Back to all interviews
Freedom Collection

Interviews with Marcel Granier

Interviewed February 11, 2010

In Venezuela, some very interesting things have been happening since President Chavez won the 1998 election. At that time, the political parties were very discredited. In the 1998 presidential election, the two largest political parties that were used to getting over 80 percent of the national vote got less than three percent of the national vote.

So people were very scared to what would happen to democracy. The economy and the politics of the country had been coming down for the last 20 years, I would say. And people loved the freedom and the opportunities that democracy brought to them. But they were very dissatisfied with the performance of the political parties in power.

And that´s one of the reasons why Lieutenant Colonel Chavez got elected by a substantial majority. He won 56 percent of the votes at that time. So in society it started to develop, groups to protect the vote, that´s one very important movement, to explain to people what voting means and how voting takes place, and how you can use your vote to express your opinion, and how you have and how you can protect your vote from all tricks that the that the government was developing.

There also I mean all other NGOs started promoting the idea of transparency in public accounts. One of the worst things that has happened to Venezuela with the decadence of democracy and the disappearance of democracy in the last few years, is that the government never explains to the population what it is doing with their money. They just take the money and use it as they please.

It is amazing if you watch any of the several hours a week that the President spends on radio and television, how he appropriates money without going to Congress, without explaining why he is doing that, and for what purpose, or what sort of studies have been done to justify it.

For example, right now, he he´s selling oil refineries that Venezuela owns in Germany. And he´s selling them to Russia, of all people. Well, he´s never explained to Venezuelans why he is doing that, and what he´s doing with the money. Now because there is very little opportunity for doing independent journalism. But we´ve learned now that that money that he´s been getting from the oil refineries he´s paying back to the Russians in order to buy weapons, weapons nobody understands what for.

And little by little, new political parties have emerged. And nowadays, according to the latest election, the two largest parties are two new parties. That´s another interesting development in favor of democracy. And the last one, and perhaps the most important one, is the youth movement.

After the shutting down of R.C.T.V., the first protest came from the youth. These young people who were going to college or some of them to school, immediately after their shutting down of the closing down of R.C.T.V., took to the street to protest. Because they thought that the right to be informed was being endangered, and that the opportunity of people to look for information wherever they feel comfortable with was also threatened.

So that´s another very important movement in defense of the principles of democracy and justice, information, freedom of expression. So we see a reemergence of democracy in in Venezuela. For after ´58, Venezuela was able to establish a very successful democracy.

That democracy was used as a model in other countries in Central America and South America and Spain and Portugal, as a model for countries who were getting over dictatorship, how to establish a democracy how to strengthen political parties, how to have free and clean elections.

And after being an example for so many countries, Venezuelan democracy started to decline. And we´ve gotten to this terrible situation we live in now. So the way to restore democracy has been through developing NGOs, protecting human rights, and protecting and promoting democracy, transparency as I mentioned before.

Well, one of the problems Venezuela has had in order to restore democracy has been coordination. Unfortunately, there has been very little coordination about among the democratic forces. It it´s very interesting to see how the vote of the pro-democracy parties has been growing up ever since the election in 1998.

And no matter the threats that Chavez has made to people who oppose them, the lists he´s prepared in order to discriminate against any citizen who dares express himself against him. Despite all that, the number of people growing voting for democracy has been growing. And despite all the cheating that goes on in in the electoral process in in Venezuela.

But unfortunately, we have had very little coordination. The political parties have not been cooperative with the non-governmental organizations. We call ONGs, I guess you call them NGOs. Where those NGOs in Venezuela have suffered a lot to coordinate their action.

I guess sometimes that I mean the political parties have so been have been so demonized by so many people that they feel threatened when whenever a social group emerges and they feel that they may be stealing their turf. So it´s not been easy to coordinate things.

In 2006, for the first time, we were able to coordinate well, in 2004 the pro-referendum, I mean there was a referendum against President Chavez. And there was a lot of cheating and pressures in that case. But the democratic forces were well coordinated.

After we lost that referendum, and I think the government cheated. But the fact is that the opposition accepted that they had lost. But nobody assumed that responsibility. So everything all coordination was lost. Until 2006, we were able to support one candidate, all democratic forces joined in that effort. Unfortunately, the candidate didn´t defend his votes, and didn´t assume the role people were expecting from him. Eventually, he left the country because he felt threatened by the government.

Last I mean this year, we had an election. And all democratic forces joined to together. And they are acting more coordinated nowadays than ever before. We still have some problems. I´ve…people have not realized the magnitude of the threat to democracy, to freedom, and to justice, that Chavez represents.