The Club de Madrid asks the EU, OAS and UNASUR to commit to ensuring transparent elections, freedom of the press and the release of political prisoners in Venezuela
Venezuela, one of the countries with the longest democratic tradition in the Americas, is set to hold parliamentary elections in the last quarter of this year, according to its own legislation. No official date has, however, yet been set for these elections, while the political, social and economic situation is continuously and rapidly deteriorating and the infringement of democratic rights and guarantees is growing at an alarming rate.
In this context, the Club de Madrid, an independent organization dedicated to strengthening democracy and composed of over one hundred democratically elected former Presidents and Prime Ministers from 70 countries, urgently calls on the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela once again to put an end to this dramatic situation and remove the barriers that are hindering the country’s democratic progress.
First of all, it is necessary for the National Electoral Council to set a date for the elections to Parliament without delay. This is a necessary but not sufficient condition. It is not enough to hold elections; it is also necessary for them to be free and fair. An electoral process in which those wishing to participate are not free to do so, imprisoned for disagreeing with the Government, is neither free nor fair. The Club de Madrid, therefore, once again calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners, regardless of the politics they stand for, and especially for the release of Leopoldo López, Antonio Ledezma and Daniel Ceballos, whose conditions in prison raise serious fears for their health and physical integrity. Our concern for all of them is such that we demand the immediate presence and assistance of the UNASUR, the competent United Nations organizations and the International Red Cross.
Fair, inclusive elections are also not possible without freedom of the press and of expression. The mere existence of critical media that can carry on their work without political or economic pressures is a vital prerequisite for ensuring the validity of every vote. It is inconceivable for a democracy to sentence the director of a major media outlet, without a trial, simply for reproducing articles appearing in the foreign press.
Elections must not only be free and fair; they must also appear to be so. The international community must cooperate for this to occur. We therefore call upon the National Electoral Counsel of Venezuela to request qualified election observation missions from the European Union and the OAS to monitor the impartiality of the elections. We also call the Government of Venezuela to facilitate these missions at least three months prior to the elections.
In addition to this, the Club de Madrid, on the occasion of the CELAC – EU summit meeting in Brussels on 10 and 11 June, where 61 heads of state and government of Latin America Caribbean and the European Union will meet, calls on the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament to activate all mechanisms for dialogue within their reach. The Club de Madrid particularly endorses the resolution of the 12th of March 2015 of the European Parliament and its “demand for an ad hoc European Parliament delegation to be sent to assess the situation in Venezuela and to hold a dialogue with all sectors involved in the conflict as soon as possible”.
At the same time, it is necessary to prevent the total collapse of the Venezuelan economy and to put an end to the shortage of basic necessities and medicines, which could lead to a humanitarian crisis of great proportions.
The construction of spaces for dialogue and political agreements is the best way to solve the severe crisis and deep political divide that are smothering the country. The Club de Madrid respectfully offers the Government and people of Venezuela the democratic experience of its Members to help launch a dialogue process, involving all the political forces, without exception, and the different sectors of Venezuelan society. Its sincere wish is to overcome, through the use of democratic tools and processes, the major barriers to democratic progress in Venezuela.
President of the Club de Madrid
President of Latvia (1999-2007)