Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela 1099 30th Street, N.W., Washington D.C., 20007
Washington, D.C., December 3, 2007
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
On Sunday, December 2, 2007, Venezuelan voters once again exercised their rights in a national referendum that overwhelmingly displayed the country’s vibrant democratic system.
Though the proposed constitutional reforms were not accepted by all voters, the results are another step in the longstanding democratic debate started by President Hugo Chávez on how to shape a new and better Venezuela. Our state of mind is one of tranquility, commitment and optimism. Theconstruction of a new and alternative model of society has never been easy; it is a task that has many powerful enemies, both in and out of the country. As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”
The manner in which the referendum was carried out and its result speaks to both to the legitimacy and independence of Venezuela’s electoral authority – the National Electoral Council, or CNE – and the strengthening of the country’s democracy. Additionally, the referendum has further legitimized the 1999 Constitution. It is now irrefutable that Venezuela’s elections are free, fair and fully transparent, just as its democracy is mature.
President Chávez elevated his political and ethical status as a leader with his public reflection upon hearing the results. His attitude at the time, similar to that after the coup of April 2002, confirms that President Chávez would never resort to violence or extra-constitutional means simply to achieve political ends. And though the margin of difference was slim and votes had yet to be counted, President Chávez announced that he would rather let the results stand than force the country into a state of conflict as the remaining votes were tallied.
Regardless, both the U.S. government and the media consistently attacked Venezuela’s electoral system and democracy in the months leading up to the referendum. The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and The New York Times dedicated over 11,000 words in 14 op-eds or editorials to attackingVenezuela just in the last month. The Miami Herald alone published more than 15 op-eds and editorials in that same period.
Meanwhile, on Friday, November 30, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino called into question Venezuela’s electoral system, while on December 3 Undersecretary of State Nicolas Burns and National Security Council spokesperson Gordon Johndroe expressed their happiness with the result, instead of issuing an apology and recognizing the transparency of the electoral system and Venezuela’s vibrant participatory democracy. These outrageous statements serve as evidence that clear double standard exists by which Venezuela’s electoral system is judged not on how effectively it serves voters, but rather on whether the final results it emits agree with U.S. policy.
In various statements since, U.S. officials and some media have tried to
claim that the result of the referendum was somehow linked to a perceived disapproval of the Venezuelan government. This opinion is clear expression of U.S. interventionism in Venezuelan affairs, and stands in stark contrast to that taken by other governments and international observers, which have applauded the way the referendum was conducted.
Since 1998, Venezuelans have been called to cast their votes 12 times, once in a historic recall referendum in which they decided whether or not President Chávez could finish his term in office. But more than simply voting, the Venezuelan people have become engaged citizens, participating in debates and discussions on everything from local water usage to how Venezuela can establish the foundations for a more equitable and efficient government. In that process, each side has experienced setbacks and losses, but the goals articulated by the 1999 Constitution have emerged strengthened – a new, more just system.
We are still convinced that the true alternative exists in the construction
of a new form of socialism, in peace and democracy, which expresses the
capacity of modern societies to fight poverty, social exclusion and
inequality by empowering the poor. In this instance, the proposal presented by President Chávez did not have sufficient support, but we will keep debating ideas about how best to build 21st century socialism. It is finally clear, though, that the 1999 Constitution and the principles opposing neo-liberalism that underpin it – including participatory democracy, a social economy and equality for all Venezuelans – are now widely accepted as representing the new Venezuela that is being created.
The process and results of the referendum demonstrate the full and
irrefutable democratic character and agenda of the government of President Chávez. Not only has the current administration submitted itself to numerous elections, it has also insisted on submitting its proposals for the future of the country to the will of the people. As President Chávez reflected after the results were announced, “I, as president of this country, have heard the voice of the people and will always be hearing it. I take it to heart so I can analyze it and continue building a Bolivarian Venezuela for us and our children.”
Bernardo Alvarez Herrera