Community leaders, journalists, influencers, and students, after successful completion of the “Cost-Benefit Workshop” of the Economic Legislative Observatory in 2014.
Protecting individual rights requires constant vigilance. In the socialist regime of Venezuela, where government maintains extensive control over the country’s economy, Atlas Network partner Center for Dissemination of Economic Knowledge about Freedom (Centro de Divulgación del Conocimiento Económico para la Libertad, better known as CEDICE Freedom), based in Caracas, has worked toward greater economic and personal liberty for more than three decades. CEDICE’s Watchdog for Freedom and Democracy project, which brings together three “observatories” that monitor the state of individual rights in Venezuela, has been named one of six finalists for this year’s prestigious $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award.
“With the Watchdog for Freedom and Democracy [project] in Venezuela, CEDICE works towards the empowerment of citizens — that concept that has been lost during these years of socialism,” said Rocio Guijarro, executive director of CEDICE. “The idea is that these people become a part of the constructive dialogue in which the civil society and government officials actively try to reach a consensus regarding how to achieve a free Venezuela, where the life and property of all is respected.”
In its focus on individual liberty, CEDICE’s Watchdog for Freedom and Democracy project aims to monitor the political mechanisms that undermine the freedom of Venezuelans, analyzing the data it collects and using it both to alert the people of the problems they face and to instill a public conscience about the consequences of government control.
“Knowledge is power,” Guijarro said. “The more a person knows about civil and economic rights, about the responsibilities of the parliament and what his or her taxes are, all the while participating in the follow-up to laws passed in the country, the more such a person will be able to, from his own criteria, analyze the situation and bring change to the political process. In Venezuela, only about 35 percent of the population knows how much they pay in taxes. Only about 25 percent knows what the government does with their money. Only 31 percent or less knows which laws are passed but remain uninformed of their effects on their lives.”
More than 100 people learn about the rule of law and democracy in Latin America and Venezuela, during the 2014 international forum “The Totalitarian Temptation,” presented by Mauricio Rojas.
CEDICE’s project includes an Economic-Legislative Observatory, which aims to improve the democratic dialogue in Venezuela through constant monitoring and cost-benefit analysis; a Property Rights Observatory, which identifies, monitors, registers, and systematizes all forms of property rights encroachment; and a Public Expenditure Observatory, which tracks government spending and aims to improve the quality and availability of expenditure data, as well as increasing the public demand for and use of such information.
“These three aspects represent the main pillars of the current crisis Venezuela is going through,” Guijarro said. “In our country, a law that compromises the liberty of the citizenry is passed every week, and no one knows how or when it happened. More than 1,500 organizations have been expropriated in the last six years, and no one knows why! Spending is 150 percent greater than what was established in the budget, and there’s not a single well-supplied hospital. With this in mind, if we want to change society, we have to start by working on correcting said issues. We have to wake up, educate and incentivize the citizenry so that it can exercise control in how government money is spent, minimizing corruption and protecting the rule of law.”
In addition to its investigative and scholarly work that is widely cited in the media and academia, CEDICE also reaches a wide array of ordinary Venezuelans through its website, videos, and social media campaigns.
“Unlike other programs of CEDICE, the Watchdog for Freedom and Democracy project has reached an audience less specialized in economic issues: people in the community interested in how and where the government distributes resources, eager to analyze and learn the origin of the laws and know if this benefits or affects their property,” Guijarro said. “The watchdog [project] has focused on creating content that is attractive to citizens, without neglecting our already established audience of academics and intellectuals who read and replicate our work constantly.”
Part of the 2015 class of CEDICE Freedom’s economic training for journalists, after successful completion of the workshop “Impact of the Public Budget in Venezuela,” presented by Gerardo Nuñez.
In the past year, CEDICE’s project has generated more than 2,500 appearances in press, radio, and television — a significant achievement, given that the government controls 80 percent of the national media. To date, more than 500 Venezuelans have been trained in the watchdog’s various workshops, including 33 members of the National Assembly and 21 councilors and mayors, who are now proposing classical liberal ideas within a government that has refused to discuss them in the past. More than 5,000 people have attended watchdog forums, conferences, and lectures in universities, encouraging debate and positioning these issues in the public agenda.
An activity of the Watchdog project, called "Workshop: Municipalities and Business: A CSR strategy," given by the expert Celina Pagani at CEDICE in 2014.
“CEDICE has demonstrated how a think tank can work in adverse circumstances: providing objective information, offering principled policy recommendations, and instilling a sense of hope to an opposition movement that has been persecuted by government authorities,” said Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips. “I’m proud to announce that CEDICE is a finalist for the 2015 Templeton Freedom Award.”
Awarded since 2004, the Templeton Freedom Award is named for the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. The award annually honors his legacy by identifying and recognizing the most exceptional and innovative contributions to the understanding of free enterprise, and the public policies that encourage prosperity, innovation, and human fulfillment via free competition. The award is generously supported by Templeton Religion Trust and will be presented during Atlas Network’s Liberty Forum and Freedom Dinner. The winning organization will receive a $100,000 prize and the runners-up will receive $5,000.
The 2015 Templeton Freedom Award finalists are:
- Acton Institute (Grand Rapids, Mich., United States) — Poverty, Inc.
- Center for Dissemination of Economic Knowledge for Freedom (CEDICE Freedom) (Caracas, Venezuela) — Watchdog for Freedom and Democracy Project
- Free Market Foundation (FMF) (Johannesburg, South Africa) — Khaya Lam Land Reform Project
- Institute for Justice (IJ) (Arlington, Va., United States) — Strategic Research Program
- Institute of Public Affairs (Melbourne, Australia) — Repeal the Carbon Tax Campaign
- Tax Foundation (Washington, D.C., United States) — State Business Tax Climate Index
What: CEDICE Freedom’s Watchdog for Freedom and Democracy project named one of six finalists for Atlas Network’s prestigious $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award
When: Nov. 12, 2015, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Liberty Forum and Freedom Dinner closing ceremony — Capitale, 130 Bowery, NYC (Bowery and Grand St.)
Press Contact: Daniel.Anthony@AtlasNetwork.org or (202) 449-8441
About CEDICE Freedom
Based in Caracas, Venezuela, Centro de Divulgación del Conocimiento Económico para la Libertad (Center for Dissemination of Economic Knowledge about Freedom), also known as CEDICE Freedom, disseminates, educates, and defends the principles of the free market and individual liberty as the basis for building a society of free, ethical, and responsible individuals. CEDICE Freedom strives for a free and prosperous Venezuela, where life and property of its citizens are protected.
About Atlas Network
Washington-based, Atlas Network is a nonprofit organization which strengthens the worldwide freedom movement by connecting 470 independent partners in 96 countries that share the vision of a free, prosperous, and peaceful world where limited governments defend the rule of law, private property, and free markets.