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U.S. hands off Venezuela! - 1 (english)
by George Salzman
Email: george.salzman (nospam) umb.edu
Phone: (from U.S. 011-52)-951-514-8242
Address: Oaxaca, Oax., México
14 Dec 2002
Modified: 15 Dec 2002
A truly herculean effort to turn the course of history towards true democracy is right now underway, spearheaded at this very moment in the western hemisphere by the vast majority of (poor) people in Venezuela and by the burgeoning movement of authentic journalism. This week has been a blockbuster.
Oaxaca, Saturday, December 14, 2002
A truly herculean effort to turn the course of history towards true democracy is right now underway, spearheaded at this very moment in the western hemisphere by the vast majority of (poor) people in Venezuela and by the burgeoning movement of authentic journalism. This week has been a blockbuster. On Thursday (Dec 12) the following remarkable open letter appeared, signed initially by five U.S. Representatives and one authentic journalist. Since then at least eleven more members of the House of Representatives have signed it.
Hon. George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC, 20500
Dear President George W. Bush,
Given the high level of political tension in Venezuela, and recognizing that part of the leadership of the opposition is determined to depose President Hugo Chávez by any means, we, the undersigned organizations and persons, urge you to declare unequivocally that the government of the United States is opposed to any unconstitutional or coup attempt against the democratically elected government of Venezuela. Also, the White House should affirm that the United States will not recognize diplomatic relations with a government installed by means of a coup.
We believe that the silence of the White House after the April 11th coup d'etat, which the Administration appeared to congratulate, is generally seen as a support for a coup. We are concerned by the fact that this perception diminishes the incentives for the opposition and the Chávez government to seek dialogue or a peaceful solution to the current crisis.
We are also concerned that, while the top officials of the White House have remained silent, Otto Reich, the Special Envoy for the Western Hemisphere of the State Department, recently denounced the Venezuelan government, saying that, "the existence of elections is not enough to say that a country is democratic." This is a strange departure from diplomatic protocol, and in the light of what happened during the April coup, it has risen the level of suspicion that Venezuelan officials have about Washington's motives. The role of the United States government in the April 11th coup is not clear. We know that some United States officials met with the coup leaders in the months before the coup. Groups involved with the coup also received financing from the United States government. At the same time, the Bush Administration openly expressed its hostility toward the government of President Chávez.
According to the office of the Inspector General of the State Department, one of the reasons for this friction was "the participation (of President Chávez) in the affairs of the Venezuelan oil company and the impact this could have on the price of oil."
Also, the Office of the Inspector General of the State Department, after investigating the role of U.S. officials before and after the April coup, concluded that U.S. warnings against the coup "were perhaps not critical enough. Among these warnings, few went beyond the formulation of common and ritualistic opposition to 'anti-democratic or unconstitutional change.' Any warning of non-recognition of a coup installed government, economic sanctions or other punitive and corrective actions were few and far between. Retrospectively, this has also been recognized and lamented by some high United States officials."
The Inspector General's report also noted that "the fact of having met frequently with those interested in toppling the Chávez government could have been seen as United States backing for their efforts, notwithstanding our ritualistic denunciation of anti-democratic and unconstitutional measures."
Given those circumstances, the current silence by the White House about its opposition to a coup d'etat or other unconstitutional defeat of a democratically elected government in Venezuela is seen throughout Venezuela and elsewhere as support for those illegal actions. The opposition leaders, determined to defeat a government, have few incentives to seek a peaceful solution via dialogue if they believe that the United States government would support whatever happens. The
government of the United States must demonstrate its current and active support for democratically elected governments. Only a strong statement of condemnation by the White House explaining that the U.S. is opposed to violent or unconstitutional actions, that it will not tolerate a coup government and that it will impose sanctions on any government installed by coup measures, would send the correct and democratic message to the Venezuelan political actors and the other Latin American governments.
Therefore, we urge the White House to clarify its position, before Venezuela enters a Civil War.
U.S. Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, Ohio
U.S. Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Michigan
U.S. Rep. José E. Serrano, New York
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts
U.S. Rep. Major R. Owens, New York
Al Giordano, journalist, América
The additional eleven congressional signatories of whom I know are:
Rep. Bernard Sanders
Rep. Fortney Pete Stark
Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky
Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey
Rep. Barbara Lee
Rep. Lynn C. Woolsey
Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones
Rep. John Lewis
Rep. Danny K. Davis
Rep. Sherrod Brown
Rep. Chaka Fattah
Then yesterday (Friday the 13th), the day after the open letter became public, the White House spokesman put out an urgent call for support for Bush's policy. The following e-mail alerted me:
Subject: [narconews] Bush's Desperate Venezuela Statement
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 2002 14:03:30 -0600
From: "Alberto M. Giordano"
With Bush's bluff called by yesterday's Congressional letter in protest of
U.S. Venezuela policy, the White House released a desperate public statement today that revealed, more transparently than before, its pro-coup agenda.
Join us as we read between the lines of that statement (which can be
summarized as "hurry up! The coup is falling apart!") to point out the true
White House agenda - everything it has denied since last April's coup
attempt - in Latin America:
It's down to the wire in Venezuela, with the door closing on destabilization attempts. Will Washington go so far as to invade a democratic country ("send in the hanging chads"?) if it doesn't get its way? U.S. citizens: that's up to you.
Now that Bush has unmasked, the events of the next few days will have
serious consequences - pro or con - for the safety of constitutional
democracy in all countries in our América.
So who is this Al Giordano anyway, and how come five members of the U.S. House of Representatives and he alone issued that open letter?
Al is turning heaven and earth to try to support authentic democracy in Latin America. His Narco News website is an incredibly comprehensive mozaic of accurate information. Of course the ruling elements of the U.S. government hate him and his journalistic efforts, but he just won't be bought. I haven't yet confirmed it, but I'm reasonably sure it's he who wrote that letter and sought progressive representatives to join him as signatories. What a feat!
I think there's an even chance that the Venezuelan people may win this struggle, unlike the Chilean people who lost their authentic democracy on September 11, 1973 to the bloody forces of the Pinochet-led military, fully backed by the Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. military surveillance, and U.S. capital, notably International Telephone and Telegraph, who were damned if they were going to let democracy flourish in Chile to the detriment of U.S. profits.
To add your signature to the call for U.S. support for democracy in Venezuela, go to: http://dc.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=42466
And to get a breathtaking view of this week's developments in Venezuela, go to http://www.narconews.com/
Following this note, I will send the e-mails, in chronological order, that I got from Al this week.
In order to really know what's going on in the world it's probably desirable to give up the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, the Boston Globe (owned by the New York Times), whatever corporate news sources we have tended to rely on for our daily "news feed." We ought turn instead to authentic journalism sources, and not let the range of permissible discourse continue to be framed primarily by the capitalist media, by CNN, ABC News, Reuters, Associated Press, NPR and so on. We American people, like the Venezuelan people, must totally unchain our minds from the bonds of corporate media if we are ever to be truly free and to live once again in "the home of the brave" instead of the fearful. A big struggle, but worth it.
by George Salzman
george.salzman (nospam) umb.edu (unverified)
15 Dec 2002
My error is in the paragraph, "So who is this Al Giordano anyway, and how come five members of the U.S. House of Representatives and he alone issued that open letter? Al is turning heaven and earth to try to support authentic democracy in Latin America. His Narco News website is an incredibly comprehensive mozaic of accurate information. Of course the ruling elements of the U.S. government hate him and his journalistic efforts, but he just won't be bought. I haven't yet confirmed this, but I'm reasonably sure it's correct. He clearly wrote the letter and sought progressive representatives to join him as signatories. What a feat!"
My concluding three sentences, conjecturing that Al was the originator of the congressional letter was mistaken. Al e-mailed me later, " . . . I am not the author of the Congressional letter. It was such a good letter and so much along the lines of my Venezuela work in its pro-democracy theme that even I had to ask myself whether I had written it! But, no, honestly, I don't know who wrote it. It came to me in Spanish from Venezuela on Thursday night, I quickly translated it - another reason it may have sounded a lot like my voice, since translation is an inexact science with so many words available to say the same thing - and zapped it out to the public."
So I was wrong, mislead by the appearance of Al's name along with those of the U.S. Representatives. His role was that of publicist, in an effort to gain more signatutres.