News Release

Venezuela Referendum: Interviews Available

MARK WEISBROT
Co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Weisbrot testified recently before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations about Venezuela. He said today: “Polls show [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez ahead in the referendum [set for Aug. 15], and according to most press accounts it is because of the government’s success in expanding access to health care, education, literacy programs, and subsidized food for the poor. If he wins, it will be the first time in the region in decades that a government won a national election on the basis of what it did — not promised, but actually did — for poor people. The Bush administration … supported (initially) a military coup in 2002, and sometimes encouraged the Venezuelan opposition in its attempts to overthrow the government by means of oil strikes. But if Chavez wins the referendum, or even if he loses and wins the election that would be scheduled within the next month, the State Department might have to accept the results.”
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GREG PALAST
Palast, an investigative reporter who has done extensive work on Venezuela, wrote the just-released article “Venezuela Floridated: Will The Gang That Fixed Florida Fix the Vote in Caracas This Sunday?” He is also author of the book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.

The following analysts are in Venezuela:
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EDGARDO LANDER
Lander is professor of social sciences at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas.

MARTIN SANCHEZ
GREGORY WILPERT
Sanchez and Wilpert are editors of Venezuelanalysis.com. Wilpert, a sociologist and former Fulbright scholar, said today: “Venezuela’s recall referendum is the most important electoral event in Latin America of the past 10 years. In all likelihood it will ratify a president who has been said to be an unpopular ‘dictator in the making.’ The reason observers who said this got Venezuela so wrong is that they ignored that Chavez actually is a democrat who pays attention to the poor, as this unprecedented referendum and Chavez’s policies prove. However, Venezuela still has a long way to go to become a stronger and better democracy.”
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DEBORAH JAMES
Executive director of the Venezuela Information Office, a D.C.-based organization contracted by the Venezuelan Embassy, James said today: “The anticipated victory by President Chavez in the referendum should lead to a fundamental rethinking of U.S. policy towards Venezuela. Venezuela wants better relations with the United States. Both Venezuela and the United States would benefit from an improved relationship. The sustained efforts by the Venezuelan government to lift up the country’s majority will ultimately lead to a more politically stable Venezuela and a more stable U.S.-Venezuela relationship.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 332-5055; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167