Adamant: Hardest metal
Tuesday, February 25, 2003

News from the Washington File: Venezuela

QUESTION: Venezuela?

MR. REEKER: Sure, we will go next door and then we ill go around, back to Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Venezuela. Did you know of any plans for the Friends of the OAS Secretary General to meet again on Venezuela, and are you pressing for any such meeting?

MR. REEKER: I don't know of anything on a specific meeting. I think the Friends group are in regular contact and working, obviously, with Secretary General Gaviria. They are, after all, named the Friends of the Secretary General of the Organization of American States. That is, these diplomatic representatives in our case, Acting Assistant Secretary Curt Struble, Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, who has been working with his colleagues from some other Latin American countries, from Iberian countries, to support the efforts of the Secretary General to help the Venezuelans find a solution, a peaceful solution, a constitutional and electoral solution to the situation there.

We continue to encourage the Government of Venezuela and the opposition to honor the nonviolence pledge that they signed, I believe last week, the 18th, I think it was, 18th of February. I would point out that the first point of that agreement from the 18th, that accord specifically emphasizes the need to curb confrontational rhetoric and moderate the tone, style and content of language.

So we are concerned, I think given the current situation of the last few days, that heightened political rhetoric has contributed unnecessarily to some of the recent violence in Caracas. We would note that according to Venezuela's constitution, the judiciary, not the president, decides what charges to bring in criminal cases and inflammatory statements such as those attributed to President Chavez are not helpful in advancing the dialogue between the Government of Venezuela and the opposition and the bringing, of course, of a peaceful resolution to the current state of affairs.

QUESTION: Well, when you say attributed to President Chavez, are you -- does that mean you're not -- you don't know whether he really made them or?

MR. REEKER: I think that would be it. We have seen the reports of the statements that have then led to some of this rhetoric back and forth and we don't think that is particularly helpful.

QUESTION: Well, is the United States pleased, though, that the strike appears to be losing its momentum and that oil exports are on the increase?

MR. REEKER: I don't know. I have not looked into that nor could I, you know, categorize anything in that way. What we have been concerned about and remain concerned about is the rhetoric, the government's rhetoric and some of the actions that have been undermining the dialogue process.

We certainly reiterate that the Venezuelan authorities must respect Mr. Fernandez' and Mr. Ortega's rights as guaranteed by the constitution and we are still strongly urging the parties on both sides to continue to pursue the dialogue as facilitated by the OAS Secretary General and supported very much by the Friends of the Secretary General group to find a constitutional, democratic, peaceful and electoral solution to this crisis.

QUESTION: But in general, is there a feeling that the crisis is less severe than it was --

MR. REEKER: I don't think I want to categorize our feeling. We are still very concerned about the situation there and are continuing our efforts as part of the Friends group to support the Organization of American States and the Secretary General's efforts in this regard, as called for in the OAS Permanent Council Resolution Number 833.

Now, we will go to Mr. Lambros and then we will hop to the other side.

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