Open Letter to Bush on Venezuela from U.S. Congress members - and You
Add your signature in favor of Authentic Democracy
By U.S. Reps Kucinich, Conyers, Serrano, Frank...
U.S. Congress and Civil Society
December 13, 2002
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 goes to 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
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NOTE: To sign the letter on the Washington DC IndyMedia site, click the link that says “add your own comments” posted directly under the copy of this letter that is posted there.
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