Latin America

“Venezuela is ruled by arbitrary tyranny,” says ex-Spanish PM

Felipe González given prestigious Leadership for the Americas award in Washington

Felipe González in Washington on Tuesday.
Felipe González in Washington on Tuesday.LENIN NOLLY (EFE)

Former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González on Tuesday received the Leadership for the Americas award from the Washington-based think tank Inter-American Dialogue.

Former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, who is co-chair of Inter-American Dialogue, said the award was for González’s “tireless, effective, and ongoing public service and commitment to democracy in Latin America.”

González, a Socialist who was in power from 1982 to 1996, took the opportunity to review his ties with Latin America and comment on current issues in the region.

“In Venezuela, there is no dictatorship but instead arbitrary tyranny,” said the former prime minister, who has been severely critical of President Nicolás Maduro’s government. His comments were received with applause by the guests at the ceremony, which was held at a hotel in the US capital.

“When the rules of the game are not respected, power is used arbitrarily,” he said.

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Since he left the prime minister’s office, 73-year-old González has been very active in Latin American issues, and has made frequent trips to the region. In the past months, he has been actively involved in the Venezuelan political crisis.

In June, he traveled to Caracas to participate in the legal defense of opposition leaders Leopoldo López and Antonio Ledezma, who serves as mayor of the Venezuelan capital. González was able to meet with Ledezma while the Venezuelan politician was under house arrest recovering from surgery, but he was not allowed to visit López at a military prison outside Caracas.

González was one of 25 former Iberoamerican leaders who signed a document denouncing the “lack of democratic guarantees” in Venezuela, and calling for “free and fair” elections and the immediate release of all political prisoners.

Also signing the document were former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar of the Popular Party (PP); ex-presidents Felipe Calderón and Vicente Fox of Mexico; Belisario Betancur and Álvaro Uribe of Colombia; Sebastián Piñera of Chile; and Julio María Sanguinetti of Uruguay.

“We all have the obligation to come together and say, ‘stop this now’,” González said on Tuesday night. He called on Maduro to “respect your own citizens, not cause divisions,” and “accept democracy and play by the rules.”

“When the rules of play are not respected, power is used arbitrarily” Former Prime Minister González

Dialogue between the government and opposition was the only solution to the Venezuelan crisis, González said, adding that Maduro should initiate talks after the December 6 parliamentary elections.

While he described Venezuela as a “negative factor” for regional development, he praised the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba and the ongoing peace process in Colombia.

“There are positive developments in the region, which give me great confidence that problems will be resolved,” he said, adding that he has dedicated 45 of the last 50 years of his life to Latin American issues.

A broad representation of the political, diplomatic and media sectors in the United States and Latin America attended the awards ceremony, which was sponsored in part by EL PAÍS and its parent group, PRISA.

Among the guests were assistant US Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson; former presidents Zedillo of Mexico, Ricardo Lagos of Chile and Sanguinetti of Uruguay; former Inter-American Development Bank president Enrique Iglesias; Spain’s ambassador to Washington, Ramón Gil-Casares; PRISA and EL PAÍS chairman Juan Luis Cebrián; and PRISA CEO José Luis Sainz.

An award was also given to Daniel Chávez Morán of Mexico, who is the founder of Vidanta tourism group, for his philanthropy.

English version by Martin Delfín.

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