For Immediate Release August 11, 2004

Contact: Eric Wingerter  202-347-8081

 

 

Former Democratic Presidential Candidates Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rep. Dennis Kucinich Announce Support for Venezuelan President Chavez

 
Political Leaders Joined by Actor Edward Asner and Historian Howard Zinn

 

Washington, DC — Jesse Jackson and Dennis Kucinich were joined by actors, historians and others in sending their support to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, just days before he faces a historic vote on the future of his administration. 

 

Noting the accomplishments of the Chávez administration to improve the lives of Venezuela’s impoverished majority, the joint letter expressed the signers’ “hope and expectation that, on August 15, you will once again win an electoral mandate from the Venezuelan people to be their president.” 

 

Signed by a diverse sampling of well known Americans, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Congressman Dennis Kucinich, television star Edward Asner, and best-selling author Howard Zinn, the letter decried the role of the United States government in financing the opposition movement in Venezuela, including participants of a 2002 coup d’etat that briefly ousted the democratically-elected president from power.  The signers pledged to heal the strained relationships between the United States and Venezuela.

 

Despite Venezuela’s vast oil wealth, nearly 80 percent of the country lives below the poverty level. President Chávez has expanded opportunities for all Venezuelans by using oil revenues to finance new schools, health clinics and national nutrition programs catering to the poor majority.  In the past year alone, more than one million adults have been taught to read. 

 

The president’s term has been marked by fierce opposition from Venezuela’s former ruling powers, including the 2002 coup and a national management-led oil strike that crippled the country’s economy.  This Sunday, the Venezuelan people will vote whether to allow the president to finish his term.  Recent polls indicate that the majority of Venezuelans will once again vote in favor of their president.

 

The American letter is the latest in a series of solidarity statements from well-known figures around the world.  In July, a group of 69 Latin American intellectuals, artists, and Nobel laureates signed a letter titled, “If I were a Venezuelan, I would vote for Hugo Chávez.”

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August 12, 2004

 

 

Dear President Chavez,

 

We are writing to express our solidarity during this important moment in Venezuela’s history. It is our hope and expectation that, on August 15, you will once again win an electoral mandate from the Venezuelan people to be their president.

 

The world knows that you are achieving something remarkable in Venezuela: you are investing your country’s vast oil wealth in ways that benefit everyone, not just small minority of well-connected elites. Over the last year your government’s literacy campaign taught one million Venezuelans to read. And today, millions of others are benefiting from the governments investment in job training, small businesses and health care.

 

We are disturbed by our own government’s interference in your internal affairs. The National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a group funded by the U.S. Congress, has financed radical opposition leaders in their efforts to cut short your term.  Some of the individuals funded by the NED participated in the April 2002 coup attempt against you.

 

Polling done by both the Venezuelan government and its opposition shows that you will defeat the recall referendum on August 15. We have every expectation that on August 16 Venezuelan relations with the U.S. government will begin to improve.

 

We are committed to doing what we can, as U.S. citizens, to heal those relationships and encourage Congress and the White House to see Venezuela not only as a model democracy but also as a model of how a country’s oil wealth can be used to benefit all of its people.

 

Sincerely,

 

Reverend Jesse Jackson

Congressman Dennis Kucinich

Dr. Howard Zinn

Edward Asner

Dr. Saul Landau

Naomi Klein

Doug Henwood

Dr. Blase Bonpane

Liza Featherstone


 

Biographies of Signers

 

Reverend Jesse Jackson

Civil rights leader and former US Presidential Candidate

 

Congressman Dennis Kucinich

Represents Ohio’s Ohio’s 10th District in Congress.  Ran for president in 2003-04.

 

Dr. Howard Zinn

Historian and Playwright.  His A People’s History of the United States is an international bestseller.

 

Edward Asner

An accomplished television and movie actor whose career has spanned more than 3 decades, Asner has also been a long-time activist.

 

Dr. Saul Landau

Internationally known scholar, author, commentator, and filmmaker.  Winner of the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award, and an Emmy Award for "Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang."

 

Naomi Klein

Award-winning journalist and author of the international best-seller No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies.

 

Doug Henwood

Editor and Publisher of the Left Business Observer, and author of After the New Economy and the best-selling Wall Street.

 

Dr. Blase Bonpane

A journalist and author, Dr. Bonpane is the director of the Office of the Americas.

 

Liza Featherstone

Journalist and author of Students Against Sweatshops:  The Making of A Movement.