Javier El-Hage, chief legal officer for the Human Rights Foundation, addresses the 8th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks.
On Venezuelan authoritarianism:
“Venezuela is not just a regular authoritarian government.”
“Venezuela happens to be the most active of the authoritarian governments in Latin America, the most active of the authoritarian governments in the Western Hemisphere. One of the most active of the authoritarian governments around the world.”
On the characteristics of democracy:
“Democracies, to the extent that they allow for NGOs to operate freely, to the extent that they allow for independent media to criticise the government, they allow for political parties to associate and challenge power.”
Thank you very much Hillel for the introduction!
It is a distinct honour for the Human Rights Foundation to participate, to be invited to moderate this short discussion and mostly to listen to Julieta and to Antonietta today. I just want to say that on behalf of HRF Chairman Garry Kasparov, and HRF president, Thor Halvorssen, we are very once again proud to be here today.
Briefly, just to mention that Venezuela is not just a regular authoritarian government out there, which unfortunately almost half of humanity lives under authoritarian governments. Venezuela happens to be the most active of the authoritarian governments in Latin America, the most active of the authoritarian governments in the Western Hemisphere. One of the most active authoritarian governments around the world. It is a member of the UN Security Council. It is also a member of the UN Human Rights Council, and there along with Cuba exerts a great deal of leadership, but of course, of leadership on the wrong side, and leadership towards evil, towards systematic human rights violations. And that’s a role that it has been played, unfortunately, very effectively throughout its almost 20 years as a regime, 17 years since Hugo Chavez got to power in 1999 and then transferred it just a few years ago to Nicolas Maduro. It has exerted that same, great deal of negative influence in Latin America and around the world. In Latin America by spurring, by supporting the life of the longest totalitarian dictatorship in the continent, the one long-standing dictatorship in Latin America after the fall of the right-wing anti-communist dictatorships in the 70s. I mean, of course, Cuba, so it’s supported Cuba, it maintained the life of Cuba and it supported other competitive authoritarian regimes in Latin America namely: Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia.
So, for the Human Rights Foundation, a human rights group, that focuses on authoritarian regimes, we are a human rights group, that makes a deal out of not spending our limited resources on democracies because we believe that democracies to the extent that they allow for NGOs to operate freely, to the extent that they allow for independent media to criticise the government, they allow for political parties to associate and challenge power, to that extent our help is much less needed in those countries than it is under authoritarian regimes, whether they’re fully authoritarian dictatorships, totalitarian or not, or whether they are competitive authoritarian as Venezuela is a leading example.
And to close and make this pertinent to the presence of our two laureates today, I want to say that Leopoldo Lopez, both Leopoldo and Antonio Ledezma, great leaders of the Mezza e la Unidad? In Venezuela, with the coalition of democratic parties there. They represent a great hope not just for Venezuela, they represent a great hope for Latin America and they represent a great hope for a new wave of democratisation that hopefully will happen around the world. And just as our chairman, former chairman the late Vaclav Havel, in his first time as a dissident, and then as a successful political leader, spurred a wave of democratisation around the world, we do believe that having at some point a transition to democracy in Venezuela, led by Leopoldo Lopez and by Antonio Ledezma will lead to the same type of wave of democratisation all around the world.
So, it’s an honour once again, and without further do, I want to introduce Antonietta Ledezma Capriles to address this great audience.