Breaking Through for LGBTQI Rights

It was a Thursday. That might be the extent of the consensus about what happened on April 11, 2002. The split screen at 3:45pm, when the media aired images of what was happening in the streets directly alongside Hugo Chávez’s compulsory national broadcast, was a metaphor for the country. Chávez had become a key symbol, sparking extreme polarization that would define the next 20 years of Venezuelan history. Participation, sovereignty, and pluralism were sacrificed on the altar of this extreme polarization. Dissent became treason. Accountability gave way to automatic solidarity. Classism also found a home in this polarization and the brutal power struggle that it unleashed among elites. The presence of two opposing countries could be felt everywhere. We haven’t moved on. 

Against this backdrop, it is extraordinary what feminist and LGBTI rights movements have achieved in Venezuela. Through activism and dialogue, they are the only ones that have managed to break through this ongoing conflict and raise their flags while standing shoulder to shoulder with people from the “other side.” With this context in mind, I spoke to Richelle Briceño, a trans activist, lawyer, member of the political party REDES, and former National Assembly candidate, and Yendri Velásquez, an LGBTI activist and Caracas coordinator for the organization SOMOS. What follows is the story of a collective struggle still far from reaching its goals. Our conversation, which took place over Zoom, has been edited for length and clarity.

Daniel Fermín: We’re about to hit 20 years since April 11. What memories do you have of that day?

Richelle Briceño: I was praying in a chapel in San Antonio de los Altos. Before I was a trans woman, back then, I was a seminary student at the Salesiana Don Bosco parish and was prohibited from talking about politics. The news was breaking, but we couldn’t follow what was happening.

Yendri Velásquez: I was 10 or 11 years old, and I didn’t understand what was happening. My dad was part of the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), and growing up, I went to the MAS headquarters. I grew up around MAS leaders Teodoro Petkoff and Leopoldo Puchi. At that time, my dad opposed the Chávez government, which he had initially supported. I remember that there was a lot of tension in my grandmother’s house, because my mother’s family was very Chavista. It was all really uncomfortable. Sometimes, my dad didn’t even come into the dining room. He would stay outside with some of my uncles. I remember that very tense environment.

RB: My mom was very Chavista, too. And I called just to tease her a little. The next day, she called me back to make fun of me because Chávez was back in power.

DF: One sign of the times back then, and now as well, was precisely this intense divide that we have as a society, which affects families, the workplaces, relationships. How did this climate impact your activism and your social justice work?

RB: I got involved in activism after beginning my transition. I noticed a very important disconnect among activists identified as leftist or Chavista and activists identified with the opposition. Little by little, between 2015 and 2017, that struggle intensified and worsened among activists. Because they couldn’t see one another, let alone speak to one another.

I would tell them, “Compañeros, when people are going to discriminate against us, they don’t ask if we’re Chavistas, if we’re opposition, if we live in Country Club or in La Vega.” That’s not what matters. Because in the moment, they are going to discriminate against us based on our sexual orientation and our gender identity. And that’s what our struggle needs to focus on.

YV: Also, and I say this as part of the opposition, there was and still is this idea that we’re going to immediately replace the government and that these people aren’t going to be in power for much longer. And that makes you operate according to the logic that you don’t need them, because soon they won’t be there anymore. This idea happens a lot. One of the things that I have learned to accept is that although I don’t support Chavismo or those who are currently running the institutions, I know they’ll be there for a little while longer. And that makes me abandon the logic that we don’t need them. They control the institutions, and they exercise power. If, as an activist, I ignore who is in power, what am I doing? Because I can continue creating support groups and having a positive impact. But that’s 10 people per week, compared to the number of people in need in the entire country, even more so in a humanitarian and pandemic context.

This shift in logic forces us to recognize the existing political actors. We have to understand that the ones who are in these spaces are the ones who can create change, be it positive or negative. And ignoring them for personal reasons, not doing the necessary advocacy, would also betray any activist principle of seeking the well-being of the entire population.

The social fabric must be rebuilt. I have limits when it comes to sitting down with authoritarian figures. Not necessarily with those who are Chavistas. I have Chavista family members. I’m not going to say, “I’m never going to speak to them again.”

In the end, we have to evaluate which issues we can agree on and move forward, and which points of contention are irreconcilable. I think it’s essential to be clear. Because I can meet with a group of people today, but if they tell me, “Tomorrow you have to meet with Maduro,” then it’s a no. I can support the meeting between political actors. I can support building solutions. But I have my limits, especially if it’s someone accused of crimes against humanity. For me, that’s a line I don’t cross, and sadly, I’m convinced that under the PSUV government, there won’t be much progress.

DF: Richelle, would you sit down with Maduro to advance the community’s struggle?

RB: Yes, I would sit down with whoever I have to. Even the devil. If that somehow helps prevent the coming generations, when they are 14 or 15 years old, from saying “I’m going to kill myself because my family doesn’t love me, because my family doesn’t accept me, because I don’t have rights, because nobody understands me, nobody respects me,” then yes. If I have to sit down with Maduro or Diosdado Cabello, whoever I have to sit down with, I will do it. They’ll call me Chavista, but they can call me whatever they want. I have a priority: what I want is for Venezuela to make progress on human rights issues.

I sat in the National Constituent Assembly in 2017. Everyone talks about the illegitimacy of the Constituent Assembly. But if, as an activist, they call me and say, “Can you draft a comprehensive bill for the LBGTI community?” then why wouldn’t I do it? Now, in the National Assembly, there’s a subcommission on LGBTI within the commission for comprehensive social development, and the bill is being circulated because it is going to be introduced.

I also have a line I do not cross, and it’s meeting with anti-rights people, people who promote conversion therapy, people who say they are against marriage equality or who want to govern Venezuela based on the Bible or religion.

DF: Today, Chavistas, the opposition, and independent LGBTI activists manage to come together in some spaces. Has it been easy? How have you managed to break away from this polarization and what lessons do you think it offers for other movements?

YV: It hasn’t been easy. Sometimes you have to put up with a lot in order to build, to have a positive impact. Because in the end, it’s mostly about putting aside your personal convictions, without abandoning your principles, and understanding that this is bigger than you. Truthfully, would I like to sit down with people from the opposition party Primero Justicia? No. But could it be positive and necessary to advance human rights issues? Yes. So it’s not easy, but it’s necessary.

I don’t want to minimize the political conflict that exists in the country. At times, the dehumanization of the other and othering has been encouraged to such an extent that it ends up dehumanizing people when we are essentially the same. In the end, between LGBTQI activists linked to Chavismo and those of us who are not linked to Chavismo, the only difference is that they place too much hope in Chavismo and we don’t. But in other respects, we are pretty much in agreement on the LGBTQI agenda. Obviously, always with some differences.

DF: How have you managed what unions, campesino associations, educators, and students have not been able to do? What do you think has been successful?

RB: Acknowledding one another. Has it been easy? No. They labeled me a Chavista for sitting in the National Constituent Assembly in 2017. And for participating in the parliamentary elections in 2020, the attacks were worse and stronger. Among those in the two extremes, there is no conception that some people are not polarized. They want you to be polarized. Are you with me or with them? We have been overcoming this by acknowledging one another, and that has allowed us to all gather in the same space. 

DF: The positive aspects of this coming together also highlight the challenges that lie ahead for the movement. There is a significant lag in rights compared to other countries in the region. Why hasn’t a socialist government legislated in favor of the demands of the LGBTI community? And why hasn’t it been on the agenda of the opposition or oppositions?

YV: There’s a logic of staying in power that goes beyond any ideological commitment.

DF: Do you believe that advancing an inclusive agenda threatens their ability to stay in power?

YV: It doesn’t necessarily threaten, but it doesn’t help them stay in power. They have other priorities. Another factor is that the political and social costs of being homophobic are relatively new. There was a time when the LGBTI issue wasn’t discussed. Organizations that regained their strength in a much more polarized environment are adjusting to the polarization. This polarization has made it difficult to influence institutions. There are new organizations that have no idea what public advocacy is about. Their idea of advocacy is nothing more than protesting. There’s no work being done with decision makers.

Although Chavismo’s elites have or had a very socialist, leftist narrative, the truth is that the ideological rallying cries in the country feel very diffuse. There are no spaces for open discussion within parties. Despite the narrative and rhetoric of those in power, their commitment to causes like the LGBTI struggle and feminism isn’t real.

RB: I agree with Yendri. And I would add that the issue has not progressed with this government, but also not within the opposition. While the government focused on establishing itself in power, the opposition dedicated itself to searching for a way to overthrow it. They’ve been stuck in this dynamic for the last five years. Social issues, human rights for the LGBTI community and women, were pushed aside.

DF: In 2015, Tamara Adrían was elected to the National Assembly. She was the first trans legislator in Venezuela and the second in Latin America. During her stint in the legislature, why did Tamara not manage to move these issues forward?

RB: For five years, the legislature devoted itself to toppling the government. That’s the truth.

YV: This topic is a bit uncomfortable for me because Tamara Adrián and the activist Edgar Baptista taught me basically everything I know. The opposition and the government have not taken up LGBTI issues and this has a lot to due with the influence of the churches—the Catholic Church and the Evangelical churches. In addition, from the government side, there’s the issue of the military.

When I was still active in Voluntad Popular, I remember that when they ran Tamara as a candidate, Cardinal Urosa Savino (archbishop of Caracas) called Señora Anonieta (mother of the party’s national coordinator, Leopoldo López) to complain that Leopoldo’s party had put forward Tamara. Other figures and leaders in the Church called the party’s directors to apply pressure, and even during the campaign, Tomás Guanipa (general secretary of the conservative Primero Justicia and Tamara Adrían’s running mate) never took a photo with Tamara. And Primero Justicia’s line was to take less vocal stances on LGBTQI issues.

Why didn’t Tamara do more? I think there are various reasons. One is the logic under which the National Assembly was operating. As Richelle said, it devoted itself to changing the government and not to legislating. Those who became legislators never embraced that they were representatives with elected power, that they were a power of the state. And in doing so they put limitations on themselves. On the other hand, Tamara had a different agenda. I think she moved past an activist vision, a vision of organizing the social fabric.

Unfortunately, she did not have a vision of doing LGBTQI politics and rebuilding from within LGBTQI spaces. Why? I don’t know. Beyond laws, and understanding that there was conflict among different powers, I think that this was the most negative aspect of Tamara’s term. And of Rosmit Mantilla’s (LGBTQI activist and former legislator). Because although Rosmit was detained and obviously that is a considerable limitation, when he got out, he also did not devote himself to this work.

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining about them—not at all. But I am a citizen, I campaigned for them, I supported them, I made proposals. I wasn’t far removed from the National Assembly scene; I was actively participating. In the end, one of the things that Tamara’s term leaves us with is the sense that, among factions that claim to be democratic, support for LGBTQI issues is inexistent.

DF: What has changed in the last 20 years in terms of LGBTI activism? What hasn’t changed?

RB: The faces have changed. I think LGBTI activism has given way to new individuals and younger generations. The process of giving visibility to LGBTI rights and the spaces we once occupied have changed. There hadn’t been a trans representative in all of Latin America before Tamara Adrián was elected to the National Assembly in 2015. 

There’s still resistance to change. We still have roadblocks to LGBTQI rights and the right of women to make decisions regarding their own bodies.

YV: There is something very important that I believe is perhaps a consequence of April 11 that has less to do with political parties than it has to do with civil society, social movements, and civic participation at the grassroots level. This is key for the redemocratization of Venezuelan society because it promotes the construction of networks and social fabric. Organizations like COFAVIC (a human rights organization) now have more capacity than ever and they are supporting other organizations to create greater capacity. And I think that that’s very powerful, and we’re not likely to see it right away, but it’s a critical wager for the future.

DF: What is the biggest debt the state has with the LGBTI community?

RB: The state needs to apologize to every member of the LGBTI community. We have been punished by an unequal and prejudiced legal system. During the 1980s, police harassment against the LGBTI community in the streets of Caracas was called homosexual prevention or prevention of gay cancer. Prevention against anyone who threatened morality and “good” social norms. The state needs to apologize for the historical abuses we’ve suffered, with human dignity in mind.

Now, there’s also the discussion about our rights. Because although the right to non-discrimination has been reinforced throughout these past 20 years, we don’t have marriage equality, not even civil unions, nor the recognition of domestic partnerships. None of these three concepts exist in our legal system. On the other hand, there’s the issue of the recognition of families with same-sex parents, despite the existence of a 2016 Supreme Court ruling. To date, the civil registry and the National Elections Council, which operates the registry, has refused to recognize the children born to same-sex couples. In this way, the historical debt continues. Also, the right to gender identity. Without our identities, we don’t exist. In the National Assembly’s gender subcommission, I have proposed that the first law we work on must be the gender identity law. There isn’t even a law to eradicate different forms of violence against LGBTI individuals.

YV: The state needs to recognize us as people with rights. Our sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are no reason to ignore our rights. It’s important that the state, its officials, and society understand that we’re all born with the same dignity and rights. We are in a state of total vulnerability. Although there are some elements in the law, there are no effective mechanisms to make them a reality, there are no public policies that are oriented towards the eradication of violence based on transphobia and homophobia. There is no policy that seeks to guarantee the lives, dignity, and human rights of LGBTQI people.

DF: Do you believe that democratic forces of the Left can collectively pressure for these demands from the LGBTI community and other vulnerable communities? And as a follow up: is there room for the Venezuelan Right to fight for the rights of the LGBTI community?

YV: I think to answer that question, you have to challenge parties not only on the left, but also on the right to reassess and make room for these agendas with a vision of the future. Today, there are no parties, but rather people who belong to parties. It seems like the same thing, but it’s not. There is no concept of institutionality.

The truth is that we don’t really have serious right-wing parties. There are parties that say they are and leaders who recognize themselves as right-wing, but only in a reactionary sense of not being Chavistas. Yes, there are reactionaries, but behind those positions, there’s nothing. We must make a call to rethink in a way that is not necessarily about the left-right divide, which obviously has a time and place. Instead, we also need to talk about ourselves in the sense of being democratic or not. How do we build democratic opposition forces and points of view that go beyond not being Chavista? Because “not being Chavista” means nothing. How do you identify? What are your ideals? What do you stand for and what are you against? You can see the contradiction within parties like Primero Justicia and politicians like Julio Borges, for example. They speak out against Chavismo because of human rights violations, but they also have an agenda that is anti-LGBTQI and anti-women.

RB: If there are any true leftist movements, it’s the feminist movement and the LGBTI movement in this country. We are trying to completely disrupt the status quo imposed by the patriarchal system, a system with machista and misogynistic values. So, when identifying leftist actors in Venezuela, we should be focused on women and the LGBTI community. It would be a contradiction to consider yourself a leftist and neglect those issues. You wouldn’t be a leftist at all. You’d be a leftist in name, but deep down you’re not a leftist, because you are rejecting part of what it means to be a leftist.

Daniel Fermín is a sociologist, Ph.D. student at The New School for Social Research, and activist with Soluciones para Venezuela.

Richelle Briceño is a trans activist, lawyer, educator, member of the REDES party, and a former National Assembly candidate.

Yendri Velásquez is the Caracas coordinator for the organization SOMOS and an LGBTI activist.

This essay was first published in and translated from Spanish by NACLA on March 11, 2022. 

Photo: At an LGBTQI rights demonstration in Caracas, a protest sign made to look like an ID card reads: «I have rights like you» and «single (because of discrimination),» November 28, 2021. (Egloris Marys / Shutterstock)

Understanding Activism Release

Big thanks to Rhize for organizing a great panel on Understanding Activism. Facebook Live recording here. Full report here 


Activism is under attack, and Rhize’s groundbreaking report, Understanding Activism, has the data proving that civil society is part of the problem but can also be a part of the solution. Download the report.

Five ways in which this wave of demonstrations in Venezuela is different

May 25 at 7:00 AM
Protesters clashed with security forces in Caracas, Venezuela, on May 18, in the latest demonstration during weeks of anti-government unrest. (Reuters)

CARACAS, Venezuela — For nearly two months, Venezuelans have been holding almost-daily demonstrations against the government of President Nicolás Maduro, demanding early elections, more democratic rights and the release of political prisoners. At least 55 people have died in the protests, which come amid a severe economic crisis in the oil-producing country.

This isn’t the first time in recent years that Venezuelans have launched protest movements against Maduro. In 2014 and 2016, demonstrators held a series of marches, but they died down after a few weeks.

Will this time be different? Here are five reasons this wave of protests could achieve more results:

1. The demonstrations are more widespread and have continued for longer than in previous periods.

Never before have so many people taken to the streets for so long in so many states across the country, according to PROVEA, a nonprofit Venezuelan group that monitors human rights issues. Another organization that tracks social conflict, the Venezuelan Social Conflict Observatory, said that from April 1 to May 17, there were 1,208 protests across the nation. Dozens more have occurred since then, even though security forces have tried to discourage the marches by deploying tanks and using rubber bullets and tear gas.

2. The demonstrations are drawing people from a variety of economic classes.

The economy has sharply contracted, and the inflation is among the highest in the world because of low oil prices and ineffective policies implemented by the socialist-oriented government. Venezuelans are suffering from a severe scarcity of food and medicine. The government’s popularity has fallen to less than 15 percent, according to a recent poll from the Venezuelan Institute of Data Analysis, or IVAD.

Clashes broke out during an anti-government march led by thousands of elderly Venezuelans when police tried to block them from advancing in the capital city of Caracas. (Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)

Low-income residents in areas that had been strongholds of the ruling party have started to join the protests. In the past, many working-class Venezuelans supported the system put in place by late president Hugo Chávez in the early part of this century — and maintained by Maduro — because they received benefits such as cheap groceries and free medical care and housing. But many “Chavistas” have become disillusioned with the government. “The difference this time,” said Nicmer Evans, a member of Marea Socialista, one of the Chavista movements that is critical of Maduro, “is that they have reasons to protest.”

3. There are open divisions in Maduro’s party.

There are clear signs of fissures within the ruling party. Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz, a longtime Chavista, condemned a decision by the supreme court in March to strip the opposition-controlled legislature of its powers. She also has denounced the use of military law to judge detained protesters and criticized Maduro’s recent call for a constituent assembly to draw up a new constitution. “Her statements, I think, make change a probable scenario,” said Luis Vicente Leon, director of the Datanalisis polling firm.

Two supreme court magistrates declared this week that they’re also against Maduro’s push for a constituent national assembly. Although they’re not members of the constitutional court, which decides if the assembly is legal, their dissent was highly unusual, because the government exercises great influence over the judiciary.

Henrique Capriles, opposition leader and governor of the state of Miranda, said such actions could have a “snowball effect” in the near future. “They set a precedent for others to do it tomorrow.”

4. Maduro’s government is more isolated internationally.

Many countries and international bodies have become more critical of the government and supportive of the opposition. Members of the Organization of American States, for example, voted last month to call an emergency meeting to discuss the humanitarian crisis and political violence in Venezuela. The country reacted by announcing it would withdraw from the entity. The U.N. high commissioner for human rights recently sought to meet with Capriles, but the politician reported that his passport was annulled as he tried to leave Venezuela to travel to New York.

The U.S. Treasury Department last week announced sanctionsagainst eight magistrates of Venezuela’s supreme court because of its decision to strip power from the opposition-controlled congress.

5. Opposition parties are unified, and the coalition is evolving.

Unlike in past protest movements, the opposition coalition (MUD) has a clear and unified message and agenda, said Daniel Fermín, a sociologist who specializes in nonviolent conflicts.

Leaders of different parties have joined the marches. Young leaders are emerging and taking a central role, giving fresh energy to an opposition whose main figures have been in politics since the early years of the Chávez presidency.

Some opposition leaders have hinted that mid- and low-ranking members of the military are becoming more sympathetic to anti-government protesters. Freddy Guevara, vice president of the National Assembly, tweeted recently that lawmakers were starting to work on amnesty measures that would apply to some government officials and members of the military in the event of a transition, with the goal of making it easier for them to change sides now.

Despite these differences with past protest movements, there is no guarantee that the demonstrators will achieve their aims. The government has cracked down fiercely on the protests, using force and making over 2,600 arrests. And the opposition could lose its ability to mobilize people if it can’t prevent more radical demonstrators from resorting to violence, Fermin said.

Still, there are signs that Venezuela is living a new chapter of its history.

Published in The Washington Post May 25, 2017.

World Insight: What is behind Venezuela turnmoil

By CGTN’s Ding Dai
The divisions among Venezuelans and between the government and the opposition are not new. And protests have been going on since the economy went bad.
Prices rose by 800 percent in 2016, with the IMF predicting inflation could hit 2,200 percent by the end of this year. Meanwhile, the economy shrunk by 18.6 percent last year, according to Reuters.
CGTN Photo
“Venezuela has been a very polarized society in the last 20 years,” Daniel Fermin, researcher for the Center of Political Studies at the Andres Bello Catholic University, told CGTN’s World Insight.
Some 86 percent of the population now have different views on the country’s future or the political system, he said. This includes Chavistas – supporters of former president Hugo Chavez – and even current Chavistas that don’t identify with President Nicolas Maduro.
For Maricruz Magowan, vice president of the National Economists Club, simply removing Maduro will not solve the problem inside Venezuela. That might take years. 
“We haven’t heard of these kinds of protests for 15-16 years. Why? Because they were receiving things for free. That is not sustainable,” she noted. 
CGTN Photo
Venezuela’s four-year economic recession has caused shortages of food and medicine. Polls suggest Maduro’s party will have difficulty winning another presidential election.
Maduro says opponents are seeking a coup with US support and harbor «terrorists» and «murderers» in their ranks.

The 54-year-old successor to Hugo Chavez is setting up a super body known as a «constituent assembly» with powers to rewrite the constitution, shake up public powers, and potentially replace the legislature. But Maduro insists he’s open for dialogue with his opponents and is willing to end the violence.

Interview for CGTN, published on May 9, 2017

Why Protesters in Venezuela Today Should Resist Responding to Violence with Violence

Peaceful protests almost always work better than violent ones – even against repressive governments.      

Most Venezuelans taking part in today’s “mother of all marches” against President Nicolás Maduro are planning to do so peacefully. Even the country’s most outspoken opposition leaders are using the language of nonviolent resistance.

Not everyone is on board. Government security forces have cracked down violently on dissent; regime-backed paramilitary groups attacked marchers and have killed five demonstrators in protests since April 1, leading the UN High Commission for Human Rights and regional leaders to call on Maduro to respect the people’s right to assemble peacefully. As recent incidents of rock-throwing, setting fire to government buildings and sporadic looting suggest, however, some demonstrators feel compelled to respond in kind to the regime’s aggression.

A portion of the violence during recent protests can be attributed to regime forces, often police or intelligence officers, who have infiltrated demonstrations with the intent of tainting the opposition and justifying further repression. But there are indeed many in Venezuela today who believe that responding to Maduro with violence is the only way to force a change in government. I’ve written extensively on the disadvantages of this line of thinking, and the response on Twitter has been telling:  “You mean to tell me that we should just march to Altamira (an upper-middle class neighborhood in Caracas) with our little flags or wherever the regime lets us?! I don’t agree with you, brother,” one person responded to me last week. Another told me that I “live in a poem” and that “every rebellion has a degree of violence in order to face the violent ones.”

Well, recent global experience – and Venezuela’s own history – show why they’re wrong. What’s more, the conditions in Venezuela today, more so than at any time in recent years, suggest that a nonviolent response to Maduro’s aggression stands the best chance of ultimately forcing a change in government.

Part of the reason for this is that the demands protesters are making of the government are more concrete than ever. In today’s march under the banner of “Elections now!” Venezuelan citizens are calling for: free and fair elections, respect for the democratically-elected National Assembly, and acceptance of humanitarian aid, which the government has systematically refused, dismissing it as an excuse for a foreign invasion. For an opposition too often attached to the “Maduro out!” call to action, a clear set of goals pointing forward is new and inspiring.

On a global level, nonviolent action has been successful against precisely the type of cruel leader that Maduro has become. From post-Soviet countries to South Africa and from the Philippines to Serbia, nonviolent action has led to regime change and democratization, even in the face of horrid repression. The Tunisian revolution has become a vivid, current example of the effectiveness of nonviolent struggle.

And historically, nonviolence has been shown to be more effective than violence in increasing costs for the regime and effecting change. The International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC) has compiled a complete resource library that provides clear evidence for the advantages of nonviolent action over violent campaigns. The work of two ICNC researchers, Erika Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, shows that 61 percent of violent campaigns fail in regime change, while nonviolent action fails 17 percent of the time. Moreover, transitions carried out by nonviolent means lead to more stable, lasting and peaceful democracies than those achieved through violence. On average, nonviolent campaigns attract 150,000 more members than violent ones, since violence increases the barriers for participation.

This last point is especially important in the Venezuelan case, where popular anger against the regime is now being expressed across all segments of society, even among lower-income groups that have long provided the bulwark of support for chavismo. Today’s protesters aim to promote democratic transition, and in doing so, they recognize a crucial element of nonviolent theory: that transitions are do not only a concern of political or economic elites.

In nonviolent struggle, repression often backfires on the regime, causing cracks in their ranks. Nonviolent action is particularly effective in gaining international support and causing shifts in the regime’s international support base. Far from achieving its goals, when demonstrations turn violent they: 1) significantly raise the costs of participation, decreasing the number of people willing to join; 2) stimulate greater cohesion in pro-government groups; 3) lower the costs of repression, which is then seen by police and military forces as necessary and justified; and 4) delegitimize the protest in the eyes of the international community. All of this can happen –and has happened in the past– in Venezuela.

Caveat lector, nonviolence isn’t magic. It can fail. It needs discipline, organization, clear goals, and unity of purpose. The change it achieves can be undone, as the current state of Egypt shows. However, when Venezuelans are placed at the crossroads of violence and nonviolence, they should know that the latter is by far the more likely force to usher in lasting democracy in a country in dire need of reconciliation and rebuilding.

Fermín is a sociologist and researcher at UCAB in Caracas.

Published in Americas Quarterly on April 19, 2017.

Boycott, conflict and change: Can Venezuela’s president be unseated peacefully?

Venezuelans want to resolve the ‘dangerous’ crisis in their country in a peaceful, democratic, constitutional and electoral manner. Will President Maduro’s regime continue to boycott that possibility? 


On December 6, 2015, the Venezuelan opposition won control of the National Assembly (AN) for the first time since chavismo rose to power, 17 years ago. In a landslide victory, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) achieved 112 of the 167 seats in Parliament. It was truly an unprecedented event that goes beyond the normal implications of a political power shift.

To understand the magnitude of this occurrence, we must refer to the political structure in revolutionary Venezuela. In 1998, Hugo Chávez won the presidency promoting his Bolivarian Revolution, which in 2006 he labeled as Socialist. A new constitution was drafted, that saw the classical three-branch model of government extended to five. Thus, Venezuela is now divided in the Executive, Legislative, Judicial, Moral and Electoral branches.

In practical terms, however, these distinctions mattered little. Chávez’s power, cemented on charisma and oil prices over $100 per barrel, extended to his control over all five branches of government. More so, revolutionary officials began referring to the democratic principle of separation of power as counterproductive to the consolidation of the revolutionary system. Such was the case of Luisa Estela Morales, former Chief Justice of Venezuela, who in 2009 declared that separation of powers weakened the state.

For 17 years, the Venezuelan parliament was perfectly aligned with the executive, and the case could be made that it was subservient to it. That is the key to understanding why the MUD’s triumph was so significant in changing the political landscape in Venezuela. Can a weakened chavismo govern without a docile congress?

The aftermath of December 6 has been characterized by a systematic attack on the National Assembly by the socialist regime and its institutions. The Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) has been the go-to institution to neutralize the constitutional powers of the assembly. Popular support is at an all-time low, but chavismo had planned for this ahead of time. Two months before the legislative elections, and violating several constitutional provisions, the then government-controlled National Assembly led a speedy and irregular process to appoint new, party loyal, justices to the TSJ.

The actions of the Supreme Tribunal have constituted a true boycott of the National Assembly in favor of the executive power.  In six months the tribunal has:

– stopped three congressmen from the indigenous Amazonas state from swearing in, preventing the opposition from exercising its supermajority
– declared numerous bills passed by the new AN as unconstitutional, including an amnesty law intended to free political prisoners and a law to give homes to beneficiaries of government housing programs
– approved special powers for the president, over the AN’s negative decisions
– limited the assembly’s constitutional task of controlling the government, by excluding the other branches and the Armed Forces from being subject to interpellation from the assembly.

The strategy seems to aim in two directions: The first one, to render the assembly useless, both in practical terms as well as in the eyes of the Venezuelan citizens. This has been a recurrent practice of the regime. In 2013, when the opposition won the Metropolitan Mayoralty of Caracas, the executive drastically reduced its competences, awarding them to a new, non-elected office, created for the occasion, known as the Head of Government of Caracas, directly appointed by the president. When government forces failed to oust former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles as Governor of Miranda state, a new ‘protectorship’ of the state, named Corpomiranda, was granted to the losing candidate, with a higher budget than the elected — and constitutional — office of Governor.

The second direction is to make the opposition-controlled National Assembly seem co-responsible for the severe crisis in Venezuela. In the months after the election, government campaigns have often cited the fact that, despite its electoral promises, the opposition hasn’t been able to turn the situation around, even though they are now ‘in power’. This is, of course, misleading, as the National Assembly does not have the competences to dictate changes in government policies and the bills passed in that direction have been boycotted by the TSJ.

The opposition had run its campaign on two main issues: the economic crisis and political change, specifically change of government. With its legislative initiatives repeatedly shut down by the TSJ, the assembly focused on constitutional alternatives to remove President Nicolás Maduro from power. After pondering different mechanisms, such as a constitutional amendment to shorten Maduro’s term, and the president’s resignation, the opposition settled on a Recall Referendum. This has been met by, again, many obstacles, coming from the TSJ and now, also, from the National Electoral Council (CNE), controlled by the regime. The process to activate the referendum has been severely stalled by new, discretionary steps and regulations, in an effort to avoid an election that Maduro would surely lose, according to the polls.

How did we get here? The nature of the Venezuelan crisis

But how did chavismo, an electoral powerhouse that easily won the vast majority of all elections in the last 17 years, end up in this situation, evading a new vote at all costs? The answer lies in the collapse of the economic model promoted by the regime and the severe crisis it generated. The Venezuelan socialist economy relied exclusively on oil exports and sustained high oil prices. In 17 years, chavismo failed to diversify the economy, and instead saw thousands of industries and businesses close as the state increased its hold on the economic sector, relying on imports instead of national production. Chávez’s death coincided with the end of the latest oil price boom, and Mr. Maduro was left with a bill he couldn’t pay.

The Venezuelan crisis is the worst in the country’s history. According to a recent poll carried out by the Center for Political Studies at Andrés Bello Catholic University, 86% of Venezuelans perceive the situation as being negative. 62% think it will only get worse in the next twelve months. The main concerns are food and medicine scarcity and rising crime rates. Venezuelans have grown accustomed to long queues in order to access the most basic needs, the majority of which they can’t find, even after spending hours in line. Over 60% of the population blames the government and the president directly for the crisis, and while 51% say they trust the National Assembly, only 26% claim to have any in the president.

The regime’s support has eroded, even among chavistas, with over half of them claiming to be followers of the late Chávez, but not of Maduro. According to a study by Venebarómetro, 68% of Venezuelans want elections to remove Maduro from power and 61% think he should resign. In regards to a Recall Referendum, this poll shows that Maduro would lose 60% to 28%. As for the actions of the Supreme Tribunal, 40% believe its actions constitute a direct boycott of the National Assembly, and an additional 22% expressly indicate that the TSJ acts on behalf of the president.

Poverty has risen to 48%, according to official data. Comparatively, it stood at 45% in pre-Chávez 1998. According to other estimates, calculated by the three most renowned Venezuelan universities, poverty has shot up to 70% of the population. The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict registers 21 street protests a day, most of them having to do with food scarcity, social matters and the collapse of public services such as electricity and water, both controlled by the state. International reserves stand barely at $12 million and inflation has been calculated to be at anywhere from 300% to 1000% by the end of 2016. Jobs, infrastructure, quality of life have all deteriorated.

Where we’re at and what lies ahead

2016 has been a year of crisis and conflict in Venezuela. Institutionally, we bear witness to a clash between branches of government. One, the National Assembly, aspiring to control the government and push for political change. The other four, along with the ever-present Armed Forces, dead-set on defending the status quo and weathering the storm.

The regime is finding it more and more difficult to outright stop a Recall Referendum by the opposition, as the MUD has overcome every obstacle thrown its way and complied with all the steps required to activate this constitutional mechanism. Therefore, the Bolivarian government has its sights set on deferring the referendum to 2017. The reason being that Venezuelan laws indicate if Maduro were to be recalled before 2017, elections would have to be held within 30 days to choose a new president. However, if the referendum were to take place after January 10, 2017, then no new elections would take place, and the vice-president would assume office for the remainder of the term, until 2019. This would keep chavismo in power regardless of the electoral results. Former assembly president and government party strongman, Diosdado Cabello, has already explained a formula to bring Maduro back to power, should he lose the referendum: The recall would take place in 2017, and whoever is vice-president would then assume the presidency, appoint Maduro vice-president, and resign, resulting in Maduro being, once again, president. This is blatantly undemocratic and constitutes a mockery out of the spirit of the constitution, but it’s also the logic and framework chavismo is working with.

Meanwhile, the crisis deepens. Scarcity is everywhere, and not even the black market can supply Venezuelans with basic products and services. Crime is up; looting of food and supplies is up, with over 254 cases in the first five months of 2016. Violent backlash by police and military forces against peaceful demonstrations is increasing, with several wounded and at least three deaths in separate incidents in the last week. The institutional conflict between the National Assembly and the regime-controlled branches of power is also reaching dangerous levels, with opposition members of Congress being violently attacked on several occasions not only by military and police forces, but also by paramilitary armed groups that support the government, calledcolectivos, as the president threatens to indict the members of the assembly for treason for asking for the right to speak at the Organization of American States.

Many ask if Venezuela is going through a transition. One would have to question where to. At this time, it is unclear if Venezuela is transitioning from a hybrid regime to a more autocratic one, or if this is a slow and difficult transition to democracy.

Many challenges lie ahead, for the National Assembly and for Venezuelan democracy in general. The first and most important one is resolving the economic crisis and, especially, finding ways to do so without shock measures that would greatly affect the majority of Venezuelans who live in poverty. The rebuilding of effective and responsive democratic institutions, guided by clear rules and law, is another major challenge, as is the reconstruction of the political community in a country where government and opposition parties have no relations at all and refuse to sit down with one another.

Venezuela is in turmoil, and Venezuelans want change. Over 98% of Venezuelans, according to UCAB’s study, value elections as the preferred means to achieve that change. Venezuelans want to resolve the crisis in a peaceful, democratic, constitutional and electoral manner. Will the regime continue to boycott that possibility? If so, what can we expect in a country where social tensions rise every day as the government seems incapable of satisfying its citizen’s demands? What role will the National Assembly have in this process, and will it finally find a way to exert its clear majority? In all, it is a very dangerous scenario, in which, today, we have more questions than answers.

This article is published in association with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, which is seeking to contribute to public knowledge about effective democracy-strengthening by leading a discussion on openDemocracy about what approaches work best. Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of WFD. WFD’s programmes bring together parliamentary and political party expertise to help developing countries and countries transitioning to democracy.

Publicado en Open Democracy el 30 de junio de 2016.

Boicot, conflicto y cambio. ¿Podrá Venezuela destituir pacíficamente a su presidente?

Asistimos a  un ataque sistemático a la Asamblea Nacional por parte del régimen del presidente Nicolás Maduro y sus instituciones.  La tensión insoportable obliga a negociar una salida electoral.


El 6 de diciembre de 2015, la oposición venezolana ganó el control de la Asamblea Nacional por primera vez desde que el chavismo tomó el poder, hace 17 años.  En una victoria abrumadora, la Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) logró 112 de los 167 escaños del Parlamento. Fue, a todas luces, un evento inédito que va más allá de las implicaciones normales de un cambio en las relaciones de poder.

Para comprender mejor la magnitud de este acontecimiento, debemos referirnos a la estructura política de la Venezuela revolucionaria. En 1998, Hugo Chávez ganó la presidencia promoviendo su Revolución Bolivariana, la cual, en 2006, denominó socialista. Se redactó una nueva Constitución, que vio el modelo clásico de tres poderes extenderse a cinco. De esta manera, Venezuela está hoy dividida en los poderes Ejecutivo, Legislativo, Judicial, Moral y Electoral.

En términos prácticos, sin embargo, estas distinciones importaban poco. El poder del señor Chávez, cementado en el carisma y en precios sostenidos del petróleo sobre los $100 el barril, se extendía a su control sobre las cinco ramas del gobierno. Mas aún, los funcionarios revolucionarios comenzaron a referirse al principio democrático de separación de los poderes como contraproducente a la consolidación del sistema revolucionario. Tal fue el caso de la señora Luisa Estela Morales, ex presidenta del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, quien en 2009 declaró que la separación de poderes debilitaba al Estado.

Durante 17 años el Parlamento venezolano estuvo perfectamente alineado con el Ejecutivo, y se puede hacer el caso de que estaba subordinado a éste. Esa es la clave para entender por qué el triunfo de la MUD fue tan significativo para el cambio del panorama político en Venezuela. ¿Puede un chavismo debilitado gobernar sin un Congreso dócil?

Las secuelas del 6 de diciembre se han caracterizado por un ataque sistemático a la Asamblea Nacional por parte del régimen socialista y sus instituciones. En particular, el Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) ha sido la instancia por excelencia para neutralizar los poderes constitucionales de la AN. Con su apoyo popular en bajos históricos, el chavismo había previsto esto con antelación. Por esta razón, dos meses antes de las elecciones legislativas, y violando varias provisiones constitucionales, la Asamblea Nacional, entonces controlada por el gobierno, llevó a cabo un proceso rápido e irregular para designar nuevos magistrados al TSJ, leales al partido oficial.

Las acciones del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia han constituido un verdadero boicot de la Asamblea Nacional a favor del poder Ejecutivo. En seis meses, el TSJ ha impedido la incorporación de tres diputados del estado indígena de Amazonas, evitando así que la oposición pueda ejercer su mayoría absoluta en el Parlamento; ha declarado inconstitucionales una larga lista de leyes promovidas por la AN, incluyendo una Ley de Amnistía y Reconciliación para liberar a los presos políticos y una Ley que da acceso a la propiedad a los beneficiarios de la política de viviendas del gobierno; ha aprobado poderes especiales al presidente, a pesar de la negativa de la AN; y ha limitado la tarea constitucional de la Asamblea Nacional de controlar al gobierno, excluyendo a los demás poderes y a la Fuerza Armada Nacional de ser sujetos de interpelación política por parte de la AN.

La estrategia parece ir orientada en dos direcciones: La primera, convertir a la AN en un cuerpo inútil, tanto en términos prácticos como en la opinión de los venezolanos. Esta ha sido una práctica recurrente del régimen. En 2013, cuando la oposición ganó la Alcaldía Metropolitana de Caracas, el Ejecutivo redujo drásticamente sus competencias, otorgándoselas a una nueva institución, no electa, creada para la ocasión, conocida como la Jefatura de Gobierno de Caracas, designada directamente por el presidente. Cuando las fuerzas del gobierno no pudieron derrotar al ex candidato presidencial de la oposición, Henrique Capriles, en las elecciones a la gobernación del estado Miranda, otorgaron un “Protectorado” del estado, llamado Corpomiranda, al candidato perdedor, con mayor presupuesto que la instancia electa, y constitucional, de la gobernación. La segunda dirección es hacer ver a la Asamblea Nacional opositora como corresponsable de la severa crisis en Venezuela. En los meses siguientes a la elección, las campañas del gobierno han citado el hecho de que, a pesar de sus promesas electorales, la oposición no ha podido solventar la situación, aun cuando ahora “tiene el poder”.  Esto, por supuesto, es engañoso, ya que la Asamblea Nacional no tiene las competencias para dictar cambios en las políticas gubernamentales y los proyectos de ley que ha adelantado en ese sentido han sido boicoteados por el TSJ.

La oposición había basado su campaña en dos temas principales: la crisis económica y el cambio político, específicamente el cambio de gobierno. Con sus iniciativas legislativas reiteradamente bloqueadas por el Tribunal Supremo, la AN se enfocó en las alternativas constitucionales para remover al presidente Nicolás Maduro del poder. Luego de considerar varios mecanismos, como una enmienda constitucional para acortar el mandato del señor Maduro y la renuncia del presidente, la oposición se decidió por el Referéndum Revocatorio. Esto, de igual manera, ha sido recibido con una serie de obstáculos provenientes del TSJ y ahora, también, del Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE), controlado por el régimen. El proceso de activación del Referéndum ha sido gravemente retrasado por nuevas reglas y procedimientos discrecionales, en un esfuerzo por evitar una elección que el señor Maduro seguramente perdería, de acuerdo a las encuestas.

¿Cómo llegamos hasta aquí? La naturaleza de la crisis venezolana

¿Cómo el chavismo, una fuerza electoral que ganó fácilmente la gran mayoría de todos los procesos de los últimos 17 años, terminó en esta situación, evadiendo una nueva elección por todos los medios? La respuesta se encuentra en el colapso del modelo económico promovido por el régimen y la severa crisis que este generó. La economía venezolana socialista dependió exclusivamente de la exportación petrolera y los altos precios del petróleo. En 17 años, el chavismo fracasó en diversificar la economía y, por el contrario, asistió al cierre de miles de industrias y empresas mientras el Estado incrementaba su control sobre el sector económico, apoyándose en las importaciones en lugar de la producción nacional. La muerte del señor Chávez coincidió con el fin del último boom petrolero, dejándole al señor Maduro la cuenta, una que no podía pagar.

La crisis venezolana es la peor en la historia del país. El 86% de los venezolanos, de acuerdo a una investigación reciente del Centro de Estudios Políticos de la Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (UCAB), tiene una percepción negativa de la situación. 62% piensa que será igual o peor en los próximos doce meses. Los problemas principales tienen que ver con la escasez de alimentos y medicinas y la creciente criminalidad. Los venezolanos se han acostumbrado a realizar largas filas para poder acceder a los bienes y servicios más básicos y la mayoría de las veces no logran encontrarlos, a pesar de pasar largas horas en cola. Más de 60% de la población culpa al gobierno y al presidente directamente por la crisis, y mientras 51% confía en la Asamblea Nacional, apenas 26% dice tener alguna confianza en el presidente.

El apoyo del régimen se ha erosionado, incluso entre los chavistas. Más de la mitad de este sector se considera chavista pero “no madurista”.  De acuerdo a un estudio de Venebarómetro, 68% de los venezolanos quiere elecciones para remover al señor Maduro del poder y 61% piensa que debe renunciar. Con respecto a un Referéndum Revocatorio, esta encuesta muestra que el señor Maduro perdería la elección 60% a 28%.  En cuanto a las acciones del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, 40% considera que sus acciones constituyen un boicot directo a la Asamblea Nacional, y un 22% adicional indica expresamente que el TSJ actúa en nombre del presidente.

La pobreza ha aumentado a 48%, de acuerdo a las cifras oficiales. Comparativamente, la pobreza se ubicaba en 45% en 1998, antes de la llegada de Chávez al poder. Otras estimaciones, llevadas a cabo por las tres universidades más prestigiosas de Venezuela, ubican a la pobreza sobre el 70%. El Observatorio Venezolano de Conflictividad Social registra un promedio de 21 protestas diarias, la mayoría de ellas relacionadas a la escasez de comida, asuntos sociales y el colapso de los servicios públicos como la electricidad y el agua, ambos controlados por el Estado. Las reservas internacionales se ubican en apenas $12.000 millones y la inflación ha sido calculada, para el cierre de 2016, entre 300% y 1000%. El empleo, la infraestructura y la calidad de vida se han deteriorado.

¿Dónde estamos y hacia dónde vamos?

2016 ha sido un año de crisis y conflicto en Venezuela. Institucionalmente, presenciamos una lucha entre poderes. Uno, la Asamblea Nacional, que aspira controlar al gobierno y promover el cambio político. Los otros cuatro, junto a la siempre presente Fuerza Armada, empeñados en defender el status quo y sortear la tormenta.

Al régimen se le hace cada vez más difícil impedir el Referéndum Revocatorio convocado por la oposición, ya que la MUD ha superado los obstáculos y cumplido con todos los pasos para activar este mecanismo constitucional. De este modo, el gobierno bolivariano se ha propuesto diferir el Referéndum hasta 2017. La razón está en que las leyes venezolanas indican que si el señor Maduro fuese revocado antes de 2017, tendría que llamarse a nuevas elecciones presidenciales en los siguientes 30 días. Sin embargo, si el Referéndum ocurriese después del 10 de enero de 2017, no habría una nueva elección, sino que el vicepresidente de la República asumiría el cargo por el resto del mandato, hasta 2019. Esto mantendría al chavismo en el poder, independientemente del resultado electoral. El ex presidente de la Asamblea Nacional y hombre fuerte del partido de gobierno, Diosdado Cabello, ya ha propuesto una fórmula para devolver el poder al señor Maduro, si perdiera el revocatorio: El Referéndum se daría en 2017, y el vicepresidente asumiría la presidencia, designaría al señor Maduro como vicepresidente y renunciaría, permitiendo al señor Maduro asumir, nuevamente, la presidencia. Esto es evidentemente antidemocrático y constituye una burla al espíritu de la Constitución, pero también es la lógica y el marco conceptual en el que se está moviendo el chavismo.

Mientras tanto, la crisis empeora. La escasez todo lo cubre, y ni siquiera el mercado negro puede proveer a los venezolanos los bienes y servicios básicos. La inseguridad aumenta, aumentan también los saqueos de alimentos y suministros, con más de 254 casos registrados en los primeros cinco meses de 2016. La represión violenta de las protestas pacíficas por parte de las fuerzas militares y policiales está incrementando, con varios lesionados y al menos tres fallecidos en distintos incidentes en la última semana. El conflicto institucional entre la Asamblea Nacional y los poderes controlados por el régimen también escalan a niveles peligrosos, con diputados opositores siendo atacados violentamente, no sólo por fuerzas militares y policiales, sino también por grupos armados paramilitares que apoyan al gobierno, conocidos como “colectivos”, mientras el presidente amenaza con juzgar a los miembros de la Asamblea Nacional por traición a la patria por solicitar un derecho de palabra ante la Organización de Estados Americanos.

Muchos preguntan si Venezuela está atravesando una transición. Habría que preguntarse hacia dónde.  En este momento, no está claro si en Venezuela hay una transición desde un régimen híbrido hacia uno más autocrático, o si se adelanta una lenta y difícil transición hacia la democracia.

Son muchos los retos por delante para la Asamblea Nacional y la democracia venezolana en general. El primero y el más importante es brindar solución a la crisis económica y, especialmente, encontrar maneras para hacerlo sin medidas de choque que afectarían considerablemente a la mayoría de venezolanos que vive en la pobreza. La reconstrucción de instituciones democráticas efectivas y responsivas es otro gran desafío, como lo es también la recomposición de la comunidad política en un país en el que gobierno y oposición no se hablan y se niegan a sentarse en la misma mesa.

Venezuela se encuentra en un estado de convulsión social y los venezolanos aspiran a un cambio. Más de 98% de los venezolanos, de acuerdo al estudio de la UCAB, valoran las elecciones como el mecanismo predilecto para lograr ese cambio. Los venezolanos quieren resolver la crisis de manera pacífica, democrática, constitucional y electoral. ¿Podrá el régimen boicotear esa posibilidad? Y si lo hace, ¿Qué podemos espera en un país en el que las tensiones sociales crecen cada día mientras el gobierno parece incapaz de satisfacer las demandas ciudadanas? ¿Qué rol tendrá la Asamblea Nacional en este proceso, y podrá finalmente encontrar la manera de ejercer su clara mayoría? En definitiva, estamos ante un escenario muy comprometido, en el que hoy tenemos más preguntas que respuestas…


Inside Story: Ousting Nicolás Maduro

Venezuela is unravelling as shortages of almost everything push people to their limits.

Almost 90 percent of Venezuelans say they don’t have money to buy enough food and many are forced to make do with a single meal a day.

Riots and mass lootings are on the rise and calls for President Nicolas Maduro to resign are growing louder.

The opposition has begun checking signatures on a petition to start a recall referendum against him.

It needs to validate 200,000 signatures or 1 percent of the electorate, to kickstart the process to recall Maduro.

After that, 20 percent of voters or around four million people, will need to sign a second petition to trigger the referendum.

For it to be successful, an equal or greater number of voters that those who elected the President, will need to vote in favour of a recall.

That means more than the roughly 7.5 million votes Maduro received in 2013.

But is the opposition a credible alternative to socialist rule? And how is the unrest in Venezuela being viewed regionally?

Presenter: Dareen Abughaida


Daniel Fermin – Researcher for the Center of Political Studies at the Andreas Bello Catholic University.

Michael McCarthy – Research Fellow at the American University’s Center for Latin American Studies.

Vanessa Neumann – Founder and Chief Executive of the trade integrity consultancy firm, Asymmetrica.

Entrevista en el programa Inside Story de Al Jazeera, el 21 de junio de 2016