By Nicolás MaduroApril 1st 2014,
CARACAS, Venezuela — THE recent protests in Venezuela have made international headlines. Much of the foreign media coverage has distorted the reality of my country and the facts surrounding the events.
Venezuelans are proud of our democracy. We have built a participatory democratic movement from the grass roots that has ensured that both power and resources are equitably distributed among our people.
According to the United Nations, Venezuela has consistently reduced inequality: It now has the lowest income inequality in the region. We have reduced poverty enormously — to 25.4 percent in 2012, on the World Bank’s data, from 49 percent in 1998; in the same period, according to government statistics, extreme poverty diminished to 6 percent from 21 percent.
We have created flagship universal health care and education programs, free to our citizens nationwide. We have achieved these feats in large part by using revenue from Venezuelan oil.
While our social policies have improved citizens’ lives over all, the government has also confronted serious economic challenges in the past 16 months, including inflation and shortages of basic goods. We continue to find solutions through measures like our new market-based foreign exchange system, which is designed to reduce the black market exchange rate. And we are monitoring businesses to ensure they are not gouging consumers or hoarding products. Venezuela has also struggled with a high crime rate. We are addressing this by building a new national police force, strengthening community-police cooperation and revamping our prison system.
Since 1998, the movement founded by Hugo Chávez has won more than a dozen presidential, parliamentary and local elections through an electoral process that former American President Jimmy Carter has called “the best in the world.” Recently, the United Socialist Party received an overwhelming mandate in mayoral elections in December 2013, winning 255 out of 337 municipalities.
Popular participation in politics in Venezuela has increased dramatically over the past decade. As a former union organizer, I believe profoundly in the right to association and in the civic duty to ensure that justice prevails by voicing legitimate concerns through peaceful assembly and protest.
The claims that Venezuela has a deficient democracy and that current protests represent mainstream sentiment are belied by the facts. The antigovernment protests are being carried out by people in the wealthier segments of society who seek to reverse the gains of the democratic process that have benefited the vast majority of the people.
Antigovernment protesters have physically attacked and damaged health care clinics, burned down a university in Táchira State and thrown Molotov cocktails and rocks at buses. They have also targeted other public institutions by throwing rocks and torches at the offices of the Supreme Court, the public telephone company CANTV and the attorney general’s office. These violent actions have caused many millions of dollars’ worth of damage. This is why the protests have received no support in poor and working-class neighborhoods.
The protesters have a single goal: the unconstitutional ouster of the democratically elected government. Antigovernment leaders made this clear when they started the campaign in January, vowing to create chaos in the streets. Those with legitimate criticisms of economic conditions or the crime rate are being exploited by protest leaders with a violent, antidemocratic agenda.
In two months, a reported 36 people have been killed. The protesters are, we believe, directly responsible for about half of the fatalities. Six members of the National Guard have been shot and killed; other citizens have been murdered while attempting to remove obstacles placed by protesters to block transit.
A very small number of security forces personnel have also been accused of engaging in violence, as a result of which several people have died. These are highly regrettable events, and the Venezuelan government has responded by arresting those suspected. We have created a Human Rights Council to investigate all incidents related to these protests. Each victim deserves justice, and every perpetrator — whether a supporter or an opponent of the government — will be held accountable for his or her actions.
In the United States, the protesters have been described as “peaceful,” while the Venezuelan government is said to be violently repressing them. According to this narrative, the American government is siding with the people of Venezuela; in reality, it is on the side of the 1 percent who wish to drag our country back to when the 99 percent were shut out of political life and only the few — including American companies — benefited from Venezuela’s oil.
Let’s not forget that some of those who supported ousting Venezuela’s democratically elected government in 2002 are leading the protests today. Those involved in the 2002 coup immediately disbanded the Supreme Court and the legislature, and scrapped the Constitution. Those who incite violence and attempt similar unconstitutional actions today must face the justice system.
The American government supported the 2002 coup and recognized the coup government despite its anti-democratic behavior. Today, the Obama administration spends at least $5 million annually to support opposition movements in Venezuela. A bill calling for an additional $15 million for these anti-government organizations is now in Congress. Congress is also deciding whether to impose sanctions on Venezuela. I hope that the American people, knowing the truth, will decide that Venezuela and its people do not deserve such punishment, and will call upon their representatives not to enact sanctions.
Now is a time for dialogue and diplomacy. Within Venezuela, we have extended a hand to the opposition. And we have accepted the Union of South American Nations’ recommendations to engage in mediated talks with the opposition. My government has also reached out to President Obama, expressing our desire to again exchange ambassadors. We hope his administration will respond in kind.
Venezuela needs peace and dialogue to move forward. We welcome anyone who sincerely wants to help us reach these goals.
Source: New York Times (via Venezuelanalysis.com)
“A version of this op-ed appears in print on April 2, 2014, on page A27 of the New York edition . . .” Wait a minute, what? This is a quote from the New York Times website at the end of this article by President Maduro. I didn’t know that there were separate, regional editions of the New York Times. So apparently we are to understand that this article only appeared online except for a “version” which was just published in the “New York edition” buried deep within the paper on page A27. Hell, I guess we should be grateful they published it at all, but how many Americans actually read it or carefully considered it since we know that most Americans get their news from watching television and a large swath of the population is either illiterate or functionally illiterate? The most revolutionary thing that could be done in the U.S. at this time would be to foster educational programs of literacy and critical thinking skills! – PC
by Sergei Lavrov
The Guardian, April 7, 2014
The profound and pervasive crisis in Ukraine is a matter of grave concern for Russia. We understand perfectly well the position of a country which became independent just over 20 years ago and still faces complex tasks in constructing a sovereign state. Among them is the search for a balance of interests among its various regions, the peoples of which have different historical and cultural roots, speak different languages and have different perspectives on their past and present, and their country’s future place in the world.
Given these circumstances, the role of external forces should have been to help Ukrainians protect the foundations of civil peace and sustainable development, which are still fragile. Russia has done more than any other country to support the independent Ukrainian state, including for many years subsidising its economy through low energy prices. Last November, at the outset of the current crisis, we supported Kiev’s wish for urgent consultations between Ukraine, Russia and the EU to discuss harmonising the integration process. Brussels flatly rejected it. This stand reflected the unproductive and dangerous line the EU and US have been taking for a long time. They have been trying to compel Ukraine to make a painful choice between east and west, further aggravating internal differences.
Ukraine’s realities notwithstanding, massive support was provided to political movements promoting western influence, and it was done in direct breach of the Ukrainian constitution. This is what happened in 2004, when President Viktor Yushchenko won an unconstitutional third round of elections introduced under EU pressure. This time round, power in Kiev was seized undemocratically, through violent street protests conducted with the direct participation of ministers and other officials from the US and EU countries.
Assertions that Russia has undermined efforts to strengthen partnerships on the European continent do not correspond to the facts. On the contrary, our country has steadily promoted a system of equal and indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic area. We proposed signing a treaty to that effect, and advocated the creation of a common economic and human space from the Atlantic to the Pacific which would also be open to post-Soviet countries.
In the meantime, western states, despite their repeated assurances to the contrary, have carried out successive waves of Nato enlargement, moved the alliance’s military infrastructure eastward and begun to implement antimissile defence plans. The EU’s Eastern Partnership programme is designed to bind the so-called focus states tightly to itself, shutting down the possibility of co-operation with Russia. Attempts by those who staged the secession of Kosovo from Serbia and of Mayotte from the Comoros to question the free will of Crimeans cannot be viewed as anything but a flagrant display of double standards. No less troubling is the pretence of not noticing that the main danger for the future of Ukraine is the spread of chaos by extremists and neo-Nazis.
Russia is doing all it can to promote early stabilisation in Ukraine. We are firmly convinced that this can be achieved through, among other steps: real constitutional reform, which would ensure the legitimate rights of all Ukrainian regions and respond to demands from its south-eastern region to make Russian the state’s second official language; firm guarantees on Ukraine’s non-aligned status enshrined in its laws, thus ensuring its role as a connecting link in an indivisible European security architecture; and urgent measures to halt activity by illegal armed formations of the Right Sector and other ultra-nationalist groups.
We are not imposing anything on anyone, we just see that if it is not done, Ukraine will continue to spiral into crisis with unpredictable consequences. We stand ready to join international efforts aimed at achieving these goals. We support the appeal by foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland to implement the 21 February agreement. Their proposal – to hold Russia-EU talks with the participation of Ukraine and other Eastern Partnership states about the consequences of EU association agreements – corresponds to our position.
The world of today is not a junior school where teachers assign punishments at will. Belligerent statements such as those heard at the Nato foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on 1 April do not match demands for a de-escalation. De-escalation should begin with rhetoric. It is time to stop the groundless whipping-up of tension, and to return to serious common work.