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Behind the Turmoil in Venezuela

By Ambassador Alvarez

The Washington Post
Wednesday, December 24, 2003; Page A14

The Dec. 14 editorial "Eye on Mr. Chavez" about Venezuela stated as fact the opposition's claim to have gathered 3.5 million signatures calling for a recall referendum on President Hugo Chavez. But the leaders of the opposition have yet to turn the petitions over to the National Electoral Council. Nor has the Organization of American States or the Carter Center or the media seen the signatures.

The editorial also said that Mr. Chavez "triggered an ultimately unsuccessful coup against himself by ordering police and the military to attack opposition demonstrations." The Post used an unsubstantiated claim to justify a military coup against a democratically elected government. More than 50 people were killed, and the coup leaders dissolved the country's democratic institutions, including the Congress and the Supreme Court.

Finally, the editorial alleged that Mr. Chavez is dismantling Venezuela's democracy. Every change that our government has made since 1998 has been accomplished using peaceful and constitutional means. Hugo Chavez has twice been elected in voting internationally recognized as free and fair.

This is in sharp contrast to the opposition, which has staged a bloody coup attempt and several economically devastating oil strikes in hopes of unseating a democratically elected president.

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