Venezuela Accuses U.S. of Double Standard over Constitutional Reform Referendum

The United States government cheered the
outcome of Venezuelan's constitutional reform referendum of December 2,
which prompted Venezuela's Ambassador to the U.S. to accuse the Bush
administration of a "double standard"because of its criticsms of the referendum shortly before the vote.

By Kiraz Janicke - Venezuelanalysis.com

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George Bush speaking at White House press conference (AFP)
George Bush speaking at White House press conference (AFP)
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Caracas, December 4,
2007 (venezuelanalysis.com) - The United States government cheered the
outcome of Venezuelan's constitutional reform referendum of December 2, which prompted Venezuela's Ambassador to the U.S. to accuse the Bush administration of a "double standard" because of its criticsms of the referendum shortly before the vote.

Claiming that the
proposal that would have abolished presidential term limits, allowing for
Chavez to stand for reelection, would have let Chavez "stay in power for life,"
US President George W. Bush said today at a rare unscripted White House press
conference that the Venezuelan people "rejected one man rule... they voted for
democracy."

However, Venezuelan ambassador
to the U.S. Bernardo Alvarez denied that the reforms were anti-democratic and accused
the Bush government of having a "double standard" and only valuing the
Venezuelan electoral system if the results are in accord with U.S. policies.

Alvarez said U.S
government officials made a series of attacks questioning Venezuela's democracy before the referendum and
now they express, "their jubilation for the results of the referendum instead
of sending an apology and recognizing the transparency of the electoral system
and the dynamic of participatory democracy in Venezuela."

Alvarez said that the
National Electoral Council, which government opponents have often claimed is
stacked with Chavez loyalists, has been vindicated as an independent democratic
institution.

In 2004, when an
opposition-initiated recall referendum on Chavez's presidency was defeated with
58% voting in support of Chavez, the opposition claimed fraud had been
committed by the CNE. However, they did not provide any evidence and the vote
was ratified by all international observers including the Carter Center
and the Organization of American States as free and fair.

In a statement on
Friday, only two days before the referendum, US State Department spokesman Sean
McCormack
questioned the validity of the referendum and the electoral system in Venezuela,
saying that there were not enough international observers and that it could not
be assured, "if the result would reflect the will of the people" or not.

However, shortly
after the result was announced, showing a defeat for the reforms, McCormack
told reporters in Washington
on December 3, "We don't have any reason to doubt that this result reflects the
will of the Venezuelan people."

Political commentator
David Brooks, writing for the December 3 edition of Mexico's La Jornada pointed out, "Something
apparently changed in two days, because today, as the spokesperson said, there
is no reason to doubt the result."

"It appears now there
is a consensus that there exists an effective and transparent democracy in Venezuela.
Would this consensus between opinion writers, business, and US government
functionaries have been the same with the opposite result?" Brooks asked.

José
Serrano,
US Congressman for the Bronx
also criticized the attitude of the U.S.
government towards Chavez in a statement on December 3, saying "The Bush
Administration and much of the U.S.
and international press must come to grips with the idea that Venezuela is a
fully functioning democracy and Chávez is a product of that democracy. There is
no other way to view this situation that reflects the democratic realities on
the ground."

"President Chávez and the
Venezuelan people yet again showed that they indeed have a democratic system in
place and that the system is operational," Congressman Serrano added. "I hope
that Chávez' critics, who often deploy misleading terms like ‘anti-democratic,'
will take note of this development and confine their criticisms to policies.
The will of the Venezuelan people has been heard and respected.

Significantly,
Serrano argued, "a full 49 percent of the people voted in favor of moving
towards Chávez' program of 21st Century Socialism. While in this
referendum they constituted a minority, their wishes cannot be ignored. Chávez
has sought to represent the people's wishes in his programs. This explains his
popularity-not hocus-pocus theories about dictatorships."

International
institutions such as the EU and the OAS once again ratified Venezuela's
electoral system as free and fair. EU spokesperson for external affairs
Christiane Hohmann said yesterday, "The Commission notes with satisfaction that
the referendum in Venezuela
was carried out in a peaceful manner and in a calm atmosphere and that the
results have been accepted by the participants in the process in a spirit of
mutual respect."

Secretary General of
the OAS, Jose Insulza described the electoral process as "exemplary." "The
electoral development of the referendum convoked by the government of President
Hugo Chavez constitutes an example of the democratic advance that our region is
experiencing, and its convocation reflects the decision of the authorities to
consult the society over the big national issues," Insulza said.