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Kerry Statement on Venezuela

Press release by John Kerry

With the future of the democratic process at a critical juncture in Venezuela, we should work to bring all possible international pressure to bear on President Chavez to allow the referendum to proceed. The Administration should demonstrate its true commitment to democracy in Latin America by showing determined leadership now, while a peaceful resolution can still be achieved.

Throughout his time in office, President Chavez has repeatedly undermined democratic institutions by using extra-legal means, including politically motivated incarcerations, to consolidate power. In fact, his close relationship with Fidel Castro has raised serious questions about his commitment to leading a truly democratic government.

Moreover, President Chavezís policies have been detrimental to our interests and those of his neighbors. He has compromised efforts to eradicate drug cultivation by allowing Venezuela to become a haven for narco-terrorists, and sowed instability in the region by supporting anti-government insurgents in Colombia.

The referendum has given the people of Venezuela the opportunity to express their views on his presidency through constitutionally legitimate means. The international community cannot allow President Chavez to subvert this process, as he has attempted to do thus far. He must be pressured to comply with the agreements he made with the OAS and the Carter Center to allow the referendum to proceed, respect the exercise of free expression, and release political prisoners.

Too often in the past, this Administration has sent mixed signals by supporting undemocratic processes in our own hemisphere -- including in Venezuela, where they acquiesced to a failed coup attempt against President Chavez. Having just allowed the democratically elected leader to be cast aside in Haiti, they should make a strong statement now by leading the effort to preserve the fragile democracy in Venezuela.



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