June 5th, 2007 08:22 EST
Venezuela Press Restrictions: U.S. Urges Probe
Washington -- The United States is urging the head of the Organization of American States (OAS) to visit Venezuela to investigate the clampdown on press freedom by the Andean nation’s government.
In June 4 remarks in Panama City, Panama, at the OAS 37th General Assembly, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza should report on the press freedom situation in Venezuela in keeping with the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
That charter, adopted by the OAS in September 2001, says the OAS secretary-general may visit a country when “situations arise in a member state that may affect the development of its democratic political institutional process or the legitimate exercise of power.”
Rice said the charter also directs the secretary-general to present a full report on the situation to the OAS foreign ministers. (See related article.)
Rice praised Venezuelan citizens who “are raising their voices in peaceful protest” of the Venezuelan government’s May 27 closing of a television station called Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV). Rice said Insulza and many international groups and institutions “have added their voices” in expressing concern about the situation.
Venezuelan students, journalists and opposition activists have been demonstrating against RCTV’s closure.
The State Department described RCTV as the country’s “only independent television network with nationwide broadcast coverage.” (See related article.)
Rice added that the U.S. Senate also has called on the OAS to address the press freedom situation in Venezuela.
The secretary said in additional remarks that day that in a democracy, a country’s citizens “should have the assurance that the policies of their government will be held up for criticism by a free and independent press without the interference of their government. The citizens of the United States have that assurance. I sincerely hope that the citizens of Venezuela will have that assurance as well.”
Several global press advocacy groups, including Reporters Without Borders, have accused Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez of aiming to eliminate all opposition press in Venezuela.
The Paris-based group said in a May 31 statement that Chavez has tried to intimidate another independent Venezuelan station called Globovision.
FREEDOM FOR CUBA
The OAS, Rice said, must “defend freedom where it is under siege” in the Western Hemisphere “and we must support freedom whenever and wherever it is denied.”
In that regard, she said, a “process of change” is occurring in Cuba and the OAS must “be ready to help the Cuban people realize their aspirations and freedom.”
Rice said no country in the hemisphere, including the United States, “should, can, or will determine Cuba’s political and economic future.” That decision, she said, is for “Cubans in Cuba. But it is our responsibility as American democracies to help the Cuban people chart whatever course they freely desire.”
WESTERN HEMISPHERE ENERGY INDEPENDENCE
Rice also discussed the issue of energy, the paramount theme of the OAS assembly. She said the United States is leading the way in securing more energy independence for the region by providing over the past six years more than $12 billion for research into alternate energy sources. (See related article.)
Rice said the United States and Brazil recently concluded a bilateral agreement on biofuels, which will deepen research and investment between the two countries, and help the region’s developing countries “to supply energy for themselves and others.” The Bush administration, she said, realizes that biofuels will be critical to “diversifying” the region’s use of energy.
President Bush also has announced, she said, a long-term strategy to address global climate change, calling for the world’s top 15 industrialized countries to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (See related article.)
Rice said the United States seeks to promote “democratization of energy in the Americas” by increasing the number of energy suppliers, expanding trade markets and reducing supply disruption.
The secretary said that solving the challenge of energy will “clearly strengthen the link between democracy and development” in the Americas, which will contribute to the long-term success of democracy region in the region.
“But we must always remember that our greatest source of energy as democracies is not oil, or gas, wind or water, biofuels or fossil fuels; it is the talent and the creativity” of the people of the Americas, said Rice.
A transcript of Rice’s remarks to the OAS plenary session and additional remarks on press freedom to the same body are available on the State Department Web site.
The full text of the Reporters Without Borders statement is available on the group’s Web site.