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Annan, President Chávez discuss Venezuela crisis

Annan, President Chávez discuss issues surrounding G-77, crisis in Venezuela

16 January – With Venezuela handing over chairmanship of the Group of 77 developing countries today at United Nations Headquarters in New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan took the occasion to meet with President Hugo Chávez to discuss several issues concerning the caucus and well as the situation in that country.

According to a readout of the meeting provided by a UN spokesman, the talks addressed the efforts of the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, César Gaviria, and the manner in which the UN could help Venezuela overcome the current crisis.

President Chávez expressed his views on the state of affairs and on further ways to find a solution, the statement said. He explained that a first step had been taken toward the formation of a Group of Friends of Venezuela.

"The Secretary-General reiterated his concern regarding the situation and emphasized the need to take further steps in accordance with the Constitution and respect for democratic principles, justice and human rights," the statement said. "The problem of governability in the country requires concerted efforts from all sides to reduce tensions. This is a process in which the international community could be of assistance."

Earlier Thursday, President Chávez told a press conference that once established, the Group of Friends could assist "Venezuela and its government and institutions, and could benefit democracy" in the country. As for the idea of former Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez of Spain serving as a mediator from the Group, President Chávez replied that he did not have any information about Mr. Gonzalez's role.

"The Secretary-General had said to me that given our request that some personal envoy come from him to participate in those efforts," a list of candidates was currently under review, President Chávez said.



Stating that there would be no civil war in Venezuela, its President Hugo Chavez Frias said this afternoon at a Headquarters press conference that what his Government was confronting was a “subversive movement”, which used terrorism to impose its views against the national Constitution.

President Chavez was currently in New York to hand over the chairmanship of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China to Morocco. He said that following the coup last April, his Government had resumed “a democratic life and the constitutional path”.

Asked if he would accept the referendum proposed for 2 February, he said that it would be “very nearly impossible” to hold such a referendum so soon. The “desperate people” in the opposition had tried to go around the country's Constitution, which only provided for the possibility of a mid-term referendum. Mid-term in his current term would mean mid-August. Calling for elections right now, he stressed, would be a violation of the Constitution.

As for the proposal by the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Cesar Gaviria, to hold the referendum between May and June, President Chavez said that he was not aware of such a proposal. Mr. Gaviria, having been invited to Venezuela by President Chavez, was working under a personal mandate and not one from the OAS. Former United States President Jimmy Carter had also been invited and he would be meeting with him on Saturday. In addition, the United Nations had sent a senior official from the United Nations Development Programme. Mr. Gaviria was acting within an international tripartite commission of good offices solely as a facilitator for the dialogue.

He was also asked if it would be a good idea for former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez to serve as a mediator from the “Group of Friends”. He replied that once set up, the Group could benefit the situation in Venezuela. He did not have any information about Mr. Gonzalez's role. He had also requested the Secretary-General to appoint a special envoy and a list of candidates was currently being reviewed.

Refuting allegations that he was a dictator, he said that he could provide many examples of how his Government had acted on the basis of democracy and with respect for political and human rights. Thousands in Venezuela were suffering from “psychotic dissociation”, whereby one thing or person -– in this case him

-- was being blamed for all of the country's ills.

Asked how much oil was coming out of Venezuela every day, he said that it was about 1 million barrels a day -- about 33 per cent, getting close to 40 per cent of its production allowed under OPEC allotments. That decrease was the result of sabotage by those involved in the subversive movement, who had struck at the very heart of Venezuela. He noted that they had failed in their “oil coup” just as they had failed in the military coup in April.

Concerning the role of the United States in what was happening today in his country, he believed that the psychological campaign underway in Venezuela

was being planned and financed with the help of individuals in the United States.

On Iraq, he hoped that all differences between it and the international community could be resolved through diplomacy.


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