Canberra, 03rd July 2017
The Hon. Peter Stuart Whish-Wilson
Please receive warm greetings from our Embassy in Canberra and on behalf of the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela, I would like to respond to your recent speech to the Senate on June 20th and to the authorities of the Australian Foreign Ministry at the end of the month of May 2017. I have tried to contact you on two occasions in order to promote a meeting where we could converse, however, and because this has not been possible, I would like to draw a few observations to your attention.
I would like to begin my letter by reiterating the great affection I feel for this multicultural land and for the pride that overwhelms me to be a representative of the Venezuelan Government in Australia. Venezuela has been historically respectful of the internal affairs of the countries with which we esteem ourselves to have excellent relations, based on the principle of non-intervention and mutual respect that have allowed, in the case of Australia, to carry 44 years of uninterrupted diplomatic relations in cordial and friendly terms. We are, like Australia, signatories to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, framing “the principles of international law embodied in the Charter of the United Nations, such as the principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, of the sovereign equality and Independence of all States, of non-interference in the domestic affairs of States …”
In this regard, I would like to point out that President Nicolas Maduro was democratically elected in April 2013 under an electoral system endorsed by a large number of international observers, including the Carter Centre, whose spokesman, Jimmy Carter himself, affirmed on 20th September 2012 in his annual speech in the city of Atlanta, that the Venezuelan electoral system was: “the best of the world”.
In the last eighteen years more than 19 elections have been held in Venezuela and, although it is true that the ruling party has won the majority, we have also recognized our defeats. Prompting us to reflect on; which dictatorship in the world could say that so many popular elections have been celebrated and its defeats recognised?
At the request of the opposition and by general consensus, President Nicolas Maduro has convened a National Constituent Assembly. On July 30th, Venezuelans will be directly and secretly electing 540 constituents who will be reviewing our Constitution and by the end of this year we will held regional elections nationwide.
Once the new text of the Constitution is ready, it will be submitted to a referendum by direct and secret ballot. It should be stressed that it was the opposition itself that, for years, proposed the National Constituent Assembly, however, now seeing their backing diminished by not having majority support, are trying to sabotage this sovereign democratic process.
It was the opposition itself that attempted to call a referendum to cease the function of the President of the Republic. However, and because of the internal divisions of the hundreds of parties that bring together the Democratic Unity Roundtable (an association that groups the opposition parties known by its Spanish acronym MUD), the requirements to call a referendum were not fulfilled accordingly, in that occasion, as per the guidelines of the National Electoral Council (CNE). An independent power of the Venezuelan State, the CNE regulates the electoral processes and that has validated the results in the three elections in which the opposition has emerged victorious.
Regarding your concern with the number of Venezuelans in Australia, I would like to inform you that the number you have mentioned, a figure provided by DFAT, indicates that there are 4,000 Venezuelans in Australia. This is not an overestimation because according to the figures that we handle in this Embassy, until 2015 there were approximately 5,200 Venezuelans in the country. This amount has remained practically unchanged since then. It should be noted that, part of this figure, is given by students who have benefited from a privileged system of currency exchange rates by the Government that allows them to study in Australian schools. In Tasmania, the state that you represent before the parliament, only 8 Venezuelans are registered.
Respected Senator Mr Whish-Wilson, you have also mentioned in your speech your concern for Human Rights in Venezuela and the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council. We would like to inform you that although Australia was among the 28 countries that expressed concern about human rights in my country, it is equally true that more than 77 countries overwhelmingly supported Venezuela in the Universal Periodic Review that took place last March 16th in Geneva. Our Government have willingly accepted 193 of the 264 recommendations based on political, civil, economic and social rights, which shows that Venezuela is a territory of peace and our government has always supported dialogue, understanding in accordance to the democratic path framed in our Constitution and laws.
On Wednesday, June 21st, 57 countries of the Human Rights Council expressed, through a statement, their overwhelming support for the government of President Nicolas Maduro in its efforts to preserve peace and maintain democratic institutions. Venezuela’s excellent performance in human rights has been fully recognized by countries at the UN. Evidence of this can be found in that Venezuela was elected a member of the Human Rights Council for the period 2013-2015, and was re-elected until 2018 with the support of Australia. I would like to emphasize that Venezuela has stated that it will support Australia in its candidacy as a member of the Human Rights Council for the period 2018-2021 and will be supporting Australia in various candidacies, among which are: International Maritime Organization, Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), among many others.
I am agreeing that there is a delicate economic situation in Venezuela and analysing it with care with the understanding that Venezuela depends greatly of its oil production and revenue and the impact on our economy when there is a the fall in the market of oil prices. Secondly, the fierce economic war perpetrated by large corporations that are managed from countries, to which you refer in your speech, and whose interests have been diminished since the arrival of President Chavez in 1999 as at that time our oil was sold at US$ 7.00 per barrel to the price levels obtained since that date. It is not necessary to state the price that oil has reached after the efforts made from Venezuela through the member countries of OPEC but in the other-side, since the benefits of Venezuelan oil revenue have gone directly to the care and aids of the people, and not to the large transnational corporations and a minority group of Venezuelans.
Further on, I will bring to your attention a few figures clearly showing how this income has been invested in the country to detriment of the multinationals and the minority of Venezuelans previously controlling the country.
Unfortunately, the information embodied by the large international media corporations is far from the reality of my country and a media’s war against the democratic government of Venezuela began with the arrival of Hugo Chavez Frias, intensified after April 2013 reaching unheard levels of provocation, open instigation to violence after the election of President Nicolas Maduro. This atmosphere of aggression and permanent media harassment produces an insidious misinformation about the reality of Venezuela providing support to the groups operating in Venezuela against the government and with false consigns claiming free expression, liberty and authoritarian abuse.
On 11 April 2002 this anti-democratic opposition tried to overthrow the then President Chavez by way of force and put an entrepreneur in his place, but not before abolishing all the powers of the state.
In 2008, Senator Bob Brown, the then leader of your own party, visited Venezuela with the objective to aid the release of the Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt who had been taken hostage by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
In a statement to the Senate on May 14th of that year, Senator Brown has declared that: “Venezuela is an oil rich nation, with a highly educated elite and a strengthening democracy. Its President, Hugo Chavez, was one of few world leaders with the gumption to publicly contest the mistakes and exported violence” of then US president George W Bush.
Senator Brown added: “Due to the Chavez popular government — and that is what all the opinion polls show — concentration on helping the millions of poor people on the land and in Caracas’s huge barrios, or slums, the small but highly educated richer class are emigrating.” Clearly showing a weighty reason for a large group of Venezuelans migrating to other countries such Australia.
Since 2013, destabilizing sectors of the opposition have promoted a socio-economic boycott characterized by systematic and planned shortages of food, electricity and other vital goods by the national and international private sector. In January 2014, once again, extremist sectors of opposition called for violence in order to achieve the overthrow of the democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro. These actions resulted in 54 people killed and hundreds injured, including children, youth, the elderly, civil servants of the Public Ministry, police agents and National Guards officers. They also attacked and destroyed schools, universities, health centres and public transport, among others, leaving substantial material losses.
From 2016, to the multifaceted destabilizing actions exacerbated since 2013, joined the new parliamentary Opposition majority of which its nucleus can be found in MUD – a space from which they continue managing formulas to reach their original aims to overthrow the democratically elected Government. Some of the formulas used to achieve these objectives include: exacerbating difficulties, pushing back social gains, increases hoarding and the speculation of food and other essential products in a strategy of destabilization through the construction of social unrest and media manipulation, which also takes advantage of the fall in oil prices – Venezuela’s main source of foreign exchange.
In this context, it is critical to observe that the MUD parliamentarians are free to come and go from Venezuela as they pleased and no restrictions have been imposed to them as the government of Venezuela follows its Constitutional rights and respect the opposition despite their constant violation of Human Rights and Constitution.
Today we face the same scenario of three years ago where radical opposition groups have killed more than 70 people. Sadly, most of the deaths have been caused by the actions of radical armed opposition groups whose terrorism and vandalism have moved to an unprecedented level of action, and in some cases have even recruited minors to commit assaults. In countries like Australia, these events would be considered terrorist acts produced by organized radical groups and believe they would be behind bars. Although the media indicated that the whole country is plunged into a “war” and a “disaster” as also mentioned by you. The fact remains that of the 335 municipalities which make up the country, only in 7 municipalities does violence reign – a violence that is often reduced to hooded vandal groups blocking an avenue and intimidating passers-by. It is interesting to note one more time, that the municipalities which are witnessing violence are those 7 governed by mayors of the opposition who were also democratically elected and legitimately recognized by the Government.
On 1 October 2014, these radical opposition groups organized the assassination of the official Deputy Robert Serra, a case seriously under reported by the international press. This prescription, supported by the USA administration, implemented by radical opposition groups in Venezuela is not far from the formula applied by the hegemonic countries such as Chile in 1973 which resulted in a bloody dictatorship that lasted 17 years and left thousands of people dead, disappeared and tortured. According to a study conducted by the journal Latin American Perspectives (2007), initially at least 200,000 Chileans (roughly 2% of Chile’s population in 1973) fled the country while, in addition, hundreds of thousands continued to leave the country following the economic crisis and military repression that persisted into the 1970s and 1980s.
Many of these Chileans, as it was the case with other Latin American countries such as Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, have fled U.S.-backed right-wing military dictatorships in the region, have settled in Australia with their families and can willingly confirm the veracity of my statements. The reality is that; should a similar scenario of 1973 in Chile will developed in contemporary Venezuela, and the Maduro administration be overthrown through violence, a military coup or foreign intervention, neighbouring countries and members of the international community like Australia will be facing with a humanitarian crisis as hundreds of thousands of government supporters and sympathisers will undoubtedly face cruel and violent repression and they will be forced to seek political asylum aboard.
Since you have mentioned in your address to the Senate that Venezuelan “national intelligence service is arresting critics for crimes against the homeland”, I have to assume that you have referred to the people who have been arrested for the burning of public transport facilities, hospitals, educational centres and government buildings. In fact, journalists from “Reuters news agency” recognized that, on street actions, it has become typically to witness the presence of hooded people that prevent them from taking photos where they appear with their cameras and reporters. Furthermore, “Reuters” has added that hooded youths have taken over cities freeways filling them with debris and burning garbage while other opposition groups focused on vandalism and plundering. The reporters have found that the opposition vandals have set fire to trucks and have stolen medical equipment from ambulances, which are crimes sanctioned by Venezuelan legislation.
In recent days, these radical opposition groups from which you have received information have stabbed and burned a man just because he was Afro-Venezuelan, poor and looked like a government supporter. In another incident, a member of the opposition on Twitter stated that Venezuelans could sabotage pro-government marches in many ways, even by throwing pot plants from balconies. Recently and as a result of the opposition suggestions, a 47-year-old woman was hit by a bottle of frozen water thrown from a building floor when she was on her way to work – not participating in an opposition or pro-government march. This is a crime and should be penaliced despite of political inclinations.
I could list many more examples of the actions of violence, crimes and open violations of Human Rights and freedom from the terrorist Right or opposition. Also, I would like to prompt to you that equally some diplomatic officials and our relatives abroad have been victims of harassment and even death threats from the same opposition groups inclusive of Australia. I would like to invite you to contact the Australian Federal Police in order to verify this assertion, and to observe from this source that in Australia we also have not escaped the threats of radical opposition groups that have come to live in this country, and probably have approached you looking for support under false pretensions and distorted information about the today’s reality of Venezuela.
Regardless of this crisis, which I am sure will be temporary, the achievements of the Venezuelan Government are indisputable. Let me humbly point out some figures from non-governmental organizations that summarize the achievements of the Government of Venezuela since the arrival of the Revolution in 1999:
* According to the United Nations, Venezuela is among the 29 countries in the world that have met all the Millennium Development Goals.
* According to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), between 1998 and 2013, hunger declined in Venezuela from 21.0% to less than 5%. These figures, taken from the total population of the country indicate that in 1998 there were 5 million people with hunger and at the moment the number does not surpass half a million.
* According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malnutrition in Venezuela decreased by 57%.
* Venezuela is the fifth country in the region with the highest number of doctors per capita: 1.94.
* In 1998, only 80% of the population had access to drinking water. Currently, the service reaches 95% of Venezuelans.
* UNESCO has recognized that Venezuela is the third country in the region whose population reads to a greater extent.
* Education in Venezuela is free: 10 million Venezuelans study some type of studies. Venezuela has the highest index of the continent of people in school.
* In 2005 UNESCO declared Venezuela a territory free of illiteracy.
According to figures from the United Nations, Venezuela reached an Index of Human Development (HDI) over countries such as Brazil, China and Mexico.
* Until 2012, 337 indigenous communities were awarded more than 1.8 million hectares rescued from the hands of large landowners.
* According to figures from the United Nation’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Venezuela has one of the most equal wealth distributions in Latin America, alongside with Uruguay.
* Thanks to the social investment of the Bolivarian Government, food consumption soared 80%.
* Before 1999 there were 350,000 pensioners. This figure has increased by 775% to reach more than 3 million pensioners.
Thank you for your thoughtfulness to this letter and once again, I would like to reiterate the intention of the Bolivarian Government of Venezuelan to continue strengthening relations with the People and Government of Australia. This consolidation of relations will always be framed around the principles of mutual respect and understanding while I am reiterating my readiness to meet and discuss with you with the sole purpose of providing objective information on the reality of what occurs in Venezuela.
Esteemed Senator Whish-Wilson, please receive a fraternal greeting from Venezuela and I personally.
Daniel D. Gasparri Rey
Chargé d’ Affaires a.i.