- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2004

Chavez envoy quits

Venezuela’s ambassador to the United Nations resigned yesterday to protest the policies of the country’s embattled leftist president, Hugo Chavez.

Ambassador Milos Alcalay accused Mr. Chavez of “operating devoid of the fundamental principles of protecting human rights.”

“It is with heavy heart that I am resigning from my position,” said the career diplomat with 34 years of service.

Venezuela is racked with protests and attempts to recall Mr. Chavez, who was toppled in a short-lived coup in 2002.

Mr. Alcalay told the U.N. Correspondents Association that Mr. Chavez’s policies made his work difficult at the United Nations.

“The increasing bipolarization and problems we are experiencing at home in Venezuela have impacted our relationships around the world,” he said.

“My commitment to my country is unwavering. That is why this announcement is so difficult, but I believe it is a necessary step for me to take.”

Mr. Alcalay also criticized Venezuela’s National Electoral Council, which is challenging more than 1 million signatures on a petition to force a referendum on removing Mr. Chavez.

He said the council’s action “robs Venezuelans of the right to effect change through the democratic process.”

His resignation was an apparent surprise to the Chavez government, which announced Tuesday that Mr. Alcalay’s next assignment would be ambassador to Britain.

Hard-core democracy

Hungary is “slowly but confidently” facing one of the darkest chapters of its history with plans for the commemoration of the deportation of Hungarian Jews in World War II, said Hungarian Ambassador Andras Simonyi.

Mr. Simonyi, whose Jewish grandparents died in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, said Hungary will dedicate a Holocaust museum on April 15, the day Nazis began rounding up Jews in the countryside in 1944.

“Slowly but confidently, Hungarians are facing the darkest moment of their history,” he told the Jewish Journal on a recent visit to Los Angeles, where he met with Jewish leaders to discuss plans for the commemoration.

Mr. Simonyi said Hungary has an active Jewish population but anti-Semitism remains a problem.

“Unfortunately, anti-Semitism exists everywhere, even in Hungary,” he said. “Some of the anti-Semites in Hungary are very noisy, but the government is very clear on cracking down on anti-Semitism.

“There is a strong and vibrant Jewish community in Hungary, which is a sign that Jews in Hungary feel confident about their present and future.”

Mr. Simonyi compared Hungary’s 1956 democratic revolution that was crushed by Soviet forces to the Western goals in the war on terrorism and the liberation of Iraq.

“Partly why we thought we had to get rid of Saddam Hussein and do it together [with the United States] is because we remember what it means when democracies fail to act,” he said.

“Hungary is a hard-core democracy. We have learned the hard way — through Nazism, through communism — what it means when a country embraces radical ideas that exclude others.”

Birds of Australia

Australian Ambassador Michael Thawley is opening his embassy for guests to view a rare collection of 19th-century lithographs and drawings of birds of his native land by one of his country’s most famous artists.

John Gould, who illustrated more than 500 species of birds in his “Birds of Australia,” is as well-known in Australia as John James Audubon is in the United States, Mr. Thawley said.

Parts of Mr. Gould’s collection will be on display through April 15 at the embassy at 1601 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Reservations to view the exhibit can be made by calling 202/797-3383.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]

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