VARIOUS: Leaders in U.S., Bolivia, Mexico and Argentina react to Venezuela's rejection of Hugo...
- Title: VARIOUS: Leaders in U.S., Bolivia, Mexico and Argentina react to Venezuela's rejection of Hugo Chavez's proposed constitutional reform
- Date: 5th December 2007
- Summary: (W5) BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF CHAVEZ, KIRCHNER AND PRESIDENT-ELECT CRISTINA FERNANDEZ DE KIRCHNER
- Reuters ID: LVA8CT6K4244P5FEE163ZLL3WV2B
- Duration: 00:00:09
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- Topics: International Relations
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- Story Text: Leaders across the Americas reacted on Monday (December 03) and Tuesday (December 04) after Venezuelans voted down a constitutional reform package designed to advance President Hugo Chavez's leftist agenda.
In a fiercely contested referendum on Sunday, voters said "No" to a raft of reforms that would have scrapped term limits on Chavez's rule, boosted his powers to expropriate private property and allowed him to censor the media in emergencies.
The razor-thin defeat for Chavez, his first electoral failure since taking office in 1998, came early on Monday, when the national electoral authority said 49.29 percent of the people voted in favor of his reform proposals versus 50.7 percent who voted against. He conceded defeat shortly thereafter.
In Washington, United States President George W. Bush used the Chavez defeat to plug for Congress approval of a free trade agreement with Venezuelan neighbor Colombia.
"They voted for democracy. And the United States can make a difference in South America, in terms of Venezuelan influence. People say, well, how does that affect U.S.-Venezuelan relations, or the relations of Venezuela in South American with other countries, and here's how -- and I like to quote Prime Minister Stephen Harper who said, the biggest fear in South America is not the leader in Venezuela, but the biggest fear for stability is if the United States Congress rejects the free trade agreement with Colombia.
A vote for democracy took place, a very strong vote for democracy. And the United States policy can help promote democracies and stability. And again, I'm going to repeat to you: If the Congress does not pass the free trade agreement with Colombia, it will be a destabilizing moment," said Bush.
The tone was decidedly different in La Paz, Bolivia, where indigenous president Evo Morales, Chavez's closest ally in South America, expressed his respect for Chavez.
Morales, who is also trying to overhaul his country's constitution, asked the opposition to be open to a referendum vote.
"I respect and value Chavez very much. He's democratic. If he were authoritarian he would impose what he thinks to govern. But his desire is to consider the Venezuelan people and Venezuelan people make democratic decisions. That must be respected and here we don't have to be afraid of a referendum. The people can decide the fate of the country," Morales said.
Speaking on Monday, Mexican President Felipe Calderon said that he will respect the self-determination of any nation and congratulated the Venezuelan people for taking part in a democratic decision.
Calderon congratulated Venezuelans for having voted democratically and Chavez for recognizing the result on the same day.
"I would like to express recognition and congratulations to all Venezuelans for taking part in a democratic decision and having done so responsibly as well as to President Hugo Chavez for having recognized, on the same day, a result whether it was favorable or unfavorable for him," the Mexican president said.
He added that Mexico would respect the self-determination of any country.
"I reiterate that we will respect decisions of other countries and the self-determination of any nation. We will respect the self-determination of the Venezuelan people who expressed themselves in the ballot boxes yesterday as well as being respectful of the self-determination of the Colombian people and government in matters pertaining only to them."
Mexico maintains a diplomatic relationship with Venezuela although Chavez has broken ties with Mexico in the past with little impact on trade.
Argentina's center-left president Nestor Kirchner, who has been friendly with Chavez since taking office four years ago, thanked the Venezuelan head of state for helping Argentina through recent rough patches.
Chavez helped lift Argentina over an energy crisis last winter and has bought millions of dollars in Argentine bonds to alleviate debt stress.
"(With) the attitude he's had toward Argentina and that today he's lost an election, he's shown himself to be a great democratic by accepting the results. He lost by 1.23 points, or 1.5 or 2 points. On behalf of the Argentine people, I would like to thank the Venezuelan people and President Chavez for the attitude of solidarity he has had toward Argentina in its difficult moments. And I also congratulate the Venezuelan people on resolving the issue without interfering with their internal system. The resolved democratically, a true example, the issue of constitutional reform. And with one little point, or two little points, there weren't any problems. (Chavez) lost and recognized the defeat with a democratic attitude. And, well, to those who won, we also congratulate them. They achieved a victory and let the Venezuelan people live together and we see that as a very good thing,"
Chavez has also spoken very highly of first lady and president-elect Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and analysts expect the two countries will continue strengthening ties when Fernandez takes over as president next Monday (December 10).
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- Embargoed:20th December 2007 12:00