Media Center



May 29, 2003 - Caracas, Venezuela

During this period I have spent in Venezuela, I have come to love this country even more. At school, I was taught to admire and appreciate Simón Bolívar, our liberator and the forger of our ideals, our dreams, and our hopes, who shaped our character and temperament and gave us an identity which we are all proud of. He gave us an understanding of Pan Americanism, the precursor of our integration goals. As president of Colombia, I worked intensely on the economic aspect of said integration. However, these months in Caracas have instilled in me a profound admiration for the people of Venezuela, its institutions, and its deep-seated democratic values.

Our thanks to all Venezuelans for their warmth and hospitality and for their generosity and kindness. During this long stay, we have felt at home. To the Venezuelan Government and the political and social sectors backing it, my thanks for having invited us to cooperate in the dialogue, negotiation, and the pursuit of solutions, with the cooperation of the opposition. To the political and civil society organizations making up the Coordinadora Democrática, my thanks for the trust they have placed in the international community and in me in my role as facilitator. On a personal note, my appreciation goes out to each and every one of the members of the Forum. We all shared difficult times, but what remains are ties of friendship and brotherhood.

After arduous months of negotiations surrounding the Declaration of Principles for Peace and Democracy and the so-called Executive Summary, we have successfully concluded the task entrusted to us, the negotiators of the Government and the political forces surrounding it, the representatives of the Coordinadora Democrática, and the institutions that we have associated with that effort—the OAS, the Carter Center, and the UNDP.

Many of us in this room are well aware of the intense difficulty of these times, which were fraught with dangers stemming from the magnitude of the significant differences between the Government and the opposition, the extreme polarization of the actors in Venezuela’s public life, and the highly effective mass demonstrations in support of one cause or another. One of the most important achievements of the Forum for Negotiation and Agreement has been to serve as an open channel of communication, especially during those heated moments, and as a factor for moderation and restraint of political passions in all circumstances.

A single death was unacceptable, it was already excessive and generated profound mass indignation. There is an admirable respect for life in this country, of which all Venezuelans should be proud. We cannot forget all those who perished during this time in the defense of their convictions. To them and their families, our heartfelt solidarity. Venezuelans should not allow political violence to proliferate. Once it emerges, decades may elapse before it is extinguished. By signing this agreement, you are taking a definitive step today to prevent this from happening.

By means of direct negotiation by the parties, we focused on the assiduous pursuit of points of convergence—agreements on preservation of the supreme values that unite the entire citizenry behind the republic founded by Simón Bolívar. I witnessed the enormous human effort expended by all Forum members, who, in the midst of vicissitudes, placed those supreme values over and above political disputes.

When citizens read the text of the agreement carefully, they will see that, however significant the political differences, what unites Venezuelans is much greater than what separates them. As of now, everyone, on an equal footing, is obliged to uphold the precepts set forth therein in defense of the constitutional system; respect for the rule of law; acceptance of the constitutional components of nationality that require social and political coexistence on the part of all; and the search for participatory, pluralistic, vigorous, and genuinely representative democracy.

We all trust that as a result of difficult trials affecting them over the past year, Venezuelan democracy and, in particular, its democratic institutions--both those that have taken shape over almost two centuries of independent life and those that are emerging from this new political era--have been considerably strengthened.

If we want this process to follow its course, all Venezuelans must rise to meet their obligations to their country, over and above political and party controversy. If this is to be achieved, every action, every attitude, and every utterance must reflect tolerance, pluralism, and respect for opponents in avoiding confrontation and caustic language, which unfortunately has not been the case so far. Only thus will it be possible to achieve the reconciliation we have yearned for since the Declaration against Violence and for Peace and Democracy was issued, and which is also sought through the signing of this agreement. Said reconciliation should be compatible with the prevalence of conflicting political ideas, legitimate democratic competition, and the pluralism embodied in the Constitution.

For the OAS, it is especially important that the Government and the opposition acknowledge the hemispheric commitment known as the Democratic Charter, which embodies the values that unite us all as brothers and sisters, establishes the right of our peoples to live in a democracy and the obligation of all—Government and citizens—to promote and defend it. Signing this agreement is a clear expression of respect and appreciation for these principles. The agreement also recognizes the principles enshrined in the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights, which, with the Democratic Charter, generate the system of legal and political obligations that comprise and govern the inter-American system.

I should like to mention the importance that the agreement attaches to the principle of monopoly of the use of force by the state. This is a basic prerogative in the defense of democracy, in efforts to combat violence, and in the implementation of an effective policy to disarm the civilian population. With regard to security, it is clearly the responsibility of the state through the National Armed Forces and the police. Managing the police falls within the jurisdiction of civilian authorities who should work together through the efforts of the Citizen Safety Coordination.

In this respect, the agreement does not completely solve the discrepancies that have arisen nor does it widen differences in the interpretation of these cases. It is a contribution allowing this process to fall within the context of existing legal standards and respect for judicial decisions. It is inconceivable that the parties’ interpretation could somehow affect the decentralization processes embodied in the Constitution. The criterion of full respect for constitutional norms and the powers of the branches of government ultimately prevailed over other considerations regarding cyclical requirements or political expediency.

We also hope that the National Assembly will carry out the mandate of selecting a Truth Commission that will help to shed light on the extremely grave acts perpetrated in April 2002 and identify those responsible, so as to allow the Venezuelan judiciary to impose corresponding sanctions and prevent such acts from being treated with impunity.

Section 12 contains the principal achievement of the agreement. Undoubtedly, the possible application of Article 72, should these constitutional requirements be met according to the National Electoral Council, represents the peaceful, democratic, electoral and constitutional solution that we have so intensely searched for in the Forum for Negotiation and Agreement. I believe that I am speaking for the international community as a whole in saying that the agreement reached by the parties is the solution referred to in resolution 833 of the OAS Permanent Council, which we have all invoked as being necessary and indispensable during this period of intense turbulence, sweeping change, and major discord in the country’s institutional life.

The urgent selection of the new CNE by the National Assembly is essential in order to have a reliable, transparent, and impartial electoral arbiter. The parties have pledged to carry out that function at the party level and not to interfere with the process. Equally important is the parties’ commitment not to amend the Suffrage and Political Participation Law, which I am certain that the political groups in the National Assembly will respect. It has been made clear to everyone that the date for the election or elections will be set by the new National Electoral Council, as established by law.

I would also like to underscore the commitment of all to freedom of expression, as set out in the Constitution, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Inter-American Democratic Charter. The two parties have pledged to work to promote the purposes set forth in this agreement and in the Declaration against Violence and for Peace and Democracy. It is therefore incumbent on everyone to ensure that this freedom is preserved.

It is especially important to make citizens aware, in an objective and impartial manner, of political options, since, as indicated in the agreement, this would contribute to creating the appropriate climate for holding the revocatory referenda referred to in Article 72. Given the intense debate now under way in the Assembly on the Contents Law, it is a matter of priority to ensure that in any text that may be approved, freedom of expression will remain intact under the terms of this agreement. A frank debate with journalists and the media is critical. It is not only useful but may be necessary to achieving that objective, which is so essential to the preservation of democratic values.

I am convinced of the relevance of Article 15, which leaves no doubt about the readiness of President Chávez’ administration to honor its legal obligations and provide financial resources and security for holding the election or elections established by the CNE.

The Facilitator thanks the group of friends: Brazil, the United States, Mexico, Spain, Chile, and Portugal for their significant support in helping us to discharge our lofty responsibilities.

I would like to reiterate the offer of the OAS, the Carter Center, and the UNDP to provide such cooperation in electoral matters as may be requested of them, as stipulated in the agreement.

On behalf of the three institutions, I should once again like to thank the President Chavez’ administration, Vice President José Vicente Rangel, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the ministers who participated in the government delegation, the governors, the National Assembly deputies, and the other members of the Coordinadora Democrática for their efforts, their conscientiousness, their commitment, and their steadfast resolve to reach an agreement that has brought us to this moment of national understanding. This should be a moment of profound reflection and of adjustment that will place Venezuela once again on the path of social stability, respect for the rule of law, and observance of the constitutional system, as well as of growth, social justice, and prosperity for all.

We wish to thank the public and private media for the generosity and consideration with which we were treated. To the journalists who covered the Forum, our thanks for their patience and constant companionship.

We hope that the institutions, the Government, and the opposition will undertake to break any impasse that might arise with regard to the principles of this declaration, by means of the ongoing liaison they have decided to create. We are prepared to carry out the task of working with the parties, as referred to in section 18, and any other task for which our assistance may be requested.

As Secretary General of the OAS, I express my gratitude to President Carter for his ongoing concern and support, as well as to his entire team. My thanks to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who personally monitored the process in detail, in particular during the most heated and risky moments. My thanks to Helena Martínez, Jennifer McCoy, and Franciso Díez, key individuals in the establishment and the effective operations of the Forum. And my thanks to my Chief of Staff, Fernando Jaramillo, for his hard and effective work, and to the representatives of the OAS and the UNDP in Venezuela.

In conclusion, I would like to say that in this agreement there were neither victors nor vanquished. It is a good agreement for all Venezuelans, for their democratic institutions, and for the future of each citizen, in particular the children of Venezuela.

Thank you very much.