Ambassador Alvarez to The Washington Times: Unwarranted vilification of Venezuela
Sunday's editorial "A challenge to Chavez" made a number of unfounded claims about the administration of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
You said, "Hugo Chavez had ominously warned Venezuelans that their signatures for a recall would be recorded and remembered." This presumably refers to comments Mr. Chavez made on Oct. 18. The next day, after the media reported that Mr. Chavez was threatening people, he clarified his remarks during his weekly television address. Mr. Chavez said he sought to reassure people that they could verify that their signatures were counted, "so that they don't say afterward that they were cheated ... I am not threatening anyone." Your failure to mention this clarification, made on national television, amounts to taking the quote out of context and seriously misleads your readers.
Second, you accused the Chavez administration of using excessive force when responding to the two-month oil stoppage and business lockout earlier this year. This, frankly, is ridiculous. In the United States, a strike that caused even a tiny fraction of the economic damage wrought by the Venezuelan strike would be ended by an injunction under the Taft-Hartley Act, a tool President Bush used as recently as October 2002. Furthermore, Venezuela's striking oil workers were federal workers who were making explicitly political demands. In the United States, federal workers do not have the right to strike, and it is illegal for strikers, public or private, to make political demands unrelated to wages, benefits or working conditions. It is fair to say that in dealing with the opposition oil strike, Mr. Chavez used significantly less force than would have been applied in the United States.
The government of Venezuela is fully committed to the "orderly and constitutional resolution" you favor. Your spurious vilification of the Chavez administration was uncalled for.
BERNARDO ALVAREZ HERRERA
Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
The Washington Times
Letters to the Editor
Dec 12, 2003