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Venezuela's UN ambassador resigns
Updated: 2004-03-05 13:44

Venezuela's U.N. ambassador resigned Thursday to protest threats to human rights and democracy in the South American nation, blaming President Hugo Chavez for promoting confrontation instead of reconciliation.

Milos Alcalay, a career diplomat who has represented his country for 30 years, said issues that tipped his decision were the National Elections Council's rejection of a petition calling for a recall vote against Chavez and the "overreaction" by army and police during opposition protests on Feb. 27 that left seven dead.

Alcalay said his diplomatic career has been guided by the principles of protecting human rights, a transparent democratic process and an open dialogue for international diplomacy.

"Sadly, Venezuela now is operating devoid of these fundamental principles, which I still remain intensely committed to. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart today that I am resigning from my position," he said.

Tarek William Saab, a ruling party lawmaker who heads the National Assembly's foreign policy commission, called Alcalay a "hypocrite" who failed to speak out against a 2002 coup that toppled Chavez for two days.

"Alcalay's attitude completely lacks credibility," Saab said.

Venezuela's foreign ministry said it had no immediate comment.

On the issue of democracy, the ambassador said he believes the arguments set forth by the Elections Council violate "the spirit and the purpose" of Venezuela's constitution "and rob Venezuelans of the right to affect change through the democratic process."

"Chavez is the elected president of Venezuela, but the constitution establishes referendum," he said. The best way to adhere to the constitution is to allow a referendum, he said.

Alcalay also denounced the Chavez government's human rights record.

"We've seen army and police repression, unacceptable loss of life, disappearance of political leaders and there have been allegations of torture," Alcalay said. "A peaceful demonstration of citizens is no longer feasible in Venezuela and brutal repression must stop."

Alcalay said the current clashes and confrontations must end. He said that the top priorities now should be to protect human rights principles, the democratic process and open international diplomacy.

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