We are very happy to report that dozens of letters have come in, calling upon Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis to withdraw his lies and slander against the Venezuelan revolution. [You can read more on Karygiannis’ letter, including HOV’s original appeal here.] And, the letters continue to come in! Furthermore, HOV’s campaign has garnered a lot of attention on social media — check out the campaign on Storify.
The campaign has forced Karygiannis to reply, which we publish below, where he alleges that a power “vacuum” currently exists in Venezuela:
Subject: RE: Your outrageously ignorant comments on Venezuela.
Thank you for your email.
I was asked by my constituents who are members of the Canadian Venezuelan community to urge the Canadian government to hold an emergency debate in the House of Commons with respect to the present situation in Venezuela. I strongly believe that it is the duty of a member of parliament to represent his constituents.
The inability to have Hugo Chávez sworn in as President following the recent elections is creating a vacuum in the Government of Venezuela.
Thank you for bringing your concerns to my attention, they will be given due consideration.
Hands Off Venezuela supporter, Maria Paez Victor, has a great rebuttal to Karygiannis, which we also publish below. As well, we are re-printing a selection of some of the letters that we have received. We encourage supporters of the Venezuelan revolution to continue writing in as the campaign is having an effect. HOV met with another Scarborough MP yesterday and other meetings are in the pipeline. Feel free to answer Karygiannis’ claims of a power vacuum in Venezuela.
Response from Maria Paez:
Dear Mr. Karygiannis:
Your Liberal colleague, John McCallum, has this famous quote by John Maynard Keynes on his web site: “When the facts change, I change my mind — what do you do, Sir?”
Please do me the honour of reading this e-mail which will contain facts that I believe will be new to you .
Despite the physical absence of Hugo Chávez, there is a fully functioning government: the Executive, the Legislature and the Judicial powers have all acted according to the provisions of the Constitution in the case of the illness of the president.
One man, albeit president, is not the whole government.
The Organization of American States has clearly recognized the ruling of the Supreme Court of that country, that there is no untoward, unusual nor unconstitutional absence of the president.
The reality is:
On 7 October 2012, Hugo Chávez was elected with a very substantial margin of 12% above his rival and a voter turnout of 81%. This was the will of the people, a fundamental fact, much more important than the date of a formal ceremony.
On 8 December, Chávez informed that his cancer had returned and asked the National Assembly permission to be operated in Cuba. It unanimously gave Chávez permission to go to Cuba to be operated, permission valid for 90 consecutive days.
On 16 December, the government party (PSUV) candidates for state governors won a landslide victory, winning 20 out of 23 states; it was a victory not only of one man, but a government program and a party.
Constant press releases inform about the health of Chávez — up to now, delicate but stable.
The Constitution (Article 231) indicates that if for any unforeseen reason, if the president-elect cannot be sworn in on January 10, he can do so before the Supreme Court, and it does not specify a necessary date.
The Constitution (Article 234) indicates that a President who becomes temporarily unavailable to serve shall be replaced by the Vice-President (in this case Nicolás Maduro) for a period of up to 90 days, which may be extended by the Assembly for another 90 days. If the temporary absence continues further, the Assembly has the power to decide by a majority vote whether the unavailability of the president should be considered permanent.
The Constitution (Article 233) determines that the reasons for a permanent unavailability of a president are :
- removal from office by the Supreme Court
- permanent physical or mental incapacity certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Court with the approval of the Assembly
- abandonment of his position, duly declared by the Assembly
- recall by popular vote
NONE OF THESE REASONS APPLY TODAY.
The Supreme Court ruled that there is no absolute absence of the President as he has duly obtained permission (unanimously) from the National Assembly and the Vice-President is doing the duties he is mandated to do.
If there were a permanent unavailability of a President, the President of the National Assembly shall take charge of the Presidency and new elections must be held within 30 days.
The Vice- president is not elected by popular vote, but chosen by the President. Therefore, if there is a permanent absence of Chávez, Nicolás Maduro has to win the elections to be able to be president.
There is a democratically elected president and state governors. There is a functioning government party whose campaign program was clearly endorsed by the vote. The Executive, Legislature, and Supreme Court have all acted according to the Constitution on the matter of the president’s illness.
There is obvious rule of law. The OAS has recognized this.
THERE IS NO POWER VACUUM OR CRISIS.
It is possible that Chávez may become permanently absent, but he has transformed Venezuela into a prosperous country where oil income is used to establish public services (such as education health, housing, food security), not for the exclusive use of the elites as before.
As a Canadian I am shocked and disturbed that such a group is taking advantage of you and through you, the Canadian parliamentarian system and the Liberal Party. The so-called Venezuelan “diaspora” is acting under the orders of the anti-democratic Venezuelan opposition. I believe that it has only been the lack of knowledge of the political and legal situation of Venezuela that could have made you allay yourself with people who have fully backed coup d'etats and kidnapping .
I am more than willing to have a dialogue with you and the Liberal Party about this situation at your convenience. I bring to you these facts under the strength of my first hand knowledge of the country, its political actors, its language, and laws.
Mr. Karygiannis: you can stand with the tiny remnants of a corrupt elite, or you can stand with the achievements and hopes of the people of Venezuela.
What you do will affect the opinion that thousands of Canadians of Latin American background have of yourself and the Liberal Party.
Maria Páez Victor, MA, Ph.D
Human Rights Press
Selection of letters received:
Dear Hon. Jim Karygiannis,
Thank you for your response. I fear you have been dragged into a partisan, political action by your ill-informed constituents.
In fact, the Supreme Court of Venezuela ruled it legal for Hugo Chavez to not attend the inauguration ceremony for his government.
On January 9, Venezuela’s Supreme Court ruled against the opposition’s interpretation of the constitution, and clarified that the January 10 inauguration was not necessary for the Chavez government to continue in power for the constitutional period of 2013-2019.
Two days later, tens of thousands of supporters of the democratically elected Venezuelan government rallied in the streets in support of the current government.
Again I ask, is this action of yours official Liberal policy? As for a political vacuum, I see one in Ottawa in terms of the reluctance of our Prime Minister in taking consequential action against climate change and his continuing support of the tar sands in Alberta. Perhaps an emergency debate on that topic could serve both Canada and Venezuela to ensure a safe and secure future for all.
Flora Doehler and Larry Knox
Bear River, NS
Dear Mr. Karygiannis.
What an extraordinary statement to make about a democracy in crises and the lack of action from the Canadian government.
No criticism of the undemocratic proroguing of the Canadian parliament, you prefer to criticize the democratically elected government of Venezuela.
In what way is Venezuela not "respecting the rules"? This can only refer to the unspoken rules that allow the exploitation of the Venezuelan people by Canadian and other international oil companies.
What human rights and democracy in Venezuela are you talking about? Do you mean the regime of those who ruled the country for forty years with murder, torture and the slaughter of thousands of innocent people by the secret police who were controlled by the CIA?
Which Venezuelan community are you referring to that is looking toward the Canadian government? Is it the community of the poor and impoverished who have experienced a massive rise in living standards under the present government?
The Chavez government has reduced poverty by half and reduced extreme poverty by seventy per-cent, millions now have healthcare for the first time. College enrolment has doubled and illiteracy has not only been eliminated this fact has been recognized by UNESCO. The number of seniors receiving old age pensions has doubled.
All this while the thousands in Alberta, which is the richest province in Canada, rely on food banks to live.
It is difficult to understand how even the average Canadian could fail to understand that the Chavez government of Venezuela has been democratically elected time and time again under the most rigorous scrutiny.
I would recommend that you read the words of former US President Jimmy Carter because it was his Carter Centre organization that was responsible for monitoring Venezuelan elections. Carter said " I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world".
I would also remind you that the present government on an eighty per-cent turn out received fifty five per-cent of the vote. Would you challenge these kind of figures with regard to an election in Canada ? I think not.
There is an ongoing campaign by international big business who want nothing more than to exploit the people of Venezuela, this campaign is aided and abetted by many hostile governments and their lackeys in the media.
The outpourings on your website and your petition to the Harper government do a great disservice to the people of Venezuela.
Keith Norman Wyatt
Dear Mr. Karygiannis:
As Liberal Critic for Multiculturalism you have sent a petition to the Conservative Government to have an emergency debate on Venezuela's democracy.
Given the current state of our own Canadian Government and our diminishing National and International Reputation it would be in Canada’s best interest to focus on bringing Democracy back to Canada.
I am sure you are familiar with the long list of ‘Made in Canada Parliamentary’ actions that are destroying our own Democracy.
- Election Fraud (In Court)
- Destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board (In Court)
- Omnibus bill C-38
- Salmon Farming threatening both our coasts, DFO continuing to issue licenses in spite of the Cohen Commission recommendations.
- The destruction of First Nation treaty rights through Bill C-45. (Including massive attacks on our environment)
- Hunger Strikes on the steps of our own Parliament.
- Enbridge Pipeline Hearing Environmental Processes attacked by omnibus bill C-38
- NGO’s seeking to protect the environment being demonized and vilified as ‘radicals’.
- An agreement to do business with China that threatens our own sovereignty and national security.
- The Hupacasath First Nation filing a legal injunction to stop the passage of the Canada-China FIPA.
And finally an overhaul of Immigration and refugee laws that rejects our traditions of justice and compassion.
The Venezuelan people need no lessons in democracy from us. Canadians need to get their own house in order. Please bring to the floor your courage and commitment to restore Canadian Democracy in our Canadian Parliament within our own country.
I am shocked by the statements you have made regarding the democratically-elected government in Venezuela, and your assertion that Canada should be pushing for "true democracy". At best your statement was irresponsible, given the fact that the elections in Venezuela are one of the most scrutinized by international observers - who have concluded that they are indeed free and fair. A quick study of international reports on the election process in Venezuela would have made that fact clear. It is a bare minimum that when political representatives make public statements, that they at the very least be researched and not made on a whim.
If this was not an honest mistake of fact, then you are intentionally demonizing and slandering the popular government of Hugo Chavez by distorting the facts. It is interested that you made mention of the suffering of the Venezuelan people. The reality is that over the past decade, significant advances have been made to eliminate extreme poverty, illiteracy and to increase access to health, education and other services. The only people that have been "suffering" is the venezuelan elite and the multinationals whose obscene profits have "suffered" from policy measures to re-distribute wealth.
If it is your opposition to elected governments left-wing and pro-worker polices that leads you to distort and attack the democratic process in Venezuela, then that is shameful. To resort to lies and distortion to attack political "enemies", especially in regards to a government that has faced attempts at coup d'etat by right-wing and pro-business forces, is itself an affront to the democratic spirit and a malicious meddling in Venezuelan politics.
If the errors in your statement were an honest mistake, I would request that you withdraw your petition and apologize to the Venezuelan people and government immediately.