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Where Venezuela Stands by Ambassador Alvarez

Letter to the Editor
The Washington Post
Monday, April 5, 2004; Page A16

The March 5 editorial "Coup by Technicality" referred to the organization Sumate -- though not by name -- as "a nonpartisan civic group." While Sumate is not affiliated with an opposition party, it is dedicated to ensuring that Hugo Chavez is recalled from office.

The editorial worried about "harassment from Mr. Chavez's police and civilian goon squads" during the verification period.

This concern is without merit. In December, when the collection of signatures on the recall petition had finished, the Organization of American States and the Carter Center noted, "The armed forces carried out their task in a professional manner, guaranteeing the security of the process."

Contrary to what the editorial implied, at no time has any group controlled by the government been accused by international organizations of impeding citizens' participation in the electoral process.

In addition, the editorial said that Mr. Chavez has "threatened to cut off oil supplies to the United States." In fact, Mr. Chavez said that he would cut off oil only if the United States invaded Venezuela.

I also noted that the March 25 editorial "Cuba's Spring" wrongly characterized Venezuela's provision of oil to Cuba.

Venezuela supplies oil on favorable terms not only to Cuba but also to Haiti, Nicaragua, Jamaica, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. This program, intended to foster regional economic cooperation and to assist valued clients, grants these nations lines of credit that increase with oil prices, thus easing the burden imposed by jumps in prices.

Singling out Venezuela's sales to Cuba made it seems as though they are ideologically motivated; they are not.

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