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Ambassador ?lvarez Expresses Disappointment Over Engel Comments

In a letter published today, the ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the U.S. Bernardo Álvarez expressed his disappointment over comments made by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) during a recent interview with the Voice of America.

In the interview, Engel, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, claimed that poverty had increased in Venezuela and expressed his concern with flights from Tehran to Caracas. “Unfortunately, comments like yours seem to indicate that you are abandoning any pretense of fairness and objectivity with Venezuela, and instead taking a reflexively negative stance towards my government,” wrote Ambassador Álvarez.

“Venezuela’s innovative social programs and increased levels of social spending have produced a significant decline in extreme and household poverty over the last decade,” he said in the letter. “From 2002 to 2009, extreme poverty fell from 29.8 percent to 7.2 percent, while household poverty dropped from 32.3 percent to 21.3 percent.”

He added: “[T]he UN’s Economic Commission on Latin America recently verified that Venezuela tops the list of 12 regional countries in decreasing social inequality, while the 2009 UN Human Development Index noted that Venezuela jumped 10 spots over the last decade.”

On Engel’s concern over the flights between Iran and Venezuela, Ambassador Álvarez said, “As I have said on many occasions, there is absolutely nothing untoward about these flights – which take place between two countries that have shared diplomatic relations for over 50 years. In fact, one can also fly to Tehran from Frankfurt, Germany, amongst other cities, so I still remain confused as to why this should be of any concern. Should you or your staff want to see for yourself, I greatly encourage you to take one of the flights.”

Ambassador Álvarez also informed Engel of an August 9 meeting between Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro and leaders of the Latin American Jewish Congress to discuss issues of mutual interest. “This meeting represents a continuing commitment by the Venezuelan government to ensuring the safety and freedom of the Jewish community, as well as keeping open all avenues of communication,” he wrote.

The full text of the letter can be found here.

Press Office – Venezuelan Embassy to the U.S. / August 13, 2010

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