February 2, 2016 Print

The economic situation in Venezuela is dire, with chronic shortages of essential consumer goods, runaway inflation accompanied by spiraling prices, extensive black markets, government corruption, and political suppression. The ruling socialist party is losing popular support, but is clamping down still further on the economy, with an emergency decree in January that grants the president new arbitrary and discretionary powers over income, currency expenditures, business operations, prices, and international trade. Atlas Network partner Centro de Divulgación del Conocimiento Económico para la Libertad (CEDICE Freedom) is showing Venezuelans how the decree violates their rights to economic freedom and private property.

“What the regime will never admit is that inflation and exchange rate distortions are the result of the model they have imposed on the country, characterized by the violation of economic freedoms and private property,” wrote Isabel Pereira, coordinator of CEDICE Freedom’s “For a Country of Owners” program (translated from Spanish). “Today the citizens can not freely dispose of and gain access to goods and services. Health and food have been affected, and it is the direct consequence of the destruction of the productive apparatus of the country. The regime has systematically expropriated from companies and destroyed millions of jobs. Many of the industrial areas of the country that housed medium and large industries are today cemeteries. A similar situation exists in the Venezuelan countryside, which, after suffering the ravages of expropriations, now languishes.”

CEDICE Freedom spoke with Juan Pablo Olalquiaga, president of Venezuelan industry association Conindustria, to hear his perspective on how the emergency decree affects the ability for industry to function successfully.

“These are very delicate restrictions on economic freedom and private property set forth in the decree,” Olalquiaga said (translated from Spanish). “This is like giving a blank check to a government that has created the distortions that exist in this country. We ask that not be approved as it was presented, because it would entail a huge risk of slowing the economy further.”

Andrea Rondón, director of CEDICE Freedom’s Property Rights Committee, explained that the new powers granted to the president in the decree also diminish the individual rights of expression and association on a fundamental level.

“To the extent that this lessens respect for private property, we are becoming less citizens and more subjects, because we will have less tools to exercise and defend our rights,” Rondón said (translated from Spanish).

CEDICE Freedom is monitoring the deteriorating state of the Venezuelan economy as part of its Property Rights Observatory, which identifies, monitors, registers, and systematizes all forms of property rights encroachment. This, along with its Economic-Legislative Observatory and Public Expenditure Observatory, constitutes CEDICE Freedom’s Watchdog for Freedom and Democracy project, which was nominated for Atlas Network’s prestigious $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award in 2015.