Youth taking part in anti-government protests. Photo: Reuters
CIPE’s partner CEDICE Libertad joins many other organizations in Venezuela and throughout the world in denouncing the Venezuelan government’s violations against human rights, extending from individual freedoms all the way to citizens’ property rights.
In the past, CEDICE warned in much of its analysis that a crisis might be inevitable if the country continued to implement its radical economic policies. CEDICE mentioned this in the following cost-benefit analyses: utility of popular power laws, the limitations of government profits and the government’s true incentives, public policies pertaining to the education sector, and the law project for territory management in Spanish, which clearly foreshadow the current situation.
On February 17, CEDICE published a press release denouncing the Venezuelan government’s violations of human rights and individual freedoms. Below you can find the English version of this document.
By Aurelio Concheso
December’s local election results are in for Venezuela, and the opposition can rightly claim that it not only retained major urban areas such as Greater Caracas, Maracaibo and Merida, but regained others it had lost such as Valencia, Barquisimeto, and San Cristobal. In addition they made inroads in “Chavista cities” such as Chavez´s own home town of Barinas and Diosdado Cabello’s home town of Maturin. Moreover, despite how the Electoral College blatantly manipulated the way results were broadcast, in the overall national vote tally the opposition candidates beat out the government’s by 51 to 49 percent.
On the minus side for the opposition, former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles tried to bill the contest as a referendum on President Maduro, but this didn´t pan out either from the perspective of voter turnout (only about 58.5 percent vs. over 80 percent in the April presidential election) or the difference in total vote.
What we are left with moving forward is a political environment that continues to be polarized. During the two months previous to the election, the government made private business the culprit for inflation and scarcities of goods, while simultaneously taking steps that practically insure higher inflation, perhaps hyperinflation in 2014.
Nicolas Maduro soon after his narrow election win was announced. (Photo: Washington Post)
By Aurelio Concheso
On Sunday, April 14, Venezuelans went to the polls to elect a president to complete Hugo Chavez´s six-year term, following his death on March 5. The speed with which the election was called had to do with constitutional mandates, but even more with the ruling party’s hope that the pro-Chavez sentiment and bereavement of his followers, coupled with the blatant use of government resources, air time, and voter intimidation, which had become a rule of elections in the times of Chavismo, would permit a comfortable triumph for his handpicked successor, Nicolas Maduro.
The private sector has a long history of involvement in Venezuelan politics, some of it quite controversial. For this reason, the peak organization representing the private sector, Fedecámaras, was very careful about maintaining an appropriate profile during this year’s presidential election process.
The president of the organization held a press conference before the election calling upon the Venezuelan people to vote in this very important election. After the election, in which Hugo Chávez was re-elected for a fourth term despite a record showing by the opposition, the Fedecámaras president hailed the peacefulness of the process and asked for the country to seek a path in which private initiative and the state could cooperate in stimulating the economy and creating jobs.
Looking well beyond the election outcome, in August, Fedecámaras introduced “Progress and Well-Being,” a program that they had planned to implement regardless of the election outcome. The program’s goal is to develop a path through which Venezuela can depart from a state-oriented approach to development and replace it with a shared vision for a future that will generate a million jobs in three years and triple private investment in the country.
Last week I was invited by the opposition Democratic Unity Coalition (MUD) in Venezuela to serve as an election observer in the presidential elections where Hugo Chavez was seeking reelection after 14 years in office against the opposition candidate, the young, marathon-running Henrique Capriles Radonski. By the time Sunday dawned, there were high hopes that the Capriles candidacy could make great strides in obtaining votes, and perhaps win the election.
On Sunday morning, October 7, my international group of observers was ready to set out. We had received our credentials from the MUD office, but the government electoral authority (CNE) did not recognize our electoral observer status. Only observers from friendly countries of the UNASUR pact were allowed: no Carter Center, no European Union, and no Organization of American States delegations were permitted full observer status. My group was hoping that the local polling stations would be open and friendly enough to allow us in, despite our compromised status.
That was a big assumption, given that we were headed to one of the biggest Chavez supporting areas of Caracas, La Vega, which also is very poor and sometimes violent. My group of Spaniards, Argentines and me, the lone American, were ready to take on our assignment. But we did not know what to expect.
Find out more about the film at www.awhispertoaroar.com
In the crush of international reporting on terrorism, civil war, and revolution, it’s easy to lose sight of the more incremental progress in the world. A few decades ago, few would have dreamed that a majority of states in the world would be democracies, or that democracy would be the only broadly legitimate form of government in the world. Neither would many have imagined that the United Nations General Assembly, which had made a habit of excusing if not celebrating tyrannies, would establish in 2007 an annual International Day of Democracy to intensify global resolve to promote and consolidate democracy. Even the date (just four days after September 11) is a not-so-subtle rebuke to those who see violence and extremism as the path to a more just world.
While democracy has made dramatic gains over the last four decades, it has also confronted a growing pace of challenges and setbacks, even in the face of the new hope generated by the Arab Spring. In each of the past six years, many more countries have declined in freedom than have gained, and the number of democracies in this period has also receded. There has been a rising tide of democratic breakdowns in the past twelve years, and autocrats have been emboldened by the growing power and self-confidence of China and the economic and political troubles of the advanced industrial democracies.
Yet, as we have seen in the Arab Spring, and before that the Color Revolutions of the post-communist states, authoritarian regimes are also facing acute challenges to their stability, and without the floor of intrinsic legitimacy that most democracies enjoy. A rising generation in Singapore expects more freedom and openness, and has helped to drive unprecedented opposition gains in recent elections. The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in Malaysia has seen its political dominance erode and could lose power altogether in the next elections there. In Burma, the military has launched a transitional process that could lead to a transition to democracy in the next scheduled national elections, in 2015.
A Venezuelan voter casts her ballot in Sunday's opposition primary. (Photo: Staff)
By 11am on Sunday, February 12, the sun was already beating down strongly on the many Venezuelan citizens waiting in line to vote. Despite the nearly unbearable heat, nobody was complaining. In fact, the exuberance of the people waiting for three, four, or five hours in line to vote for their candidate in the Democratic Unity Table presidential primary election was contagious. Nothing like this had happened any time recently in Venezuela history and the excitement in the air was palpable.
As an election observer invited by the party — here it’s referred to as the Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD) — I was lucky enough to experience what many hope will be an historic day for this country. The government of President Hugo Chávez had mounted a disinformation campaign that asked people not to vote in the opposition primary election organized by the MUD and forbade government workers and members of the Chavez political party PSUV from voting. The government told people that no more than 800,000 people would vote and the results would be insignificant. Even MUD supporters were fearful about low voter turnout given the risks many people might have to take in order to go to the polls. Government workers feared for their jobs, contractors thought they would lose their government contracts and business people worried that they would be persecuted by government authorities. Their most optimistic projections were that two million people would come out to the polls.
What happened that day was a remarkable exercise of the democratic process. People lost their fear and came out in droves. Young people mixed with octeganarians at polls I visited. Even some government workers decided that they preferred to honor their democratic rights rather than remain intimidated. The government here frowns on international electoral observers, but when we were introduced in the polling station both the staff and the voters broke out in applause. Even the military personnel who guarded the polls seem to get caught up in the optimism of the moment.
Other than the long lines the election process went very smoothly. In past elections, machines were used that did not provide paper receipts so verification of the results was impossible. New machines were present at this election that allowed each participant to check his or her vote before depositing it in the ballot box. Despite widespread fear that it would happen, no government intimidation happened at the polls I visited.
Last night at 9pm, the results were announced by the MUD — more than three million voters overcame their fears and voted. The winner with 1.8 million votes was Henrique Capriles Radonski, who has promised a government of unity for all Venezuelans. He invited all the candidates he ran against to join him on the stage to demonstrate the unity that exists within the MUD. It is expected that some of them will join his government should he win the election. Now, the challenging work for the MUD will begin: to build a winning campaign that might unseat Hugo Chavez, with his willingness to employ all the powers of the state to stay in office. But for this day, the Venezuelan people enjoyed a breath of fresh air and the promise of a new dialogue on where the country is headed.