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Why the EU failed Venezuela's democracy?

By Aleksander Boyd

London 27 July 2004 – By all means the coming recall referendum in Venezuela is an inédit electoral event in South America’s contemporary history. At stake, apart from the obvious assessment on Hugo Chavez’ performance as a Statesman, is the survival of the last bastion of populism in its crudest and most Dantesque expression. The huge inequalities in the access to and distribution of wealth has made the South American continent prone to Chavez-like caudillos that stem from the incredibly fertile soil of utter popular discontent towards the establishment. Hernando de Soto puts it best when he concludes that the sole lasting legacy of the Spaniards is the mercantilistic character of the governments of the region.

Hugo Chavez irrupted in the scene riding on a platform of urgent and irremediable breakage with the old mold. His vitriolic speech convinced Venezuelans, and the world’s imbeciles at a latter date, about the necessity of starting anew and for that he promoted a new and progressive constitution. Little he knew, back in the days, that the very same artefact he had utilised to annihilate his enemies would transform itself into the most formidable weapon for the latter to oust him. Hence, we have seen how Chavez, infatuated with the prospect of becoming the second Liberator, forgot about his campaign promises, ignored the plight of the majority and embarked in a frenzied and destructive adventure of a revolution that absolutely no sane soul voted for. In less than three weeks time, Venezuelans will decide the fate of the charlatan, but more importantly they will lecture the sycophantic foreign fan base of Chavez on the true meaning of people’s power. That he will lose, there is no doubt. However, as the night cycle, it will get darker before the sun shines its light upon the earth.

A multifarious group of international observers will be on the ground monitoring the process. The notorious absent will be of course the European Union. I have just got off the phone with Mr. David Geer, Projects Manager of the EU Delegation in charge of determining whether or not to send a team of observers to any given country. Mr Geer stated that the EU has certain prerogatives and mechanisms which allow them to participate in electoral observation missions across the planet. I said that there was much speculation in Venezuela with respect to the obstaculous regulations imposed by the National Electoral Council (CNE), that more than promoting transparency across the board, seek to hinder the normal development of observation processes from which all parts can benefit. He said there was a methodology followed in such cases by the EU, that as an entity, can not be invited in short notice nor can it accept measures that could impede in any manner declarations or statements deemed appropriate to be made public by visiting electoral observers. In short, the CNE regulations, carefully devised by the chavista camp, are in fact the element to blame for the absence of European electoral observers.

Furthermore, I sent the following message to Astrid Schomaker, Andean Community Officer from the EU’s External Relations Directorate (this, fellow Venezuelans, is far more effective than Petitionsonline…), expressing my deep discontent towards the decision of not sending electoral observers to the recall in Venezuela:

From: Aleksander Boyd
Sent: Tuesday, July 27, 2004 5:56 PM
To: SCHOMAKER Astrid (RELEX)
Subject: Venezuela's recall...

Dear Ms Schomaker,

It is with great sadness that I learned upon the failure of the EU to destine an observers commission to attend the recall in Venezuela. Could you please inform on the reasons for such an absurd decision and the EU's disengagement and lack of interest in promoting democracy in other countries?

Cordially,

Aleksander Boyd

To which Ms Schomaker replied:

From: SCHOMAKER Astrid (RELEX)
Sent: Tuesday, July 27, 2004 18:26
To: Aleksander Boyd
Subject: Re: Venezuela's recall...

Dear Mr Boyd,

Thank you for your message. I am sorry to hear that you find the EU's decision absurd. As you may know, we were very interested in observing the forthcoming referendum which we believe can make an important contribution to Venezuela's democratic stability. We therefore regret that for reasons beyond the European Commission's control, a certain number of technical conditions necessary to carry out a credible EU election observation mission could not be put into place. For example, it is agreed practice that the EU should be present throughout the whole of the electoral process, that is 5 -6 weeks before and 2 weeks after referendum day. This has not been possible in the current case. You will find more information about the EU's methodology and approach on the following website:

http://europa.eu.int

As regards your broader point noting EU disinterest in promoting democracy in other countries, I am afraid I do not agree either. The EU has been deploying a significant number of observation missions around the globe since 2000, including in Peru and Ecuador. The Commission runs a substantial cooperation programme promoting democracy and human rights worldwide and pursues these issues through sustained political dialogue with many countries and regions of the world.

Best regards,

Astrid Schomaker

As a Venezuelan I feel absolutely appalled by the fact that Peruvians and Ecuadoreans were more diligent in forwarding invitations to the EU to deploy electoral missions in their countries. I am also shocked by the lack of information concerning this particular subject matter during the weeks prior to the CNE announcement of the regulations from both camps of the political divide in Venezuela, although it should be rather obvious to everyone by now that the regime is not willing to have more observers than the strictly necessary, and from the EU itself for having failed to blow the whistle. The following excerpt, from the information contained in the link aforementioned, provides an understanding of the criteria for electoral observation:

Is EU participation advisable?. To avoid the EU being drawn into a situation where its presence might give credibility to a flawed election process, full account should be taken of the relevant political and legal factors in situ. Minimally acceptable conditions should normally include:

– a universal franchise;
– freedom for individuals and political parties to participate in the elections;
– freedom of expression to criticise the government;
– the right to free movement;
– the right of assembly;
– reasonable access to the media for all contesting parties and candidates.

Other important factors should also be weighed up carefully and form a part of the EU’s judgement and decision e.g. Is the election is the first following a period of conflict or oppression? Do the elections accompany a peace process or the possible return of refugees?

Well, it appears that Venezuela did not meet the criteria, “relevant political and legal factors” in situ made the EU to decide to lend not its credibility to the most important election in the contemporary history of our nation. Indeed a very regrettable day for democracy.



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