Strengthening Democracy Through Economic Freedoms in Venezuela

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  • In this FEDN interview, President of the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce Jorge Roig discusses his personal experiences with strengthening democracy through market-oriented reform.

For more than 25 years, CIPE has built strong relationships and programs with economic reformers around the world. Still, global forums on democratic development lack a concerted voice for the private sector and economic freedom. Realizing the need to express how democracy and a free market economy act as mutually supportive systems, CIPE has joined with leaders from business and civil society to create the Free Enterprise and Democracy Network (FEDN). FEDN’s main objective is to advocate globally and regionally for economic reform as an integral element of democratic development, as well as to serve as a forum for like-minded reformers to share ideas and best practices.

FEDN invited Jorge Roig, co-founder and president of the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce, to discuss his personal experiences with strengthening democracy through market-oriented reform.

1. “What does democracy mean to you?”

Democracy has proven to be the system that best guarantees freedom and with which the best governance results are obtained. Democracy is not only the power of a majority deciding the future of a society by its votes; it also involves a separation of powers, equilibrium between these powers, respect for human rights, and especially the recognition of minorities.

2. “Why are economic freedoms and the private sector important for a
democracy in your country?”

Each private enterprise that opens is a window to freedom.Strengthening a democratic system requires that free initiative and economic freedom exist as the basis for the creative stimulus of its citizens.

3. “What reforms does your organization support and why?”

Our organization, the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commernce (FEDECAMARAS), was founded in 1944 with the purpose of defending private initiative, economic development, and social well-being, as well as to provide a better regional representation of the diverse sectors of our economy. These principles hold true today 70 years later, and in moments where freedom is threatened in our country it becomes particularly important to strengthen our organization.

FEDECAMARAS has supported democracy, decentralization, alternation in the exercise of power and has given an example of these values in the reforms of its Bylaws.

4. “Can you give us an example from your country of a big change in which you took part?”

Personally I have been a congressman in our Chamber of Deputies and as such I supported political decentralization and openly opposed the attempts to violate our Constitution that our country has suffered in the last 20 years, starting with the failed military coups of 1992. As President of FEDECAMARAS, we have been guarantors of our bylaws and have vehemently opposed the attacks against private property presently under way in our country as well as the advance of a system that suppresses individual liberties.

5. “How can others use your experience? What advice would you give reformers in other countries?”

The alternation in the exercise of political power is essential. A large part of the grave problems we are facing come from the exercise of unlimited power, and abolishing checks and balances with total disregard to half of the electorate. This lesson is fundamental to democracy.

6. “What is your vision for the future? What do you expect?”

These are difficult times for Venezuelan Society. Our expectations are that in view of the delicate economic situation the government will change course and open a dialogue with the private sector. The present course, with threats to liberty and free enterprise, has been extremely detrimental to the Venezuelan economy and for progress and wellbeing. FEDECAMARAS will always be ready to engage in an unprejudiced dialogue wherein the highest national interest can prevail.

Jorge Roig is the current President of the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce, which brings together more than 250 companies of various economic sectors throughout the county. For eight years he was the Director of Coindustria, and has held management positions in companies including Food Specialties La Castellana, petroluem chemical industries, and Estoril Construction company. Roig has written for El Universal, El Mundo, and El Correo del Caroni, and is an international lecturer on small and medium-sized enterprises and international treaties.

The views expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). CIPE grants permission to reprint, translate, and/or publish original articles from its Economic Reform Feature Service provided that (1) proper attribution is given to the original author and to CIPE and (2) CIPE is notified where the article is placed and a copy is provided to CIPE’s Washington office.

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