Venezuelan Government and Employers Federation Agree to Do Business

An apparently fruitful meeting between President Chavez and the leader of the country's main employers' federation, Fedecamaras, concluded yesterday, with the Fedecamaras leader praising the talks. The event is significant because Fedecamaras has long been one of the government's most ferocious opponents.

Caracas, October 26, 2005–The Venezuelan Employers federation, Fedecamaras, met with President Hugo Chavez and several of his ministers in the Presidential palace yesterday. They talked about creating greater co-operation between government and business, with the aim of increasing investment and development. The President of Fedecamaras, José Luis Betancourt, said, "joint public and private investment is the only way to develop this country in a harmonious manner".

The meeting represents a big step towards a less aggressive atmosphere in the country. Fedecamaras has been seen as extremely hostile to the government since its former president, Pedro Carmona, led the coup that briefly got rid of Hugo Chavez in April 2002. José Luis Betancourt told journalists yesterday, "We have ideological and conceptual disagreements… we had what some called a fractured relationship." Betancourt also said, "years have passed since then and we are building this important relationship because businessmen want security and employment".

The meeting lasted more than four hours and Betancourt said that they had discussed subjects relevant to, "all social and economic aspects of importance to the development of this country." He responded well to Chavez’s statement that property rights would be respected during the development of Venezuela. Betancourt also said that the Government and Fedecamaras, "are searching for a climate that will encourage investment in Venezuela." Another meeting is scheduled for November 23 to put forward concrete proposals of how more business and government co-operation will happen.

Jorge Giordani, the Minister of Development and Planning, said the private sector had to do a lot more if they wanted to, "create a series of conditions that will permit economic growth to continue." Giordanni said, "By using the oil resources we have achieved a recovery in investment. There is no doubt that now it’s the turn of the private sector to contribute. The Government has invested between 10 and 15 billion dollars, the private sector should double or triple this figure."

Talks between the government and Fedecamaras have been tried on several previous occasions, such as shortly after the coup and after the recall referendum, but no agreements were reached. Open hostility broke out especially in the months leading up to the December 2002 oil industry shutdown.