Organization of American States

ADDRESS BY Amb. Roger F. Noriega U.S. Permanent Representative to the OAS Meeting of the Permanent Council


Washington, DC
December 9, 2002

The United States calls on the Venezuelan Government to respect and protect Venezuelans' fundamental freedoms, and adhere to the Inter-American Democratic Charter and its essential elements of democracy, which Venezuela has committed to honor. It is time for Venezuela's civilian, democratic institutions - the National Assembly, the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, the Defender of the People, and the Executive - to reflect upon their role on overcoming Venezuela's national tragedy.

Last Friday's violence, perpetrated by armed civilians, once again claimed the lives of peaceful opposition demonstrators in Venezuela. We offer our heart- felt condolences to the families of those who died or were wounded last Friday and in April.

The United States calls upon Venezuelan police and judicial institutions to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation and vigorous prosecution of all of those
responsible for the tragic events of last Friday and in April. It is critically important that the Venezuelan justice system carry out these duties unhindered by political influence, and in the spirit of objectivity and impartiality.

The United States hopes that these deplorable acts will not lead to further violence in the senseless cycle of confrontation that V enezuelahas been experiencing. We call on all sides to reject violence, act responsibly, respect constitutional processes, return to the dialogue table to work toward an electoral solution and national reconciliation.

The United States reiterates its complete support and appreciation for Secretary General Gaviria's tireless efforts - under very difficult circumstances - to facilitate a peaceful, democratic, constitutional and electoral solution to Venezuela's political crisis. We ask that Venezuelans reflect upon other recent examples in the Western Hemisphere in which political crises have been resolved by leaders who have chosen to act peacefully and constructively.

We recognize the many strong statements in support of the Secretary General's mission in Caracas that have been issued throughout the past week by fellow OAS member states, the Chairman of the Permanent Council, and other organizations.

In the wake of yet another violent tragedy in Caracas, it is essential that the Venezuelan government provide the safety and security necessary for the people of Venezuela peacefully exercise their fundamental freedoms, and that the government and opposition return to the dialogue table to resolve their differences.