October 4, 2010
Eduardo Fernandez, a well-known South American leader who has been a vocal opponent of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, spoke on October 4, 2010, at an on-campus faculty colloquium and later to a meeting of the Sacramento Chapter of the World Affairs Council.
Fernandez, a former deputy secretary general and presidential candidate in Venezuela, is a Caracas lawyer, university professor and civic educator. He sounded a hopeful note in discussing the future of a country that has struggled with poverty and democratic rule despite having the second-largest oil reserves in the world.
"Unfortunately, most leaders of my country have come from the military, not the civilian sector," Fernandez said. "They issue orders to the people, not the other way around. We envy the respect for 'The Rule of Law' that you in the United States have."
Fernandez pointed to the September election results in Venezuela as a positive sign for his country. A coalition of opposition parties was able to make significant gains in the National Assembly. He foresees the day when Chavez, a controversial figure at home and abroad whose firebrand rhetoric caused tension between Venezuela and the United States, will relinquish power.
"I think just as Pinochet was forced to step aside in Chile that Chavez will step aside peacefully if the people grow dissatisfied enough with his actions and vote him out in the next election," he said.
Fernandez's speeches were part of a three-campus swing through the University of the Pacific sponsored by the School of International Studies and Pacific's Inter-American Program. He was introduced to his faculty audience by Professor Raquel Aldana, the founder and director of the McGeorge Inter-American program.