President Chavez Calls for National Dialogue in Venezuela

During his weekly television program, President Chavez called for a national dialogue with that part of the opposition that accepts the results of last week's recall referendum. Sectors that do not recognize the results would no longer be considered discussion partners.

Caracas, Aug. 23, 2004—With President Hugo Chavez’s victory secured in the referendum vote, Chavez promised reconciliation with Venezuelans who voted against his mandate during last week’s presidential referendum and has vowed to get rid of corruption in the government.

“The doors of Miraflores [the Presidential Palace] are open. I call on the leaders of the democratic opposition, the media, and the business organizations that have made me their adversary and who oppose me, the officials of the Catholic Church, and the young leaders of some movements that are leaving the Democratic Coordinator, to come and dialogue,” President Chavez said yesterday during his weekly television program, “Aló Presidente.”

At the same time Chavez differentiated between those who opposed him democratically at the polls, which he said are about 4 million “respectable” people, and those who oppose him through the opposition coalition, Democratic Coordinator (Coordinadora Democratica – CD), made up of leaders of opposition political parties and organizations who have refused to accept the results of the referendum.  Chavez said in refusing to accept the referendum results that have been ratified by the nation’s electoral authority (CNE) and international observers, the OAS and the Carter Center, the CD has isolated itself and their position shows lack of political sense. Chavez announced that he no longer recognizes their authority.

“I do not recognize that Democratic Coordinator as the political opposition.  We cannot recognize it and we cannot have dialogue with those who do not recognize the Constitution and the people.” However, Chavez added that CD would be welcome to the new national dialogue if they are willing to accept the democratic institutions of the country.   “I invite them to recognize the constitution. … Let’s dialogue, and debate, but it is not a dialogue of elites.  No, let’s have a frank dialogue,” Chavez said.

Chavez said that a new phase of the Bolivarian Revolution would now begin, which includes fighting corruption in what he called “a fight to the death.”  “We as leaders have to let go of everything.  No minister should be doing business, opening savings accounts.  He who wants to do business should leave. We have to declare war on the vices that were planted over the years,” Chavez said.

The new phase of his government means concretizing and deepening the Bolivarian revolution; what Chavez called the “revolution within the revolution.”

While the Democratic Coordinator continues claim fraud, it has brought its complaints to the U.S. Congress, where it claims that Smartmatic, the U.S. based company that provided the hardware and software for the referendum, were “accomplices to fraud,” which would be a violation of U.S. law. Meanwhile, the pro-Chavez camp has begun organizing for the September 26 regional elections of Governors and mayors through a festival yesterday of community-based political organizations called the UBE, or Electoral Battle Units, that helped campaign for the NO vote during the presidential referendum.