Friday, May 20, 2011

Lawmakers urge democratic reforms in Cuba, Venezuela

Lawmakers urge democratic reforms in Cuba, Venezuela
Published: May 19, 2011 at 5:42 PM

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, May 19 (UPI) -- The need for democratic reform in
Latin America is felt nowhere as acutely as in Cuba and Venezuela,
European and South American lawmakers meeting in Uruguay's capital
concluded after two days of talks.

The parliamentarians' findings did not surprise participants or the
media covering the event but pointed to what even left-wing analysts and
commentators see as an embarrassing re-interpretation of socialist
ideals in the two countries.

Cuba's recent move towards a slow freeing up of communist hold on all
economic activity in the Central American country was welcomed by the
delegates, who pointed to a continuing lack of basic freedoms in the

In Venezuela, suppression of liberties was compounded by the government
of President Hugo Chavez failing to make a distinction between
government and state institutions. A frequent complaint against Chavez
is that his aides regularly negate public expectations of the government
keeping its hands off state institutions.

Venezuelan ruling party policies were seen by lawmakers to be abusing
state institutions for partisan gain.

The lawmakers, drawn from the European Union and Latin American
countries, approved two resolutions that pointed to the lack of freedoms
in Cuba and doubts over the arrangements in place for next year's
presidential election in Venezuela. Chavez is seeking re-election for a
third term ending in 2019.

The meeting of the fifth ordinary plenary session of the Euro-Latin
American Parliamentary Assembly, Eurolat, was attended by lawmakers from
Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela,
and by European parliamentarians from France, Italy, Luxembourg,
Slovakia, Spain among others.

In the absence of Cuban participation the lawmakers declared solidarity
with the "Cuban democrats that struggle inside and outside the island
for freedom and full compliance with human rights in the Republic of
Cuba" despite the conditions enforced by the style of government pursued
by Raoul Castro with the ideological blessing of elder brother Fidel.

The people of Cuba, they said, had legitimate aspirations towards an
immediate transition to full democratic order and political process -- a
criticism of the gradual approach adopted in introducing reforms.

At the talks, Cuban leaders faced demands for "freedom of the press,
freedom of action for political parties in a pluralist framework, free
democratic elections and equally fair conditions for parties and
candidates." Despite the government's promise to let Cubans practice a
sort of free market capitalism, all those freedoms remain retrenched and
no mention is made of any changes coming any time soon.

On Venezuela, the lawmakers were forthright in expressing support for
the Democratic Unified Panel, the combined opposition that hopes to
challenge Chavez at the next election.

There was no immediate Venezuelan government reaction to calls by the
lawmakers to observe the basic conditions to ensure a fair election
within the framework of full respect for human rights, freedom of
expression and pluralism.

Chavez has also faced calls to allow the presence of international
observers at the coming elections, a demand reiterated by the lawmakers
in Montevideo.

Eurolat lawmakers also requested the Venezuelan government to refrain
from using state institutions to the service of a political party, from
using public propaganda and from obstructing the actions of opposition
political parties, so as to ensure respect for democratic coexistence,
the Venezuelan El Universal newspaper reported.

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