The March 1 editorial "Meddle With Mr. Chavez" stated that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has no interest in adhering to the constitutionally mandated referendum set for August.

This assertion is without merit.

Mr. Chavez was one of the chief architects of our nation's constitution, and he has a profound respect for the rights and responsibilities it mandates. He has respected and will continue to respect the constitution this summer if such a referendum is called.

This is a historic time. Venezuela's constitution, overwhelmingly ratified only 34 months ago, grants rights (such as education and health care) to people who have historically been left without hope. President Bush talks about the importance of "leaving no child behind." Venezuela has been leaving behind millions. Most Venezuelans want to allow all of the people of our great nation to participate in our democracy and benefit from our nation's resources. But change doesn't happen overnight, and it isn't always universally supported.

Representative democracies such as Venezuela's should be nurtured and celebrated -- not forced to emulate Washington's image of what they should be. That is not freedom, and that is not what America -- or Venezuela -- is about.

BERNARDO

ALVAREZ HERRERA

Ambassador

Embassy of Venezuela

Washington

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A Post editorial said that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was elected because of his promised "socialist revolution."

Not so.

According to opinion polls, only about 5 percent to 7 percent of Venezuelans sympathize with "socialism" or with Cuba's Fidel Castro.

Mr. Chavez was elected because he promised a war against corruption and because only a little more than 30 percent of Venezuela's registered voters went to the polls.

RODOLFO SCHMIDT

Caracas, Venezuela