2 December, to be respected.

Signatories to the statement include Ken Livingstone; Fausto Bertinotti, the Head of the Chamber of Deputies in Italy; Paolo Cento, Under-secretary of State to the Italian Ministry of Economy; former German Finance Minister Oskar Lafontaine MP and Lothar Bisky MP, the co-Chairs of the Die Linke party in Germany, French Senator Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Willy Meyer MEP, Vice-Chair of the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Group.

The statement says that 'the lives of millions of Venezuelans have been transformed by the progressive social and democratic policies of Hugo Chávez's government' and concludes that: 'Venezuela is one of the few countries in the world where both the constitution, and any revisions to it, must be approved by a majority of citizens in a national referendum. We call on the international community to respect the outcome of the coming referendum and support the sovereign and democratic right of the Venezuelan people to self-determination'.

The statement has attracted support from Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland after being launched at the first Europe-wide conference in support of Venezuela held on November 10 in London.

Support from across Europe:

In Britain, support for the statement has come from Ken Livingstone, and 24 MPs and MEPs from four parties, including recent Labour deputy leadership candidate Jon Cruddas MP and the Chair of Labour Friends of Venezuela, Colin Burgon MP and Jeremy Corbyn MP, vice-Chair of All Parliamentary Group on Latin America. Other prominent figures to sign the statement include Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter; the writers John Pilger, Tariq Ali, Richard Gott, and Victoria Brittain, film maker Ken Loach and prominent campaigners Tony Benn and Bruce Kent.

Broad trade union support came from 11 unions representing millions of workers, including the Deputy General Secretary's of Britain's two largest unions, UNITE and UNISON, six General Secretaries. Gemma Tumelty, President of the National Union of Students, with over five million members, also signed.

Over 80 Italian Parliamentarians, from four separate parties, signed the statement backing Venezuela's right to self-determination. These included Fausto Bertinotti, Head of the Chamber of Deputies (PRC party), Paolo Cento, Under Secretary of State to the Ministry of Economy (Green Party), Senator Giorgio Mele (Democratic Left for a Social Europe) and Giuseppe Scobio, Deputy and President of the PdCI party.

In France, support for the statement came from political figures including Françoise Castex, Socialist Party MEP; Francis Wurtz MEP, Chair of the European United Left-Nordic Green Left Group in the European Parliament; Alain Lipietz, Green Party MEP. Regional leader Francois Auguste of the Region Rhone-Alps also gave support.

A wide range of representatives of French civil society includes William Maunier of the SNRT-CGT trade union; Jean-Baptiste Prévost, Vice-President of UNEF the National Students Union; Bernard Cassen Director General of Le Monde Diplomatique and Janette Habel, Professor, Institut des Hautes Etudes d'Amérique latine;

In Germany, Lothar Bisky and Oskar Lafontaine, the Chairs of the Die Linke Party, alongside Gregor Gysi, Chairman of Die Linke Parliamentary Group, Norman Paech Germany a member of Bundestag's Committee on Foreign Affairs and Sevim Dagdelen MP and Helmuth Markov MEP backed the statement. They were joined by representatives of civil society including Reiner Braun, Executive Director, IALANA (International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms) and Peter Wahl of the WEED (World Economy Ecology and Development) NGO.

In Spain: Willy Meyer MEP, Vice-Chair of the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly was joined by Mayors and regional representatives including: Ramón Argüelles, Mayor of Lena; Jose Antonio Barroso, Mayor of Puerto Real, Cadiz; Carmen Pérez Carballo, Director, Club Internacional De Prensa (Xunta de Galicia); Angélica Carmenate Portilla, Delegacion De Cultura, Diputación Provincial de Granada; and Jorge Pardo Piñera, Legal Councillor, General Junta of the Asturias Principality and former Chief of Staff of the Council of Justice and Foreign Relations. Prominent writers and journalists to add their support include Antonio De Cabo of the Centre for European Policy Studies, Pedro Navarro and Marcos Roitman.

In Portugal signatories included: Ilda Figueiredo and Pedro Guerreiro MEPs; Jose Oliveira, International Relations Officer of the SNTCT trade union; Francisco Braz, President of the STAL trade union and Regina Marques, National Director of the Women's Democratic Movement of Portugal.

In Belgium, François Houtard, Director of the Centre Tricontinental (CETRI) and Eric Toussaint, President of the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt signed the statement.

In Greece support came from Athanasios Pafilis MEP, the General Secretary of the World Peace Council; fellow MEPs Georgios Toussas and Diamanto Manolakou and Nikolaos Farmakis, International Secretary of OME-OTE trade union (Greek Telecom Employees' Federation)

In Ireland signatories included Ruairi Quinn TD, Labour Party Spokesperson for Education and Science; Chris Andrews TD of Fianna Fáil, Tony Gregory TD (Independent), Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD: Bairbre De Brún MEP and Mary Lou McDonald MEP of Sinn Fein; Martina Anderson MLA for Foyle; Jack O'Connor, General President of Ireland's largest union SIPTU; and Rod Stoneman, Executive Producer of the seminal film on Venezuela, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

In Sweden, seven MPs and two MEPs supported the statement, including Mats Einarsson MP, Jens Holm MEP and Eva-Britt Svensson MP, along with Eva Bjorklund from the national board of the Left Party.

Swiss society is represented by: Jean-Claude Rennwald MP; Walter Suter, the former Ambassador to Venezuela; NGO representatives and prominent trade union leaders from UNIA, Emmental and VPOD, who between them represent the majority of organised labour in the country. Czech RepublicRansdorf Miloslav also gave support. MEP

 


Statement in support of social progress and democracy in Venezuela

We believe that the lives of millions of Venezuelans have been transformed by the progressive social and democratic policies of Hugo Chávez's government.

Extreme poverty has been halved, illiteracy nearly eliminated, participation in education has more than doubled and free basic health care extended to nearly 20 million people, who had no access before. Unemployment has fallen to an historic low.

The constitution introduced by President Chavez, approved by Venezuelans in a popular referendum, is one of the most democratic in the world and enshrines rights of previously excluded and minority groups. An emphasis on social inclusion has improved the position of women and Venezuela's black, mixed-race and indigenous majority.

Venezuela's government has directly promoted participatory democracy through community councils, urban land committees and other local bodies.

President Chavez' sweeping social, political and economic agenda, has been endorsed by Venezuelans in 11 democratic elections that have been consistently judged free and fair by international observers. On 2 December the Venezuelan people will once again be called on to vote, on a series of reforms to the 1999 constitution proposed by President Chavez.

Venezuela is one of the few countries in the world where both the constitution, and any revisions to it, must be approved by a majority of citizens in a national referendum. We call on the international community to respect the outcome of the coming referendum and support the sovereign and democratic right of the Venezuelan people to self-determination.

Published on Nov 30th 2007 at 11.40am