U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following statement today regarding Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez's attempts to defraud voters ahead of Sunday's Venezuelan election. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:
"Since he first came to power, Hugo Chavez has sought to maintain his grip over the Venezuelan people by any means necessary. That is why as we approach the Venezuelan election, it comes as no surprise that Chavez is actively seeking to deny the Venezuelan people their democratic rights and silence them through intimidation, coercion, and manipulation.
"In an attempt to stifle dissent, Chavez has increased his targeting and harassment of media outlets through outrageous and unwarranted fines; has removed judges who have not aligned themselves with his agenda; and has even made last minute ballot changes to confuse the electorate. He continues to deny access to international election monitors, and has even closed the consulate in Miami in hopes of discouraging the large Venezuelan exile community in the United States from taking part in Sunday's election. Despite Chavez's dirty tactics and massive political machine, the opposition candidate Henrique Capriles and his supporters have made great strides and are gaining momentum ahead of the election.
"The Venezuelan people deserve a free, fair, and transparent election, and Chavez's attempts to defraud voters must not be tolerated. The Venezuelan people deserve a democratic government that respects human rights and the rule of law, not the Chavez dominated tyranny that has existed for over a decade. I encourage all Venezuelans to vote on Sunday for a free Venezuela and bring an end to Chavez's reign of oppression."