Skip to comments.Jimmy Carter Unveils Plan to End Venezuela Crisis
Posted on 01/21/2003 11:51:15 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter on Tuesday presented to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his foes a plan for elections to solve the deadlocked political conflict gripping the world's fifth largest oil exporter.
The former U.S. president said after talks with the left-wing leader his blueprint foresaw an end to the crippling seven-week opposition strike that has slashed supply from South America's biggest oil producer.
The strike, launched by opposition leaders to press Chavez to resign and hold early elections, has jolted world oil markets and threatened to bankrupt Venezuela's oil-reliant economy. The bolivar currency tumbled 5.1 percent against the dollar on Tuesday.
Thousands protest against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Charallave, approximately 30 miles east of Caracas, Jan. 20, 2003. One person was killed and two dozen wounded by gunfire during street clashes as Nobel Peace Prize-winner Jimmy Carter tried to salvage peace talks between leftist President Chavez and his foes. (Reuters)
Chavez, an outspoken former paratrooper who was elected in 1998 and survived a brief coup last year, refuses to quit and says he is beating the strike, which is causing serious shortages of gasoline, cooking gas and some food items.
Carter, who was U.S. president from 1977 to 1981 and has since made a career of trying to solve world conflicts, traveled to Caracas to aid international efforts to end the Venezuelan crisis. He was awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for his international work in support of peace, human rights and democracy at the head of his Atlanta-based Carter Center.
"My opinion is that both sides now want to reach an agreement to end the impasse that is threatening to destroy Venezuela's economy and social structure," Carter told a news conference before flying home.
He outlined his plan for an electoral solution, comprising two independent alternatives.
One proposed an amendment to Venezuela's constitution that would allow early elections. The other was for the country to wait until Aug. 19 -- halfway through Chavez's term -- when the constitution allows for a binding referendum on the president's mandate, which is due to end in early 2007.
FOCUS ON CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez(L) chats with Nobel Peace prizewinner and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in the Miraflores Palace in Caracas January 21, 2003. Carter said on Tuesday he had proposed an agreement on elections to Chavez and his foes which he believed could help end the country's long-running political crisis. (Reuters)
Chavez said after meeting Carter he was willing to accept a reform of the constitution if it was approved by the National Assembly, where Chavez supporters hold a slim majority, and through a national vote. The reform could shorten his mandate to allow early elections or bring forward the August referendum on his rule.
"I don't reject any of these possibilities, but the opposition must comply with the constitution," Chavez said.
Carter stressed that while he was encouraged by the initial reaction he received from both Chavez and the opposition, his proposals would still have to be discussed and agreed on by both sides.
"This is a step in a positive direction, but certainly not a definitive answer ... everyone realizes that all decisions must be taken only by Venezuelans," he added.
More than two months of negotiations brokered by Organization of American States Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria have failed to produce a deal on elections to end the conflict. The negotiations were due to continue on Tuesday to consider the specific Carter proposals.
The opposition has been demanding immediate elections, arguing the country cannot wait until an August referendum.
The president said instead of disrupting gasoline and food supplies through the strike, opponents should work to collect the signatures of the 15 percent of the nation's voters required to request a reform of the constitution.
Fears of increased violence have risen as opposition protesters step up street demonstrations and the government increases its efforts to defeat the strike.
Chavez, who purged the armed forces of opponents after last April's coup, has sent troops to take over strike-hit oil installations and to raid private factories and warehouses the government alleges are hoarding food supplies.
The oil shutdown showed signs of weakening on Tuesday when oil tanker pilots in western Lake Maracaibo went back to work.
Since the strike began on Dec. 2, at least six people have been killed and dozens wounded in shootings and street clashes.
Carter deplored the violence.
'FRIENDS' GROUP TO MEET
He said he would also present his electoral proposals in Washington on Friday to the first meeting of foreign ministers from six nations forming a "group of friends" whose task is to help seek a solution to the Venezuela crisis.
The six-nation group, comprised of the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Spain and Portugal, was created last week to back the OAS-brokered peace talks.
Chavez has expressed reservations about the membership of the "friends" group, saying he would like to see it expanded to include other nations like China, Russia, France, Cuba and nations from the developing world.
Carter said the group would not be changed.
The president's other face***Mr. Chavez was democratically elected with an overwhelming majority in 1998. This mandate allowed him -- through several referendums -- to dissolve Congress, create a Constitutional Assembly that drafted the current constitution, and to be elected once again -- as first president of the newly christened "Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela."
But democratic legitimacy demands consistently playing by the rules. And once re-elected, Mr. Chavez revealed his true nature: the former paratrooper head of the failed military coup d'état of 1992. Soon showing a total disregard for democratic institutions, he moved to gain a stronghold on the country's legislative and judicial systems, and to involve the military in a myriad of civilian affairs, even selling food at cost on the streets.
The President has systematically harassed the media, intimidated his opposition, and alienated critical sectors of Venezuelan society, such as the Church, businesses, the middle class, civilian organizations and NGOs -- those who now march in the streets calling for his ouster. His violent speeches are loaded with diatribes against "them." Anyone who is not a loyal supporter is accused of being a fascist, sometimes in scatological terms. (Despite his claims, Mr. Chavez's "little blue book," as he calls the constitution, does allow for civil disobedience; Article 350 should grant the general strike legitimacy.) ***
I agree. Chavez is probably going to demand that the strike be ended before any movement is made toward a referendum that will never happen.
But the left's response is "But he's Our MORON!
(Or, Rapist, Perjurer, Oldsmobile Submarine Commander, B!tch, Grand Kleagle, Statutory Rapist, Communist, Traitor, Idiot,
Anti-American, America Subverter, Terrorist, ...)
The other alternative could never be achieved prior to August, so it's moot.
Thanks so much for the help, peanutboy.
Hmm, I doubt think that President Carter will provide Venezuela with reactors.
You see, their country doesn't have the adequate long-range missile technology to match a well-running nuclear power program. The only way around that problem is to have one of our defense contractors help Venezeula boot-strap their unknown-before-now satellite delivery projects.
To give a dictator access to nuclear energy without the means to deliver its "by-products" is just plain mean and unfair. It's downright cruel if that dictator happens to live in America's back yard. [/sarcasm]
How much tax payer money is being wasted on his Secret Service retinue?