Saturday, March 19, 2005

Jennifer McCoy writes to Venezuela News and Views

Although I have strongly criticized the Carter Center this has not stopped me from trying to establish contact with them, in particular Dr. Jennifer McCoy to who I sent not only the critical posts I wrote but also some information such as my analysis of the results of the October 31 elections. She was kind enough to find in her schedule time to read them and acknowledge reception.

Thus, although no internet buddies, we have established a rapport sufficiently respectful that I have offered her to reply to my criticism in my blog or to add something to what was already said elsewhere. She replied that she was not sure that she should write to specific blogs since her reports exist in the net and it would be unfair to favor one venue instead of another. However since there has been a direct exchange between us she thought that it could be good to publish excerpts of a letter she sent me. I allowed myself to advise her to explore the use of blogs as an additional way of communication in the future but at this time I think she had a fair point.

This of course does not mean that I am any closer from approving what the Carter Center has done in Venezuela at the end. However I think that communication should always be established when possible, just as this blog would open to a pro Chavez official were s/he to show interest and respect for my opposing views, the basis of any democratic discourse. I do wish to thank her from her trust and understanding that my role as a blogger is to express the criticism I feel people have against the Carter Center, without making it a personal issue. A difficult task to achieve these days in Venezuela.

The letter is below. Any well written letter that you wish to send her I will forward, with of course no obligation from her part to reply. Also considering that it is a reply to my comments to the Carter Center, by courtesy and to avoid further discussion of little use at this time I will not comment on this letter. That is, I have already said what I needed to say and Dr. McCoy replied what she needed to reply. We will see if future exchanges can be useful.

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Dear Daniel,

Thank you for sending me your blogs. I know it's difficult to follow what is happening by just reading the press. If you read several Venezuelan newspapers, you will find very different reports about the same event or what someone said. For example, El Universal fundamentally changed what I said upon leaving the CNE on Thursday during my visit (while others got it more accurately), yet El Universal had one of the more accurate reports of what I said on Saturday.

[With regard to confusions about the Carter Center's role in Ukraine and Iraq, McCoy clarified:] (The) Center never considered participating in either of those elections, as it does not work in Central Asia or the Middle East (except Israel-Palestine), and it tries to not to duplicate efforts when other organizations are present. The Center observed the Mozambiqan elections last fall, Palestine in January, and several others upcoming.

It's frustrating to me how hard it is to get a message out clearly and accurately anywhere, and particularly in Venezuela, so I know it must be doubly frustrating to so many of you trying to ascertain and evaluate what is happening. Of course, individuals who report to the press on the content of private meetings often give their own slant or partial information, so that it is very difficult for those depending on media reports to know the full range of opinions expressed in those private meetings, and thus to draw informed conclusions.

With regard to my trip last week and your desire to ascertain the true meaning of it, let me assure you it is much more mundane than you theorize. It normally takes the Carter Center about six months to write a full report of an election monitoring mission, including following the complaint process afterward. Very often, staff travel to the country to present the report and its recommendations, either in the format of a seminar or private meetings with election officials and interested parties. In this case, we considered organizing a seminar with some Venezuelan organizations for the end of February before our grants were scheduled to end, but decided on the advice of those organizations to postpone the seminar until they are ready to take the lead to organize such an event. We nevertheless finished the report, and as we needed to close our office on schedule with the grant, and present the report officially to the CNE, I decided to keep my originally scheduled trip dates (which was always three days in Caracas).

I did take advantage of the visit to meet privately with a number of organizations and individuals, some of whom I have known for a very long time, and to communicate some of my thoughts in a final press conference. Finally, The Carter Center wanted to communicate to Venezuelans that far from "declaring victory and walking away" or "washing our hands of Venezuela", as you [in one of my posts on the matter] assert, the Center remains committed to peace and democracy in the country, but will only re-engage if and when Venezuelan actors so desire -- which is always the practice of the Center.


Jennifer McCoy--


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