September 20, 2007
Venezuela's sharp political divide spilled into The Miami Herald Americas Conference Thursday as a top U.S. official admitted he had ''no adequate solution'' to a complaint by the head of a Venezuelan television station that his country was sliding into a dictatorship.
The director of Globovisión, Alberto Ravell, was applauded when he said a proposed constitutional change would make Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez ``an indefinitely reelected monarch.''
''You speak of a transition in Cuba from a dictatorship to a democracy,'' Ravell commented in Spanish, following a speech by Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Thomas Shannon. ``And it seems that in Venezuela we have a transition from a democracy to a dictatorship.''
Ravell, whose TV news-only network has been threatened with closure by Chávez, said he understood that the Venezuelans had to work out their differences without the interference of foreigners, but wanted to know the U.S. position.
''I have no adequate solution to what you describe,'' Shannon responded. ``I recognize and respect the anguish that was in the question.''
He said U.S. concerns over events in Venezuela, which is expected to vote in December over proposed constitutional reforms, were ``well-known.''
But, Shannon said, the political divisions ''ultimately'' had to be resolved by the Venezuelans themselves.
''But the United States and others in the region can play an important role in creating a context in which this can take place,'' Shannon said, noting nations can defend democratic principals and speak out through multilateral venues to ''remind'' the Venezuelans about the nature of the democratic hemisphere.
Relations between Caracas and Washington have chilled as Chávez has allied himself with U.S. foes Iran and Cuba and blasted President Bush as an ``imperialist.''
Chávez has proposed constitutional reforms that would allow for his reelection without term limits, among other changes.