Washington, D.C., May 27, 2005 — Bernardo Álvarez Herrera, Venezuela's Ambassador to the United States, told the Voice of America that Venezuela President Hugo Chávez has softened his threat last week to break diplomatic ties with the United States.
Venezuela is calling for the U.S. to turn over Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban exile wanted by the Caracas government in the bombing of a Cuban airliner in 1976. Chávez has accused the United States of harboring Mr. Posada, and threatened to break diplomatic relations if Posada was not extradited. The case is in the U.S. legal system and, according to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, it is a legal, rather than a diplomatic, issue. Yesterday, though, Chávez told a meeting of Venezuelan businessmen that the country didn't want major conflicts, not even with the United States, and that he was open to talks.
Álvarez confirmed President Chávez's new stance, saying, "This statement was made after meeting last Monday with [Dan Burton, R-IN], where the President [Chávez] used him as an example of a very important Republican leader of the U.S. Congress with whom, no doubt, we have profound political differences. But there is a willingness to sit down to discuss this case with mutual respect." Burton is chairman of the U.S. House International Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.
When questioned about Venezuela's restrictions on press freedom, Álvarez dismissed the restrictions, fines, and penalties levied on Venezuela's private media companies, saying, "We have been very firm and clear to say that the freedom of expression is now more alive than ever in Venezuela…there could be some particular cases that we need to deal with, but to interpret from them that there's no freedom of expression in my country, we don't see it that way."
The Ambassador was interviewed on VOA's live Spanish-language weekly public affairs TV program Foro Interamericano (Inter-American Forum). The interview was also excerpted on the weekday Spanish TV news program Desde Washington (From Washington). All programs are available at www.VOANews.com/Spanish.
The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 100 million people. Programs are produced in Spanish and 43 other languages, including English.
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