Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (78)

John Perry


204 Mr. Perry asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the political situation in Venezuela; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25232/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The political situation in Venezuela in recent months has been focused on the outcome of the presidential recall referendum held on 15 August 2004. President Hugo Chavez won this referendum with 59% of the vote and the result has been endorsed by the main international observers, the Organisation of American States and the Carter Center, whose observer mission was headed by the former US President, Jimmy Carter. The United States has also recognised that the referendum result is valid.

The European Union did not deploy an observer mission for the recall referendum due to a lack of agreement with the Venezuelan electoral authorities on methodology. However, it supported the role of the OAS and the Carter Center and in a statement on the outcome of the referendum, the Netherlands Presidency congratulated Venezuela on the historically large turnout and hoped that political stability would soon return to that country, with all parties contributing to this end.

While the referendum result has thus been widely acknowledged internationally, opposition parties in Venezuela have continued to claim that the results were tainted by electoral malpractices. In the run-up to the referendum those opposed to President Chavez had organised under the umbrella group, Coordinadora Democrática, democratic co-ordinator. However, there have been reports since the referendum of divisions within the opposition, with some smaller parties announcing that they intend to boycott state and municipal elections now scheduled to take place on 31 October 2004.

The European Union, while welcoming the conduct and outcome of the recall referendum, remains concerned about aspects of a number of policies being pursued by the Venezuelan Government, particularly on the independence of the judiciary and the media. Ireland shares the hope of our EU partners that the referendum outcome can lead to a process of national reconciliation. We will continue to monitor the political situation in Venezuela and seek to engage constructively with the administration of President Chavez.