[News] President of Venezuela: A Call for Peace

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Apr 2 10:54:42 EDT 2014

  Venezuela: A Call for Peace



CARACAS, Venezuela --- THE recent protests in Venezuela 
have made international headlines. Much of the foreign media coverage 
has distorted the reality of my country and the facts surrounding the 

Venezuelans are proud of our democracy. We have built a participatory 
democratic movement from the grass roots that has ensured that both 
power and resources are equitably distributed among our people.

According to the United Nations 
Venezuela has consistently reduced inequality 
It now has the lowest income inequality in the region. We have reduced 
enormously --- to 25.4 percent in 2012, on the World Bank's data 
<http://datos.bancomundial.org/pais/venezuela>, from 49 percent in 1998; 
in the same period, according to government statistics, extreme poverty 
to 6 percent from 21 percent.

We have created flagship universal health care and education programs, 
free to our citizens nationwide. We have achieved these feats in large 
part by using revenue from Venezuelan oil.

While our social policies have improved citizens' lives over all, the 
government has also confronted serious economic challenges in the past 
16 months, including inflation and shortages of basic goods. We continue 
to find solutions through measures like our new market-based foreign 
exchange system 
which is designed to reduce the black market exchange rate. And we are 
monitoring businesses to ensure they are not gouging consumers or 
hoarding products. Venezuela has also struggled with a high crime rate. 
We are addressing 
this by building a new national police force, strengthening 
community-police cooperation and revamping our prison system.

Since 1998, the movement founded by Hugo Chávez 
has won more than a dozen presidential, parliamentary and local 
elections through an electoral process that former American President 
Jimmy Carter has called 
"the best in the world." Recently, the United Socialist Party received 
an overwhelming mandate in mayoral elections in December 2013, winning 
255 out of 337 municipalities.

Popular participation in politics in Venezuela has increased 
dramatically over the past decade. As a former union organizer, I 
believe profoundly in the right to association and in the civic duty to 
ensure that justice prevails by voicing legitimate concerns through 
peaceful assembly and protest.

The claims that Venezuela has a deficient democracy and that current 
protests represent mainstream sentiment are belied by the facts. The 
antigovernment protests are being carried out by people in the wealthier 
of society who seek to reverse the gains of the democratic process that 
have benefited the vast majority of the people.

Antigovernment protesters have physically attacked and damaged health 
care clinics, burned down a university in Táchira State and thrown 
Molotov cocktails and rocks at buses. They have also targeted other 
public institutions by throwing rocks and torches at the offices of the 
Supreme Court, the public telephone company CANTV and the attorney 
general's office. These violent actions 
have caused many millions of dollars' worth of damage. This is why the 
protests have received no support in poor and working-class neighborhoods.

The protesters have a single goal: the unconstitutional ouster of the 
democratically elected government. Antigovernment leaders made this 
clear when they started the campaign in January, vowing to create chaos 
in the streets. Those with legitimate criticisms of economic conditions 
or the crime rate are being exploited by protest leaders with a violent, 
antidemocratic agenda.

In two months, a reported 36 people have been killed. The protesters 
are, we believe, directly responsible 
for about half of the fatalities. Six members of the National Guard have 
been shot and killed; other citizens have been murdered while attempting 
to remove obstacles placed by protesters to block transit. 

A very small number of security forces personnel have also been accused 
of engaging in violence, as a result of which several people have died. 
These are highly regrettable events, and the Venezuelan government has 
responded by arresting those suspected. We have created a Human Rights 
Council to investigate all incidents related to these protests. Each 
victim deserves justice, and every perpetrator --- whether a supporter 
or an opponent of the government --- will be held accountable for his or 
her actions.

In the United States, the protesters have been described as "peaceful," 
while the Venezuelan government is said to be violently repressing them. 
According to this narrative, the American government is siding with the 
people of Venezuela; in reality, it is on the side of the 1 percent who 
wish to drag our country back to when the 99 percent were shut out of 
political life and only the few --- including American companies --- 
benefited from Venezuela's oil.

Let's not forget that some of those who supported ousting Venezuela's 
democratically elected government in 2002 are leading 
<http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/10365> the protests today. Those 
involved in the 2002 coup immediately disbanded the Supreme Court and 
the legislature, and scrapped the Constitution. Those who incite 
violence and attempt similar unconstitutional actions today must face 
the justice system.

The American government supported 
the 2002 coup and recognized 
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzSnH4_p0PY> the coup government 
despite its anti-democratic behavior. Today, the Obama administration 
spends at least $5 million 
<http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/208290.pdf> annually to 
support opposition movements in Venezuela. A bill calling for an 
additional $15 million for these anti-government organizations is now 
in Congress. Congress is also deciding whether to impose sanctions on 
Venezuela. I hope that the American people, knowing the truth, will 
decide that Venezuela and its people do not deserve such punishment, and 
will call upon their representatives not to enact sanctions.

Now is a time for dialogue and diplomacy. Within Venezuela, we have 
extended a hand to the opposition. And we have accepted the Union of 
South American Nations' recommendations to engage in mediated talks with 
the opposition. My government has also reached out to President Obama, 
expressing our desire to again exchange ambassadors. We hope his 
administration will respond in kind.

Venezuela needs peace and dialogue to move forward. We welcome anyone 
who sincerely wants to help us reach these goals.

Nicolás Maduro is the president of Venezuela.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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