Español Official statement by former President Óscar Arias of Costa Rica, Nobel Peace Prize winner, 1987.
I want to add my voice to a chorus of concern that covers a good part of our America. Thousands of students and opponents of the government of President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela were brutally attacked with firearms by security forces. Three people died and at least 26 were injured at the end of a series of protests in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities.
In any truly democratic country one does not go to prison or be killed for thinking differently or for wanting to express his opposition to government policies. Venezuela can make all the efforts of oratory it wants to sell the idea that it is a true democracy, but with every violation of human rights committed, it denies that claim, because it represses criticism and dissent. Any government that respects human rights must respect the right of its people to demonstrate peacefully. The use of violence is unacceptable. Remember the warning of Gandhi, “An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind.”
I have always fought for democracy, and I am convinced that in a democracy, if one does not have opposition one most strive to create it, not repress it and condemn it to a hell of persecution — which is what the government of President Maduro seems to do. Venezuela must respect human rights, especially the rights of its opposition, because there is no merit in respecting only the rights of its supporters.
At some point in his life, Martin Luther King Jr. said that “the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintained their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.” So I am aware that in making these statements I’m exposed to all sorts of criticism from the Venezuelan government. I will be accused of intruding in its internal affairs, of disrespecting its sovereignty and, almost certainly, of being a lackey of “The Empire.”
Surely, I am a servant of the empire: the empire of reason, sanity, compassion, and freedom. I will not be silent when human rights are violated. I will not keep silent when the very existence of a government like Venezuela is an affront to democracy. I will not shut up when it threatens the life of human beings, to defend their rights. I have lived long enough to know that there is nothing worse than being afraid to tell the truth.
Translated by PanAm Post staff.