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Contact:
Pedro Pizano
Human Rights Foundation
(212) 246.8486
pedro@thehrf.org

OAS: HRF calls on Secretary General Insulza to Promote an Electoral Observation Mission in Venezuela

New York (March 15, 2013) – The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) calls on the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, to undertake diplomatic initiatives with the National Electoral Council (CNE) of Venezuela so that they invite an OAS electoral observation mission to monitor the upcoming April 14 elections, ensuring they are free and fair.

“Since 1962, the OAS has implemented around 200 electoral observation missions, both under normal democratic situations as well as to monitor transitions from autocratic governments toward democracy,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “The democratic transitions from Sandinista Nicaragua in 1990 and Fujimori’s Peru in 2000 were both supervised closely by the OAS. By excluding it from this general election, the Venezuelan government makes it clear that they will not allow for an independent institution to monitor the electoral process,” Halvorssen continued.

In 1990, the OAS electoral observation mission sent 433 delegates to Nicaragua to guarantee that the transition process toward democracy yielded an outcome that was free and fair. These diplomatic initiatives facilitated the peaceful transfer of power from the authoritarian Sandinista government to a democratic coalition led by Violeta Chamorro.

Similarly, in 2000, an OAS electoral observation mission —headed by the prestigious Guatemalan diplomat Eduardo Stein— played an important supervisory role during the controversial third reelection of Peru’s Alberto Fujimori. In the face of the numerous electoral maneuvers employed by Fujimori’s government, the OAS observation mission abandoned the country before the vote took place and submitted a final report concluding, “that the conditions of the electoral process that the Mission has observed would not permit a free and fair contest.”

On March 9, the president of the CNE of Venezuela, Tibisay Lucena, requested the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to form a merely “accompanying” electoral mission, which lacks the oversight powers of the traditional electoral observation missions of the OAS.

“UNASUR did well to strongly condemn the 2009 coup d’état in Honduras, but they made a mistake in condemning and suspending the democratic government of Paraguay, after the impeachment that constitutionally removed President Lugo in 2012,” explained Halvorssen. “At the same time, UNASUR has maintained a deafening silence regarding the erosion of democracy and the violation of human rights in Venezuela, even though this situation has been extensively documented. In general, UNASUR has dedicated itself to defending the executive powers in the region, regardless of whether they govern democratically or not,” he concluded.

Article 24 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter states that electoral observation missions will be carried out at the request of the state concerned and that, following an agreement with the OAS General Secretariat, the state will guarantee conditions of security, free access to information, and full cooperation with the electoral observation mission.

“Democratic governments routinely request support from this type of diplomatic missions in order to guarantee the transparency of their electoral processes. However, the government of Venezuela is not a democratic government as defined by articles 3 and 4 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which is why it has no interest in having an international, impartial and independent body overseeing these elections,” said HRF international legal director Javier El-Hage.

In anticipation of this scenario, articles 18 and 20 of the Democratic Charter call on the OAS Secretary General to bring the situation to the attention of the OAS Permanent Council, so as to put some pressure on the infringing governments to allow for the creation of an OAS mission. If these diplomatic initiatives by the Permanent Council fail, then the OAS General Assembly could go as far as suspending the state in question.

HRF protects and promotes human rights. HRF believes that all human beings are entitled to freedom of self-determination, freedom from tyranny, the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF does not support nor condone violence. HRF’s International Council is chaired by pro-democracy activist Garry Kasparov, and includes former prisoners of conscience George Ayittey, Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.

Contact: Pedro Pizano, pedro@thehrf.org, 212-246-8486.

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