Accessibility links

Calm Returns to Venezuela - 2002-04-17


Calm has returned to Venezuela after last week's dramatic events and newly restored President Hugo Chavez is seeking reconciliation with his opponents. Independent voices from both inside and outside the country are calling on all Venezuelans to make an effort towards mutual understanding.

In the first normal business day in Caracas since the middle of last week, the voices of restraint and conciliation dominated local discussions. Business leaders and others who had opposed President Hugo Chavez expressed their willingness to engage in dialogue with him.

Visiting Secretary-General of the Organization of American States Cesar Gaviria met with President Chavez as well as representatives of various sectors and called on all to come together. He said, "polarization should give way to understanding."

He said it is very important that all public figures in Venezuela begin a process of reflection so that dissent can be expressed within the constitution.

Mr. Gaviria said he could not make any other pronouncement on what had occurred here because he had yet to meet with representatives of other important sectors. He promised to provide more information at a news conference here in Caracas Wednesday, before he returns to Washington.

Among ideas discussed by Mr. Gaviria and members of opposition parties, the National Assembly and communications media representatives was a proposal to establish a truth commission to investigate the violent events of the past several days. Several opposition lawmakers expressed interest in this idea.

As for a national dialogue with President Chavez, some opponents remained skeptical. One congressional deputy said Mr. Chavez would have to make some profound changes in policy or all his talk of reconciliation will be a lie.

One prominent person who expressed confidence in the president, however, was Caracas Catholic Archbishop Ignacio Velazco. He said that in a private meeting with Mr. Chavez, the president had said recent events were "a lesson from God from which we all should learn something."

But opposition leaders say they will need to see such contrite expressions translated into concrete action before they put trust in Mr. Chavez. They say the dialogue that is needed in Venezuela is not something that can be done in a matter of days, but something that will require weeks and even months to accomplish.

XS
SM
MD
LG