Support for Venezuela
The Organization of American States is calling on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to respect democracy and seek a peaceful solution to two weeks of strikes by opponents of his leftist administration.
The OAS, in a resolution adopted late Monday, did not offer direct support for Mr. Chavez, but warned his opponents not to attempt to overthrow his government.
Yesterday, strike leaders called for more civil disobedience and a march on the presidential palace. Opponents are trying to force Mr. Chavez into calling for early elections as his administration becomes increasingly unpopular.
Charles Shapiro, the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, told reporters yesterday, “We are entering a volatile situation, and because of that, it’s more important than ever that we find a peaceful, democratic solution.”
The OAS resolution also renews support for Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria, who has been working for the past six weeks to try to avoid a political catastrophe in the world’s fifth-largest oil producer.
“This resolution supports the secretary-general’s efforts unequivocally and energetically,” Roger Noriega, the U.S. ambassador to the OAS, told the Associated Press.
Jorge Valero, Venezuela’s OAS ambassador, had wanted the resolution to express specific support for Mr. Chavez.
“We have reached a consensus as a way to get close to the truth,” he said in a statement after 25 hours of debate over three days.
The resolution endorses the “democratic and constitutional order of Venezuela, whose government is headed by Hugo Chavez.”
The OAS urged Mr. Chavez and the Democratic Coordinator, an alliance of opposition groups, “to use good-faith negotiations to bring about a constitutional, democratic, peaceful and electoral solution” to the crisis.
The resolution also called on Mr. Chavez to guarantee “freedom of expression and of the press.” It urged “all sectors of Venezuelan society to contribute to promoting peace and tolerance among all Venezuelans and all social actors to refrain from encouraging political confrontation and violence.”
Watching the Kenyan vote
The Carter Center is sending a former U.S. ambassador to Zambia to lead a delegation to monitor the Dec. 27 elections in Kenya, a country noted for political violence.
Gordon Streeb, who served in Kenya from 1990 to 1993, will direct 27 election observers, including former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda as the co-leader of the mission.
“These elections are critically important since they mark the succession to Daniel arap Moi’s 24 years as president,” Mr. Streeb said in a statement.
“Given the political intimidation and violence reported in Kenya’s previous elections and the participation of a unified opposition in the December elections, there is strong international interest in these elections.”
Mr. Streeb urged political leaders, their supporters, election officials and police to “ensure these elections are conducted in a tolerant and peaceful manner.”
The delegation is due in Kenya shortly before polling day for the national, state and local elections. They will deploy throughout the country to observe the voting and stay in Kenya for several weeks to monitor the post-election period.
Mr. Streeb, a retired Foreign Service officer, is the Carter Center’s associate executive director for the Peace Programs that oversees projects to promote democracy, human rights, economic development and conflict resolution.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has appointed a former congressman from Washington state to lead the State Department’s office that combats the smuggling of human beings for forced labor, sexual exploitation and other illegal activity.
John R. Miller will replace Nancy Ely-Raphel as director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
“President Bush and this administration are making the fight against trafficking a critical part of our nation’s diplomatic agenda,” Mr. Powell said in announcing Mr. Miller’s appointment.
He praised Mr. Miller for his “sterling record on international human rights issues in Congress and his commitment to fighting today’s modern form of slavery.”