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"Silence makes you an accomplice in Venezuela"

El Pais - April 21 .- The Peruvian president said that the region has the responsibility to condemn the lack of democracy in Venezuela. He wants to join Felipe González’s team in the defense of those opponents in jail, and intends to travel to Venezuela together with 30 former presidents.

The Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006) has never hidden his rejection of "populist authoritarianism" which he always saw on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and now says, that his successor, Nicolas Maduro has inherited. He is one of the signers of the Declaration of Panama, signed by 31 former presidents concerned with the situation in Venezuela. A year ago, he also signed another statement on Venezuela with former president Oscar Arias, Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Ricardo Lagos, to which 96 former leaders and prime ministers from around the world, gathered at the Club de Madrid, joined.

On tour in Washington to promote his latest book, “The Shared Society,: A global vision for the future of Latin America”, Toledo spoke with El Pais about democracy as an essential element for the future success of the region, which he analyzes in his work, and where he also shows concern of the actions of Maduro.

Question. Can you back democracy in Latin America?

Answer. We cannot generalize. We have made significant progress in democracy, because before we had coup d’etats almost everywhere and we have learned how to put our house in order economically wise. But there are moles that worry me in Latin America. It is true that there are no longer military coups, nor boots or military badges, but a new style of populist authoritarianism, that manipulates the electoral bodies, has emerged; and when they become elected, they kidnap institutions to become elected over and over again. The most concrete case is Venezuela, but we also have Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador and now Argentina. In the case of Venezuela, since I took office, I realized that Hugo Chávez’s professor was (Alberto) Fujimori, a sponsor of the kidnapping of institutions, silencing the media, violating human rights, not having separation of powers and wanting to become president for life.

Q. Why don’t sitting presidents express themselves about Venezuela, with the same strength as former presidents do?

A. That's what I wonder. I am sorry that the heads of state do not have the courage to express their condemn to a severe deterioration of democracy in Latin America. To make tortillas have to break eggs. And beware: history will judge silence as well as complicity. Everyone shuts their mouth and closes their mouth.

Q. What else do you expect to do about Venezuela?

R. We have just had the summit in Panama. I received the wives of jailed Venezuelan opposition, Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo López. They asked me to join the Spanish president Felipe González´s team. I will do so. That team will lead and will be joined by other people. What I'm thinking is to involve Democrats of all nations. At the meeting of the Club of Madrid in Minnesota [in October], I will propose the formation of a group of 30 former presidents of Latin America and Europe and from other countries, to go to Venezuela and verify the quality of democracy in that country.

P. Maduro often denounces any criticism as interference. Is it interference to discuss these issues?

A. Not at all. First, Latin America is the largest country for all Latin Americans. Secondly, democracy has no nationality, just as human rights do not have skin color. Universal values like human rights, freedom of expression or the separation of powers can not be hidden under interference. Disagreeing is no reason to be imprisoned. Democracy means the collation of points of view which can be discrepant.

P. The Organization of American States (OAS) will have, within a month, a new secretary general, the Uruguayan Luis Almagro. Is it a new opportunity to be active in Venezuela?

R. Personally I do not have much hope, given the evidence we have regarding the effectiveness or strength of the OAS, where nothing has happened. But there’s one factor that can be helpful for the new secretary general: Venezuela no longer has that much oil to influence the Caribbean countries, which have an equal vote in the OAS, regardless of size or relative weight.

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