excerpted from Aug 12, 2004 | U.S. Newswire
Keywords: Chavez, Venezuela
August 12, 2004
Dear President Chavez,
We are writing to express our solidarity during this important moment in Venezuela’s history. It is our hope and expectation that, on August 15, you will once again win an electoral mandate from the Venezuelan people to be their president.
The world knows that you are achieving something remarkable in Venezuela: you are investing your country’s vast oil wealth in ways that benefit everyone, not just small minority of well- connected elites. Over the last year your government’s literacy campaign taught one million Venezuelans to read. And today, millions of others are benefiting from the governments investment in job training, small businesses and health care.
We are disturbed by our own government’s interference in your internal affairs. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a group funded by the U.S. Congress, has financed radical opposition leaders in their efforts to cut short your term. Some of the individuals funded by the NED participated in the April 2002 coup attempt against you.
Polling done by both the Venezuelan government and its opposition shows that you will defeat the recall referendum on August 15. We have every expectation that on August 16 Venezuelan relations with the U.S. government will begin to improve.
We are committed to doing what we can, as U.S. citizens, to heal those relationships and encourage Congress and the White House to see Venezuela not only as a model democracy but also as a model of how a country’s oil wealth can be used to benefit all of its people.
Reverend Jesse Jackson, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Dr. Howard Zinn, Edward Asner, Dr. Saul Landau, Naomi Klein, Doug Henwood, Dr. Blase Bonpane, Liza Featherstone
WASHINGTON — … Noting the accomplishments of the Chavez administration to improve the lives of Venezuela’s impoverished majority, the joint letter expressed the signers’ “hope and expectation that, on August 15, you will once again win an electoral mandate from the Venezuelan people to be their president.”
…. Despite Venezuela’s vast oil wealth, nearly 80 percent of the country lives below the poverty level. President Chavez has expanded opportunities for all Venezuelans by using oil revenues to finance new schools, health clinics and national nutrition programs catering to the poor majority. In the past year alone, more than one million adults have been taught to read.
The president’s term has been marked by fierce opposition from Venezuela’s former ruling powers, including the 2002 coup and a national management-led oil strike that crippled the country’s economy. This Sunday, the Venezuelan people will vote whether to allow the president to finish his term. Recent polls indicate that the majority of Venezuelans will once again vote in favor of their president.
The American letter is the latest in a series of solidarity statements from well-known figures around the world. In July, a group of 69 Latin American intellectuals, artists, and Nobel laureates signed a letter titled, “If I were a Venezuelan, I would vote for Hugo Chávez.”