Venezuela’s Vice-President Says U.S. Disqualified Itself from “Group of Friends”

In reaction to Roger Noriega's statements yesterday, Vice-President Rangel said that the U.S. could no longer be part of the "Group of Friends" that are supposed to help with Venezuela's political crisis. Also, Rangel demanded the removal of OAS representative Jaramillo.

The United States will continue its destabilization efforts against Venezuela, says Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel

Caracas, May 27, 2004—Venezuelan Vice-President José Vicente Rangel said today that the U.S. could no longer be considered a friend of Venezuela due to U.S. Sub-Secretary Roger Noriega’s comments yesterday, in which Noriega warned that if no recall referendum is convoked following the re-verification process, the U.S. would be forced to act. In angry tone, Rangel said that Noriega’s comments bring “me to say that from this moment on the United States is disqualified from forming part of the Group of Friends and that we will not recognize it as a friend of Venezuela until there is a retraction.”

The “Group of Friends” is a grouping of six countries that were organized at the initiative of the Brazilian government last year to accompany the negotiations between the opposition and the Venezuelan government. The group includes the U.S., Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Chile, and Mexico

Rangel added that “Noriega is insolent and Venezuelans are not prepared to accept anyone’s insolence.” Rangel then asked rhetorically, “What will his government do? He threatens us with going to multilateral institutions. Does he claim to control the OAS or the UN, so that they can take us to these institutions? Or do they plan to invade us?”

Rangel also announced that Venezuela would file a formal complaint with the OAS, asking it to take a position with regard to Noriega’s statements.

With regard to the possibility of U.S. military intervention in Venezuela, Rangel said, “I am sure that the United States does not have the capacity to enact a policy of force against Venezuela, but will continue to act via the permanent destabilization of the country, feeding the opposition with money.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, issued a statement on Venezuela that appeared to retract some of Noriega’s bellicose comments. Powell said that the U.S. supports a peaceful, democratic, constitutional and electoral solution to Venezuela’s political impasse.

OAS representative Fernando Jaramillo is unacceptable

Relating Noriega’s comments with the actions of OAS representative Fernando Jaramillo, Vice-President Rangel said that “roger Noriega’s statements fit together with the actions of Fernando Jaramillo.” According to Rangel, Jaramillo, who has been criticized by other government supporters in recent days, “the behavior of Jaramillo is highly suspicious and he has involved himself in activities that have nothing to do with his condition as observer. He has given opinions about the Venezuelan judicial system, has pronounced himself on the Sumate case, which is a case that corresponds to the jurisdiction of the Attorney General’s office.”

The Sumate case involves the organization that is conducting logistical work for the opposition in the recall referendum process. Its leader were recently summoned to the Attorney General for questioning, on the suspicion of illegally receiving funding from the U.S. government, via the National Endowment for Democracy.

Rangel also said that Jaramillo “has made comments about the participation or lack thereof at the repair events, he has specifically traveled to the state of Zulia, precisely the state that is governed by a putschist governor, the only governor who signed the Carmona coup decree.”

“We do not accept that Mr. Jaramillo continues to chair the OAS representation in Venezuela and we will not accept any communiqué or agreement signed by Mr. Jaramillo,” concluded Rangel.

OAS General Secretary to come to Venezuela on Friday

In a statement released after Rangel’s comments, OAS General Secretary Cesar Gaviria, who had helped mediate the opposition-government negotiations last year, said, “I will prioritize the complaints issued by the Commando Ayacucho [the pro-government campaign team] and of those of the liaison team.” The liaison team are two representatives from each side of last year’s negotiation teams, who are responsible for following up with each side’s complying with the agreement.

Presumably, however, Rangel’s demand for the removal of Jaramillo will become a non-issue, as Gaviria also said in his statement that “upon my arrival in Caracas I will automatically assume the chairmanship of our delegation and propose to remain in the country for the repair process and until the results are made known by the National Electoral Council.”