Ex-ambassador visits UCSD

    Former Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations Milos Alcalay visited UCSD on March 30 and March 31 to speak about human rights violations and the politics in Venezuela.

    Alcalay, who resigned his post to protest human rights violations, addressed students and faculty and participated in a televised interview, conducted by Institute of the Americas president Jeffrey Davidow, at the IOA. The Conflict and Security Studies Organization at the IOA, who organized Alcalay’s visit, held a smaller question-and-answer session with Alcalay on March 30, which approximately 40 IOA students attended.

    Alcalay resigned his post on March 4 at the United Nations’ Washington, D.C., offices because, according to him, human rights violations, repression by the government and an overall lack of democracy in Venezuela left him unable to represent his country. In the days leading up to his resignation, media reports from Venezuela revealed increasing brutality and torture against those protesting President Hugo Chavez, who accuse Chavez of unlawfully preventing a recall vote. Clashes between protesters and government troops have closed businesses and schools across the country in recent months.

    “Venezuela did not meet the needs of a new democracy, but it went back to the worst situation … violation of human rights, corruption and a militarization of power,” Alcalay said. “That is why, as a diplomat for democracy, I had to resign my job.”

    Alcalay described the gruesome scenes he witnessed in Venezuela.

    “Protesters were shot, men were put in prison with very repressive actions that recall very much … the military time in Latin America,” Alcalay said. “So I said … I cannot serve, not only loyally, but I have to cry very loudly to say, ‘Look what is happening to Venezuela. Look what is happening to a country that was an island of democracy on the continent.’”

    Alcalay spoke for the needs of a referendum to let Venezuelans vote whether or not they want to keep Chavez, who Alcalay said is impeding efforts to run a referendum.

    Alcalay said Chavez was a “very good seller of dreams,” and it is how Chavez has maintained support despite of “broken promises.”

    “But his dreams are not dreams but a nightmare,” he said. “People, especially the poorer, want to dream.”

    Asked whether or not he thought the United States had a hand in the coup that ousted Chavez for 48 hours, Alcalay responded that he did not personally believe so.

    “On the contrary, I think the U.S. has been very cautious with Chavez,” he said.

    CSSO president Jorge Garcia commended Alcalay’s continued efforts to resolve the conflict and end the violence in Venezuela.

    “I think one of the things you have to really respect with the ambassador is his willingness to continue the dialogue,” Garcia said. “He recognizes that there needs to be a bridge between those that are pro-Chavez and the opposition. The willingness to bridge that gap is critical for Venezuela.”

    Since his resignation, Alcalay has been touring universities in order to raise awareness about the conflict in Venezuela. In the past month, Alcalay has spoken at UC Berkeley and New York University.

    Garcia was pleased that Alcalay was able to visit UCSD and hopes to invite other similar speakers in the future.

    “I think it’s critical that speakers like [Alcalay] come to the university and expose some of the problems in different parts of the world to students, faculty and members of the community,” Garcia said.

    Alcalay previously served as Venezuela’s deputy foreign minister and ambassador to Brazil and was preparing to assume the post of ambassador to Great Britain. Alcalay had served Venezuela as a diplomat for 34 years before his resignation.

    The talk was televised on UC-TV and will be re-run daily between April 12 and April 18.

    — Additional reporting by Gaëlle Faure

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