- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Sympathy for Venezuela

The State Department yesterday denounced claims by the acting head of the Venezuelan Embassy that the United States expressed sympathy for the coup that briefly overthrew leftist President Hugo Chavez.

A State Department official said a letter to a Venezuelan newspaper by charge d'affaires Luis Herrera Marcano was a "very simplistic and inaccurate characterization" of a conversation between Mr. Marcano and Phillip Chicola, a State Department specialist on Venezuelan affairs.

"It is inaccurate to say he expressed sympathy. He was doing his job as a diplomat, urging respect for democracy there," said the official, who asked not to be identified.

During the confused hours between the overthrow of Mr. Chavez on April 11 and his return to power 48 hours later, the State Department repeatedly urged support for the Venezuelan Constitution, he said.

"We said that privately. We said that publicly," he said.

It was also unclear whether Mr. Chavez had resigned under pressure from street protests.

Mr. Marcano said he received a phone call from Mr. Chicola of the State Department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs on the morning of April 12, hours after the coup that replaced Mr. Chavez with Pedro Carmona, head of the Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce.

Mr. Marcano, in a letter to the editor of Venezuela's Ultimas Noticias newspaper, said Mr. Chicola told him Washington "understands and sympathizes" with the situation in Venezuela.

"However, given the fact that the United States is fully supporting the Inter-American Democratic Charter that condemns any violation of constitutional order, it was necessary for constitutional order to be preserved," he quoted Mr. Chicola as saying.

Mr. Marcano said Mr. Chicola told him "it was necessary the National Assembly ratify Chavez's resignation and the Supreme Court also give its stamp of approval."

The call came before Mr. Carmona attempted to dissolve the legislature and the court.

Masaryk remembered

Czech hero Thomas Masaryk will be remembered in Washington with a statue soon to be erected on Embassy Row.

The location will be a small park in front of the Cosmos Club on Massachusetts Avenue, Czech Ambassador Martin Palous said.

This will add "a new and quite substantive dimension to the Czech presence in Washington," Mr. Palous wrote in the latest edition of the Czech Embassy newsletter.

"For those who are aware of the weight and depth of history, who connect their own lives to all of human existence as a whole, with all of its triumphs and tragedies, spirit and culture, this is truly welcome news," he said.

He thanked the American Friends of the Czech Republic for its "tireless efforts" to find a location for the statue.

In 1918, Masaryk, along with Eduard Bene, founded Czechoslovakia. Masaryk, who married American Charlotte Garrigue, strove for equality between Czechs and Slovaks. The country peacefully separated into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic in 1993.

"Masaryk's permanent presence in Washington will remind us of the everlasting importance of personal integrity in politics and of basic political virtues such as courage and readiness not only to talk in times of crisis but to act," Mr. Palous said.

"Masaryk will be here not only as a representative of Czechs living in the old country, he will stand as a representative for many generations of Czech Americans."

U.S.-Pakistan forum

The United States and Pakistan have established a forum to promote economic and financial relations.

"The establishment of the Pakistan-U.S. Joint Economic Forum is a reflection of a mutual desire to reinforce bilateral economic relations and promote better mutual understanding of economic and financial issues," the Pakistani Embassy said in a statement.

Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill and Shaukat Aziz, Pakistan's minister of finance and economic affairs, established the forum in a meeting last week.

"They also discussed the economic reform program being implemented in Pakistan to support more rapid, broad-based, job-creating growth," the embassy said.

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