Toronto, February 3rd. 2015

Regarding a Panel taking place on February 4th, 2015 at 6:00 PM at the Moot Court at the Faculty of Law at McGill University (Montreal, Canada).

Re: Venezuela in Crisis: “The Decline of Democracy and the Repression of Human Rights”.

There are no political prisoners in Venezuela, just imprisoned politicians. They are incarcerated because they broke the law, not for some ideological reason, they are not above the law. The notion that in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela human rights are not respected is completely false and without foundations.

In fact, the people that at present are facing charges for the events known as “guarimbas”, respectfully following the laws of the country, is for the role they played in the events during the first half of 2014. The individual/s in question, political opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, publicly called for the removal of the democratically elected President Nocolas Maduro Moros, in other words inciting a coup d’etat. As a consequence of his irresponsible actions, 43 Venezuelans were killed during the events.

The people involved in violent public disobedience were financed by external forces, and local interest groups representing the most right wing elements of the Venezuelan society that refuse to accept the will of the majority of Venezuelans expressed in democratic elections, supervised by hundreds of international observers including the former President Jimmy Carter. In fact, out of the latest 19 elections of public officials, 18 have been won by the parties represented by President Maduro. The latest round of elections, governors for the entire country, President Maduro forces were triumphant in over 75% of the governorships. The opposition viewed the elections as a referendum on the government and when they realized that they were not successful part of the opposition called for the “salida” (exit) of the democratically elected government. It was proved that, a large part of the demonstrators were Colombian paramilitary, and right wing violent elements that received economical compensation to participate in the demonstrations, riots and destruction of public property such as burning public transportation buses, trucks loaded with food, clinics, schools, community centers, libraries, public buildings etc.

Leopoldo Lopez in particular, belongs to a party known as Voluntad Popular, a small right wing party. He has been a fixture in Venezuelan politics, his refusal to accept democratic elections results is well known, he was a notable leader of the group that plotted the 2002, coup d’etat against President Chavez, that lasted a day. Since then, he has been trying to boycott government initiatives and in conjunction with international forces, promoting a “soft coup” (golpe suave) using practically the same manual used against Chile that eventually ended with one of the most cruel military dictatorships in recent memory.

We are well aware that corporate media have been depicting, President Chavez as a dictator and President Maduro violating human rights, the fact of the matter is that both have been elected by the people in open and transparent electoral processes. We would expect such coverage from mainstream media but we never expected it from this publication. Such a one-sided event that does not provide space to contrast points of view, or simply present the facts behind the attacks that periodically are launched against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Unfortunately, as such this activity does not contribute to a constructive political dialogue but rather it provides a tribune to the main culprits of acts of violence in Venezuela.

In addition, Industrial groups politically associated associated with Mr. Lopez conduct campaigns of industrial boycott, hoarding, speculation, contraband etc., depriving Venezuelans of their basic needs, that were imported at subsidize prices to guarantee the well being of the population. This is what is known as the Economic War (“guerra economica”)

While we defend the freedom of expression, we also defend the principle of balanced and fair coverage of political events. The title of the conference is problematic because it presupposes lack of democracy, and violations to human rights, while in fact is the opposite because in Venezuela more and more decision making is being transferred to the communities and organized citizens, governorships and so on. In fact, we claim that in Venezuela you have a true democracy, fully participatory and an example on how to engage citizens in decision making processes that affect their communities, such as housing needs, popular markets to guarantee food supplies at affordable prices, community projects, to mention a few. However, in order to know this reality and the truth we would suggest to engage other viewpoints, such as the group representing “The victims of the Guarimba”, Venezuelan officials, politicians, community groups that are identified with the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela.

Hugo Chavez People’s Defense Front