Venezuela's proposal for the "Social Charter
of the Americas"
Venezuela's Foreign Minister Dr. Ali Rodríguez
at a special session of the Organization of American
President of the Permanent Council and Permanent Representative
of Paraguay, Ambassador Manuel Maria Cáceres,
Acting Secretary General, Ambassador Luigi Einuadi,
Permanent and Alternative Representatives,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure that I address this regional democratic
forum, with the aim of sharing some reflections regarding the present
situation of our America, of Venezuela, and the foreign policy of
We are witnessing dizzying and deep changes in the global society,
changes that demand a critical examination of the functioning of
international institutions, and particularly, those of our continent.
These realities call on us to face the greatest challenges posed
by our desire to develop societies characterized by democracy, solidarity,
and equality. As the Charter of the OAS notes, we strive to
achieve an order of peace and justice, to promote solidarity, to
strengthen collaboration, and to defend sovereignty, territorial
integrity, and independence. As such, the Charter establishes
wise providences to safeguard the sovereignty of those nations that
integrate into the Inter-American System. Our organization,
according to Article 1 of this text, “has no powers other
than those expressly conferred upon it by this Charter, none of
whose provisions authorizes it to intervene in matters that are
within the internal jurisdiction of the Member States.”
In this light, to begin, questions arise such as the necessary
examination of to what extent these ideals are in fact materializing,
and if they are not, how to remove the obstacles which stand in
the way of their materialization.
Each nation is the result of the synthesis of the most diverse
historic, political, economic, social, cultural, and even geographic
factors, all of which contribute to the nation very concrete specificities.
The world’s most stable political systems are those that best
express these diverse realities. The singularities of each country
impress upon each political system unique characteristics, even
when they function under the application of determined universal
principles such as liberty, equality, electoral processes, and the
division of powers, among others. Take, for example, the very notable
differences between political systems of countries that have grown
from a common foundation, such as the United States of North America
and Great Britain, or neighboring countries that share certain common
characteristics, like Canada and the United States.
We find ourselves now at an elemental first conclusion: it would
be an error of very grave consequences, the pretense of imposing
a singular ideology, and, with that system of thought, the political
model and practices of a country with its own history and circumstances
upon other countries. When speaking of democracy, the conclusion
is simple: there cannot exist a singular model of democracy, even
when we apply principles of universal validity. Different
forms of democracy building correspond to distinct realities. And
so, to subscribe to the eternal definition of Abraham Lincoln regarding
democracy as government of the people, for the people, and by the
people, we would add one thing only: government with the people.
The people are not a simple abstraction. On the contrary, they are
something very concrete.
Decades of neglect of the most basic economic, social, cultural,
and even political rights in Venezuela left as a result a hurtful
and inexcusable level of poverty, reaching up to 80 percent of the
population. As such, esteemed ambassadors, our people are, by majority,
a poor people.
From this emerges a second elemental conclusion: the realization
that democracy in a country like Venezuela, whose concrete reality
is one of poverty, depends on giving the large majority of the country
the opportunity to participate, that is, the overcoming of poverty
becomes the government’s first reason for being. How could
one consider oneself a democracy that respects human rights when
80 percent of the population is subjected to the daily outrage of
poverty and its terrible consequences? What type of democracy can
be built upon illiteracy and the ignorance it breeds, malnutrition,
unemployment, and the various other plagues that often accompany
the drama of poverty? In the case of Venezuela, and in many other
cases, I suspect, the principle of a government of the people, by
the people, and for the people can only become a reality by giving
power to the poor when they represent, as in our case, the large
majority of the population. It for that reason that the first principle
of our Constitution is the participation of this overwhelming majority
of people that some soulless individuals, many born on our own soil,
refer to as “rabble” and “savage hordes.”
That is the type of exclusion of which is spoken so often, and which
found in Venezuela a small elite clustered together in exclusive
political and economic oligarchies and abusing of the benefits of
power. It was they, precisely, the beneficiaries of representative
democracy, that on a daily basis excluded and ignored that immense
group of individuals forced into poverty by that very concentration
of riches and privileges.
As such, the Venezuelan people have developed, because they have
lived it, a clear conscience of the political, social, economic,
and cultural exclusion that they suffered through the years of representative
democracy. For that reason they decided that it wasn’t enough
to simply elect representatives that could substitute them in making
fundamental decisions. Of course, they still elect members of the
National Assembly, of regional assemblies, and of municipal councils.
Similarly, they still elect the President, governors, and mayors.
But that is not enough. The point of the exercise of political power
in a democracy, if that democracy is true, is not simply limited
to periodic electoral participation or the separation of powers;
rather, it ensures the citizen enjoys certain fundamental guarantees
such as the ability to consult on matters of public interest and
the ability to revoke the mandate of elected leaders. This is what
has happened in Venezuela. It first happened when the people were
consulted as to whether they wanted a new Constitution, it happened
when the text of the new Bolivarian Constitution was submitted to
public approval, and it happened last year when the people were
given the option to revoke the mandate of President Hugo Chávez
Frías. The results are universally known.
In keeping with these reflections, let me make one more point.
Democracy, and along with it participation, cannot be limited purely
to the political realm. It has to be included in the economic, the
social, and the cultural. As such, in the economic realm, it is
assumed that the people must participate as much in the productive
process as they do in the distribution of resources and wealth.
It is for that reason that we would like to once again, with all
due respect, stress the need of social justice as a fundamental
component of democracy.
Today Venezuela is demonstrating to the world that it is possible
to overcome the limitations of an elitist democracy, a democracy
that is merely electoral, and that it is possible and necessary
to build an inclusive democracy with equality, with a human face
and in favor of all members of society. This is what is established
in our Bolivarian Constitution: “Venezuela is constituted
as a democratic and social state of law and justice.” That
is what was decided upon by the majority of the Venezuelan people
when they approved the Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela.
The articles of our Constitution are oriented towards the full
realization of the human being as an individual and a member of
collective society. It is for that reason, among many, that the
document has enjoyed the overwhelming support of the Venezuelan
people since the moment it was submitted to a referendum. Popular
will has been similarly expressed in support of the new democratic
model of our country over the course of eight electoral processes
during a mere six years.
It is in this context that we believe that the Inter-American
Democratic Charter and the Social Charter of the Americas are complimentary
and mutually reinforcing. The first alludes to civil and political
rights, the second to economic, social, and cultural rights. It
is necessary in the OAS to move towards a multidimensional and integral
conception of democracy.
The Inter-American system is obligated, ethically, to determinedly
take on the fight against poverty, in hopes of achieving, in all
the countries of our continent, equality and social inclusion, both
of which are fundamental paradigms in reaching societies that are
more just and truly democratic. To not take on these tasks will
mean that democratic governance will be permanently affected.
It was for this reason that our country proposed to this organization
the need to adopt a Social Charter of the Americas. We are worried
by the delays in achieving this goal, that which was acquired by
the Foreign Ministers in the most recent General Assembly in Quito,
Ecuador, which took place in June 2004.
Allow me to reflect on another point. Inseparable from the existence
of a true democracy is the issue of sovereignty and self-determination.
No country could hope to freely decide upon issues of concern if
it is forced to act under pressure, or worse yet, under the threat
of aggression or occupation, by external forces. Without self-determination,
say what you will, there are simply no hopes for democracy. Self-determination,
sovereignty, and democracy are inseparable and mutually reinforcing
conditions. They are, furthermore, keystones in peaceful and respectful
relations between countries. Moreover, the principles of solidarity
and cooperation are conditions not only for the best development
of political systems, but also for the practice of international
relations. It is not a coincidence that Article 3 of the Charter
of the OAS establishes the right of all states to choose “without
external interference, its political, economic, and social system
and to organize itself in the way best suited to it, and has the
duty to abstain from intervening in the affairs of another State.”
In the same vain and more specifically, Article 1 establishes as
a cardinal guiding principle “to promote their solidarity,
to strengthen their collaboration,” much like is established
in our Bolivarian Constitution, which notes, “Venezuela is
constituted as a democratic and social state of law and justice.”
All that is articulated in our Constitution is oriented towards
the full realization of the human being as an individual and a member
of a collective society.
On another point, it is necessary to comment briefly on an issue
that has been raised by this organization: the application of the
Inter-American Democratic Charter. On this point, we certainly recognize
that the political documents of the Inter-American system are not
unalterable, much less are they untouchable. They can be complimented
to strengthen the mechanisms established to defend democracy. However,
we believe that any proposed modifications to expand the reach of
the Inter-American Democratic Charter need be consistent with the
aforementioned principles established in the Charter of the OAS.
This is the foundation to which we all subscribe, without exception.
We are sure that this forum will not entertain those who seek
to impose hegemonic and unilateral criticisms upon others, though
if that were the case, we would have to ask ourselves whether governments
like those led by President Hugo Chávez Frías, those
that propose a participatory democracy, those that oppose the neo-liberal
economic model, and those that stand against the neo-colonial integration
schemes for the continent, have any space in the OAS.
Having reflected on these points, I find it necessary to comment
on certain issues that have been persistently placed before public
opinion. The most diverse accusations have been obstinately levied
against the government of President Hugo Chávez Frías,
such as that of his being a negative and destabilizing force in
the region. It has been similarly proposed that this Organization
pressure and isolate Venezuela, a country that has, like any other
country, legitimate rights. Insidious accusations, such as those
linking Venezuela to terrorist organizations, those insinuating
that Venezuela is violating freedom of expression, and those criticizing
Venezuela for seeking to engage in a destabilizing arms race have
been repeated and have intensified. Evident was the solitude of
a certain spokesperson seeking to stir up the crisis between Colombia
and Venezuela while both countries managed to overcome the crisis,
maturely, responsibly, and with the solidarity of all the governments
of the subcontinent. “Pied Piper” has been another term
used, maybe not to insult Chávez, but to imply that those
that support the current development of Venezuelan democracy are
The absurdity of the accusations levied against our government
would not bother us in the least if a multitude of facts did not
exist that prove that when such statements are made, it’s
because, sooner or later, the attack will follow. This is what happened
to motivate the coup in April 2002 in Venezuela, and similarly occurred
with the attack on the oil industry and the economy at large in
December of the same year. It is what happened with Allende, it
is what happened in the Dominican Republic, it is what happened
in Guatemala and countless other cases. For the same reason, we
cannot dismiss information from our intelligence services concerning
the physical liquidation of our president, the same man who has
been legitimated every time he has been subjected to the scrutiny
of the Venezuelan people. No one could possibly imagine the consequences
of such an action. In the meantime, and noting the precedents, we
are obligated to alert public opinion around the world as to the
consequences of such an action, not only for Venezuela, not only
for Latin America, but beyond our own borders and beyond our own
desire for peace.
Finally, in the name of all Venezuelans and our peaceful and democratic
government, I would like to convey a message to all the governments
represented in this forum: Venezuela, much like most countries,
has but one enemy to defeat. That enemy is poverty. Against it we
need to concentrate our strength, our every resource, all our capacities,
and our will.
To succeed we need nothing but allied. We do not want enemies.
We threaten no one. Considering our basic sense of dignity, though,
we firmly reject all threats and all attempts to pressure us or
interfere in issues that are of total and absolute obligation to
all Venezuelans. We want peace and prosperity for our people. It
was what we desire for other people. It is what guides us. We do
not pretend to export our democratic model, much less impose it
upon anyone else. Each and every sovereign country will find for
itself the best ways to deal with its problems, without interferences
or impositions of any kind. All our hemispheric neighbors know that
we speak out of a sincerity that is demonstrated by our actions.
It is as such that we extend our hand of friendship, for we know
that in peace and based on mutual respect exists the best opportunity
to reach the prosperity for our people and the integration of our
countries. It is this spirit of friendship and respect, indispensable
conditions for peace, which we recognize as offering us the best
possibilities to democratically achieve the great objectives here
before us, despite the dangers that certain political rhetoric may
attempt to inflict upon us. It is contingent upon our knowledge,
esteemed ambassadors, that the road before us be one of possibility
and not one of death and destruction.
Our people want peace and well-being. Consequently, peace and
well-being for our people should be the order of the day.
Thank you very much Mr. President. Thank you very much Ambassadors.
Speech by Venezuela's Foreign Minister Dr. Ali
Rodríguez Araque at a special session of the Organization
of American States, February 23, 2005, denouncing at the OAS the
frequent negative statements by U.S. officials against President
Chavez of Venezuela.