- The Washington Times - Friday, December 31, 1999

Embassy responds to article on Venezuelan floods

In the article "Chavez draws fire for ignoring flood warnings" (Dec. 28), The Times said: "President Hugo Chavez is being criticized for allowing a constitutional referendum to proceed on Dec. 15 rather than order an immediate evacuation from coastal areas where massive mudslides killed as many as 20,000 people later that night.
&160;&160;&160;&160;&160;&160;"Earlier in the day, the Department of Civil Defense issued a warning, a copy of which has been obtained by The Washington Times, saying thousands of people were at risk because of intense rains that had sent rivers over their banks."
&160;&160;&160;&160;&160;&160;Regarding that information, I wish to inform you that Angel Rangel, director of the Department of Civil Defense, issued on Wednesday a press declaration in the major newspapers of Venezuela, among them El Universal (www.eud.com), firmly denying the information about a warning related to a possible catastrophe in the state of Vargas that Mr. Chavez supposedly brushed aside. Mr. Rangel pointed out that the Department of Civil Defense, following presidential instructions, has been working since May in the analysis of the country's vulnerability regarding the rainy season that this year was forecasted to be the worst in 40 years. Mr. Rangel continued his declaration with the conclusion that Venezuelan problems are not the rains but an 80 percent poverty rate, out of which 75 percent live in zones of geological instability.
&160;&160;&160;&160;&160;&160;Due to this factor, the Department of Civil Defense warned on Sept. 18 that 4 million Venezuelans lived in high-risk locations and, therefore, local governments should have reinforced its duties in comptrolling the building construction permits. This urban anarchy was inherited by the Chavez administration, and one of the challenges of his government is to cope with this notorious reality.
&160;&160;&160;&160;&160;&160;ALFREDO TORO HARDY
&160;&160;&160;&160;&160;&160;Embassy of Venezuela

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