Press release 31 Former Presidents Sign the Declaration of Panama | Aznar: 'Silence and inaction are complicit in the untenable situation in Venezuela'


    _ Pastrana called this the ‘Summit of Dignity’ and stressed that the Declaration has been signed by presidents of all political persuasions

    _ Calderón: ‘We prefer to act, speak, ask and demand rather than be silent, tolerate or look the other way’

    _ Quiroga has addressed the rulers at the Summit exhorting them ‘to ask for free and transparent parliamentary elections in Venezuela’

    _ Hurtado: ‘We must fight for the restoration of democracy not only in Venezuela, but also in countries like Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia’

    _ At the end of the event, the five former presidents handed Mitzy Capriles and Lilian Tintori a signed Declaration

The former Prime Minister of Spain and President of FAES Foundation, José María Aznar, has launched the Declaration of Panama, along with the former presidents of Colombia, Andrés Pastrana; of Mexico, Felipe Calderón; of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, and of Ecuador, Osvaldo Hurtado. During his address, Aznar said that it made him “very proud to think that 31 former presidents have agreed to defend freedom” and that “silence and inaction are complicit in the untenable situation in Venezuela”. In this regard, he stated that “neither my voice nor my will ever fail to support those who struggle for freedom and for the defence of their rights.”

At the event, which took place in Panama City on the eve of the celebration of the VII Summit of the Americas, Pastrana has said that he “would call it the Summit of Dignity” and read the Declaration, of which he said that there are no precedents. Furthermore, he highlighted that the document “has been signed by presidents of all persuasions, without political bias. What unites us is the defence of democracy and respect for human rights and freedoms,” he said.

So far, the Declaration denouncing the situation in Venezuela has been signed by 31 former heads of State and Government, following the accession of Felipe González, the Paraguayan Juan Carlos Wasmosy and the Uruguayan Julio María Sanguinetti.

Before a packed hall, the former presidents have delivered a copy of the Declaration of Panama to Mitzy Capriles and Lilian Tintori, the wives of the imprisoned dissidents Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo López, respectively. Both thanked the former presidents for this initiative and reiterated that “we want our prisoners released, then we can sit down and rebuild ties”. “We will continue fighting tirelessly to recover the path of a prosperous and inclusive Venezuela, committed to maintaining a strong and firm attitude” they assured.

Meanwhile, the former President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón stated that “the social, economic and political conditions in Venezuela have deteriorated so that the country requires the participation of all, the solidarity of all, the indubitable action of all” and stressed that “we prefer to act, speak, ask and demand rather than be silent, tolerate or look the other way.” Quiroga also addressed, in his turn, the rulers at the Summit, to exhort them “to ask for free and transparent parliamentary elections in Venezuela, with a fixed date, with international observers, without political prisoners and without electoral restrictions.” He also said that “the fight is tough, but we will succeed”.

Finally, Hurtado noted that the signatories of the Declaration: “are here to tell Latin America that there are politicians committed to democracy in Venezuela and its leaders.” he also addressed the Venezuelan political prisoners, to whom he said that “you are not alone. With you are lifelong Democrats, those who fight for democracy to be restored not only in Venezuela but also in countries like Ecuador, Nicaragua or Bolivia”.

In the Declaration of Panama, the 31 signatories denounce that “the constitutional and democratic alteration suffered by Venezuela deepens, as well, in economic and social terms” and ensure that “the only possibility to restore democracy in Venezuela and to effectively guarantee political, economic and social rights of the Venezuelans”, is by rescuing the “principle and the system of the separation of powers [...] with the purpose of ensuring, in an impartial way, the development of free and fair elections.”

In this sense, they demand the immediate release of all of the political prisoners’ and warned of the “policy of neither acknowledging of, nor compliance with the decisions and pronouncements dictated by the international and Inter-American organizations watching over human rights,” followed by Venezuela. In their view, “there is an obvious absence of independent justice, there is harassment and prosecution of those who demonstrate and express dissidence about the above mentioned government, there are repeated acts of torture by State officials, the existence of armed and pro-government groups controlled by the government, and a total environment of impunity” in the country.

The former Heads of State and Government signing are, “concerned about the immediate future of Venezuelans” and seek to promote a climate of peace and negotiations’ in order to find “a non-violent solution to the crisis suffered by Venezuela”. Therefore, the document also includes a recommendation to promote “negotiated solutions” and demands the presence of “an authorized, impartial international observation, technically qualified,” for the parliamentary elections announced for the second half of the year. It also advocates the implementation of a broad and complex “plan of adjustment” and “a shift in its political and economic model” to correct “severe imbalances suffered today in Venezuela”.

In short, the Declaration of Panama recalls that “Democracy and its effective exercise, the foundation of solidarity among all States, consists of respecting and guaranteeing human rights, exercising power according to the Rule of Law, separating and making the public authorities independent, political pluralism, free and fair elections, freedom of expression and of the media,” among other issues.

So far, the Declaration has been signed by the former presidents of Argentina, Eduardo Duhalde and Fernando de la Rúa; Brazil, Fernando H. Cardoso; of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga; of Chile, Sebastián Piñera and Ricardo Lagos; of Colombia, Andrés PastranaUribe andBelisario Betancur; of Costa Rica, Miguel Angel RodriguezRafael Angel CalderonLaura ChinchillaOscar Arias and Luis Alberto Monge; of Ecuador, Osvaldo HurtadoLucio Gutiérrez and Sixto Duran Ballen; of El Salvador, Alfredo Cristiani and Armando Calderón Sol; of Spain, José María Aznar and Felipe González; of Mexico, Felipe Calderon andVicente Fox; of Panama, Mireya MoscosoNicolás Ardito and Ricardo Martinelli; from Paraguay, Juan Carlos Wasmosy; of Peru, Alejandro Toledo; the Dominican Republic,Hipólito Mejía, and Uruguay, Luis Alberto Lacalle and Julio María Sanguinetti.

All signatories of the document are grouped in the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas, IDEA, a nongovernmental high-level international forum specifically created for the promotion, defence and sustainability of democracy as a right of peoples to be guaranteed by governments.