Stand Up for Venezuelan Democracy Project sign now

Dear Senator/Congressman:

We come to you today as Venezuelan-Americans, Venezuelan residents in the US, resident citizens of other countries, and US citizens who are extremely concerned with how Venezuela is rapidly becoming a Rogue State.

During the second half of the XX century, and in spite of persistent institutional weakness, Venezuela was one of the strongest democracies in Latin American.

Since the election of Hugo Chavez, the countrys reputation as a democratic model has been tarnished, primarily because of the undermining of independent powers that are the backbone of a democratic system. Specifically, the Judicial and the Electoral Branches of Government have been compromised so that the required check and balances necessary for a democratic state do not exist. Although legitimate in origin, the regime of Hugo Chavez is now illegitimate due to its frequent violations of the rule of law and of human rights, abundantly documented in several reports including Human Rights Watch, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, plus the reports of both the OAS and the European Union concerning the December 2005 legislative elections.

While eroding domestic democratic institutions, Chavez has also instituted a foreign policy based on confrontation with the democratic countries of the hemisphere. During his tenure he has had disputes with the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Peru, Mexico and Chile besides the United States. In several instances these confrontations have resulted in recall of ambassadors (Mexico, Colombia, and Peru), withholding delivery of oil (Dominican Republic), or intervening in the Chile-Bolivia dispute on access to the sea.

He continually attacks President Bush using derogatory terms such as Mr. Danger and other, unprintable terms. What must be a first for a Head of State, he attacks our Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice using crude sexual references, and telling her Dont mess with me.

He has also attacked other heads of states such as President Vicente Fox of Mexico, President Alejandro Toledo of Peru, and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain.

While always complaining of US meddling in Venezuela, including lying to Ted Koppel on Nightline that the US was planning to invade Venezuela under Plan Balboa (which is a Spanish NATO training exercise that has nothing to do with the US), and complaining that SUMATE received NED funds (while other countries also fund similar activity through organizations such as the German Adenauer Foundation), he is consistently meddling in the affairs of other countries. Examples include the recent election in Bolivia, openly supporting Ollanta Humala in the Peruvian elections (Mr. Humala lead an attempted coup in 1992), supporting the FARC guerrillas in Colombia, and deliberate attempts to undermine democracy in Nicaragua through the Sandinistas.

Lately he has been openly supportive of Iran, and Syria besides his long-term friendship with Cubas Fidel Castro, and Zimbabwes Robert Mugabe. He truly is trying to become a member of this elite group of Rogue States.

The greatest danger is his using populist demagoguery, funded with over US$130 billion in oil profits, to try and spread his so-called Bolivarian Revolution by doling out cash for questionable projects throughout the region. Instead of investing this money wisely in Venezuela to alleviate poverty, he is acting like a latter day Huey P. Long, former Governor and Senator of Louisiana during the 1920-30s, whom President Franklin Roosevelt called One of the most dangerous men in America because of his populist tactics. These tactics included accumulating power by fomenting corruption, promising unrealistic projects and using the poor as pawns by generating false expectations and unrealistic hopes. Under his watch, poverty has increased by 10\%, infrastructure is deteriorating as evidenced by the bridge that is collapsing on the Caracas-Maquetia highway, the recent sinkholes in the Caracas-Valencia Highway, and the deteriorating bridges in Carabobo and Anzoategui State.

Notwithstanding 20,000 Cuban Doctors providing primary medical attention in poor Venezuelan neighborhoods and villages, integral health attention in hospitals have largely collapsed as evidenced by the recent tragedy at the Los Magallanes Hospital in West Caracas, where four patients died due to lack of oxygen. This demonstrates that there is no integral health plan in place.

In the educational field, Chavez claims he has eliminated illiteracy. However, when Chavez came to power illiteracy was a very low 6\% because of the success of persistent literacy programs like those conducted by the respected NGO Fe y Alegria. What Chavez really did was eliminate this support, and bring Cubans into the country to not only conduct literacy programs, but also to indoctrinate politically those being taught to read and write. He has emphasized quantity over quality, whereby making people think they are literate with a short program and a nice certificate, when in fact they are still functionally illiterate.

For the record, Chavez has utterly failed to help the underclass in Venezuela while he accumulates power and uses oil money trying to buy friends in the region at the expense of the Venezuelan people. We should not fall for the bait of low cost oil to be his friend.

Today we are writing because we are worried that Chavezs populist influence is seeping into our homeland, and undermining our society. The two menaces are:

1. Using cheap oil from CITGO, the US based Venezuelan run oil company, is providing oil below market prices to low-income families in several localities in the United States. While on the surface, this may seem like a fine, humanitarian gesture, it is nothing more than the populist tactic that Governor Huey P. Long did for folks in Louisiana during the 1920s. While we agree that low-income families need relief from high-energy expenses, we should not be deceived by a populist siren song from a very questionable ally.
2. US Chavez apologists are supporting Chavez because they are primarily anti-Bush, believing that any enemy of Bush, must be their friend. Many believe the Chavez propaganda that he is a champion of the poor, and that the U.S. and the Venezuelan oligarchs are to blame for Venezuelan poverty. Those who support Chavez are not only undermining the US, but are accomplices in the undermining of democracy in Venezuela. The Venezuelan people, as our allies, deserve better.

To keep America strong, we wholeheartedly request that you:

1. Apply a rigorous analysis to CITGOs operation, including the provision of below market oil to low income families to ensure that there is no political motivation to the program, and that CITGO meets appropriate security standards.
2. Keep in mind that Chavez is spending millions of dollars in political propaganda in the U.S., trying to equate domestic opposition to George Bush with sympathy toward his government.

By taking a firm stand now you can help not only keep America strong by not letting foreign populism jeopardize our security, but also support the Venezuelan people in their hour of need.

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Julie DanielBy:
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