Archive for March 9th, 2003

A tale of two opposing sides

March 9, 2003

The “Group of Friends” that  is trying to help in the mediation between the Government and the opposition will meet in Brazil tomorrow. Each side, the Government and the opposition will have a chance to present their point of view in a forty minute presentation. This is what they indicate they will say:

The Government: The Ambassador to the OAS Jorge Valero says he will emphasize that the political and economic life of the country is going back to normal; that the oil industry is back to normal and political confrontation has been minimized.

The Opposition: The representative of the opposition will emphasize the escalation of violence and the persecution of the opposition. He also said that the Government has tried to prolong negotiations. (he also said that obviously Valero does not live in Caracas)

Now, it is obvious which side I am on, but I would definitely refuse to call “normal” the following: Excahnge controls have been imposed and not a single dollar has been sold by the Central Bank since January 23d. in a country that relies on imports for foods and technology, the oil industry is producing less than half its usual production, the country is importing gasoline, inflation was up 5.5% in February, 17,000 people have been fired from PDVSA, the US has called Venezuela an unreliable oil supplier, people have dissapeared and turned up tortured and dead, there have been three terrorist attempts in two weeks of a magnitude not seen in the country in decades, a truck carrying over a ton in explosives was captured by the Army, the Government has failed to attend meetings of the negotiation table, there can be no elections in the country and one leader of the opposition has been arrested and warrants for the arrest of seven orders have been issued. They call this “normal”?

Official position of the US Government on Venezuela

March 9, 2003

In an energy seminar in New York Undesecretary of State Larson explicitly stated the US position on Venezuela. Some excerpts:

Traditionally, we had considered Venezuela to be one of our most reliable oil partners, and we still very much want this to be the case. Venezuelan oil policy, until recently, has been built upon a reputation of reliability to international markets, which was of great mutual benefit. Through World Wars, politically inspired embargoes, and global dislocations, Venezuela found that its national interest was best advanced through maintaining a reputation of reliability.

Unfortunately, through a collective failure to come to consensus within the boundaries of their political system, it has been clearly demonstrated that Venezuela’s democratic institutions and its reputation in the United States as a reliable supplier appear no longer matters of primary importance to President Chavez, PDVSA or the political opposition. Venezuela’s turmoil has come at a difficult period for the world economy.

The United States will continue to work to help Venezuelans resolve their political differences. The key to reverse the severe economic and political decline in Venezuela is a renewed dedication to find a constitutional, democratic, peaceful and electoral solution to the crisis. Democracy and the rule of law are essential elements of a sound investment climate. We are disturbed by measures taken by President Chavez and the Government of Venezuela that can only be seen as polarizing the conflict and eroding Venezuela’s democratic institutions.

We hope that Venezuelans, both in the Government and those involved in the strike, will take the necessary additional steps to restore confidence, stability and rule of law.