The work of free-market think tanks in the United States share many things in common with the work of other non-profits. One major concern is to obtain sufficient resources to be successful in achieving results. In some countries, however, those who work and help think tanks have another set of concerns. They need to worry about their personal safety, their freedoms, and even the possible loss of all their assets and be forced to leave their countries. That is the plight of CEDICE Libertad and those who work for freedom-oriented non-profits in Venezuela.

In Venezuela, the harassment by government has lasted more than 15 years. It is a major accomplishment for those who promote the values of the free society to subsist under such conditions. To be able to excel is heroic and almost miraculous. Yet, CEDICE endured. The latest ranking of think tanks, prepared by the University of Pennsylvania, ranked them as the top free-market think tank in Latin America. Last week they celebrated their 30th anniversary at the largest convention hall and theater in the Chacao district, one of the few areas where the national government can’t terrorize the opposition into silence and submission. So far there have been 41 people killed, 70 cases of torture, and close to 100 still in prison.

Rocío Guijarro, general manager of CEDICE Libertad, and Javier Zarzalejos, general director of Fundación FAES in Spain (Photo: CEDICE)
Rocío Guijarro, general manager of CEDICE Libertad, and Javier Zarzalejos, general director of Fundación FAES in Spain (Photo: CEDICE)

In 1999, just before the 15th anniversary of CEDICE, the late president Hugo Chávez warned those who were planning to attend from abroad, “We are waiting for you with lead.” This did not deter the guests, especially Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, who has attended all major anniversary events as the star attraction. He was there in 1999 when José Vicente Rangel, foreign minister, and a leading socialist operator and chieftain, delivered the opening lecture. In its attempt to consolidate power, the architects of this 21st century socialism hid their true intentions with duplicitous strategies. Attending a CEDICE event was one of them.

Since then there has been constant harassment of donors and trustees. I have the privilege of knowing many of them for over 30 years. The spirit, courage, and commitment of those who kept the fight (the large majority) is inspiring. Sharing the struggle with the staff of the think tank instilled a special character and created a special bond among them. Many had to go into exile.

The methods employed by the government to weaken support are varied. One of the founding members of CEDICE has a large agricultural operation on land where the property title is centuries old—predating independence—and the judicial agents of the regime argue that those lands should revert to the state. The legal battle continues. Another tactic is to manipulate regulations and price controls to disturb the operations of major companies owned by supporters of the think tank. This was followed by paving the way for cronies, mostly local but sometimes foreign, to buy the weakened enterprises. Sometimes the families cave. CEDICE’s chairman, Rafael Alfonzo Hernández was asked by family shareholders to relinquish his CEO role in his company. They feared that his high profile fighting socialist policies was endangering the survival of the enterprise



Leave A Comment


Las opiniones expresadas en esta publicación son de exclusiva responsabilidad del autor y no necesariamente representan las de CEDICE ni las de su Consejo Directivo, ni académicos, ni miembros

Artículos relacionados

Comparte este artículo