U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release April 18, 2002
Remarks of the Secretary of State
Colin L. Powell
Special Session of the General Assembly of the Organization of
April 18, 2002
We, the Inter-American Community,
convene here today in Special Session to underscore our strong
support for the people of Venezuela and for their
We condemn the blows to constitutional order
that Venezuela has suffered. We look to the legal authorities
of Venezuela to hold accountable all who violated the law both
before and during the recent crisis. And we call upon President
Chavez to follow with deeds his new pledges of national
reconciliation and respect for democratic principles.
The crisis in Venezuelan
democracy that brings us to this Special Session did not begin
last week. It built and deepened over many months. Venezuelan
democracy has been crippled for too long by polarizing rhetoric
and action. For many months, we, and others, have expressed our
deep concern about this.
The events of April 11 are a call to
all present to reaffirm our collective commitment to democracy
and constitutional order.
There is no justification for any
government to prevent its citizens from exercising their
That said, it is incumbent upon all
elements of society to seek resolution of grievances through
This is the era in our
hemisphere of democracies, not dictatorships, of constitutions,
not coup d'etats. Coups are a thing of the past, not a pathway
to the future.
In a democracy, no one can be above, or
outside of, the rule of law. Democracies do not remain
democracies for long if elected leaders use undemocratic methods.
And defending democracy by resorting to undemocratic means
If the people of Venezuela are
to succeed in building better lives for themselves and better
futures for their children, their political leaders now must
come together to resolve problems constructively and
My country welcomes the voices in
Venezuela calling for a national dialogue. We also agree with
Venezuelans who say this is a time for reconciliation, not
retaliation. For calm, not hate. A time to respect differences
and reflect on mistakes.
We now look to President Chavez to lead
his country out of this crisis by acting on those words. And we
urge all democratic forces in Venezuela from political life, civil
society, the business community, and labor, to participate in that
But it is not only the people of
Venezuela who must reflect on and learn from what happened there.
Our Inter-American Community must do so as well. All of us must
examine how we could have used the mechanisms of the Democratic
April 11 to better support Venezuelan
We must do this not just for
Venezuela's sake, but for all our sakes, because the consolidation
of democracy in our hemisphere is profoundly important to all of
us -- to our freedom, to our prosperity, and to our security.
Venezuelans themselves must
resolve their problems, but they need our support. With our
support, they must address the underlying causes of the current
crisis. With our help, they must strengthen their democratic
institutions so that the depredations that their democracy has
suffered are not repeated in Venezuela or anywhere else in our
In this effort, our Inter-American
Democratic Charter and the democratic principles it enshrines must
be our guide.
We must take a balanced approach
as we work together with Venezuela's government and society to
advance human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Together, we must also promote a
pluralistic system of political parties and organizations in
With our support, Venezuelans must ensure
that all of their state institutions are subordinate to legally
constituted civilian authority.
In keeping with the letter and spirit of
the Democratic Charter, I propose that this Assembly mandate our
Secretary General to facilitate the national dialogue within
Venezuela. And I hope that the people and government of Venezuela
will accept the Secretary General's offer of his good offices.
Let us act today to put our
Democratic Charter to work for the people of Venezuela.