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U.S. Calls for Early Elections in Venezuela

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 13, 2002

Statement by the Press Secretary
U.S. Reaffirms Support for OAS Secretary General's Efforts in Venezuela
and Calls for Early Elections

The United States is deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Venezuela. In the past week the shooting of peaceful demonstrators, attacks on television, radio, and newspaper media outlets and disruptions to the Venezuelan economy have created a grave situation. These events have caused great pain and hardship in Venezuela. The Venezuelan people deserve better.

The United States calls on all sides to reject violence and intimidation, and to act responsibly. We urge a peaceful, democratic, constitutional, and politically viable electoral solution to Venezuela's crisis. We reaffirm our support for OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria's efforts in Caracas to facilitate such an outcome. Secretary General Gaviria has strong hemispheric support for the dialogue and mediation process that he is chairing, evidenced by the many expressions of support from hemispheric leaders. The United States is actively engaged, working with the OAS and with hemispheric leaders, to help achieve these objectives.

We note the Secretary General's recent public warning on the need to negotiate soon, in the next few days, or risk further polarization that could erupt into violence. We echo the Secretary General, and call on all sides to redouble their commitment to this dialogue and to national reconciliation. We also urge the Government of Venezuela to exercise its constitutional responsibility to respect individual rights and fundamental freedoms, and to adhere to the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

While the hemispheric community and other friends will do all they can to help, only Venezuelans themselves can resolve their own problems. The United States is convinced that the only peaceful and politically viable path to moving out of the crisis is through the holding of early elections.

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