Venezuela’s Main Chamber of Commerce Accepts Dialogue with Government

Fedecamaras, the chamber of commerce of Venezuela's largest businesses, decided to participate in a dialogue with the Chavez government. However, the organization appeared to issue pre-conditions for the dialogue.

Caracas, September 1, 2004—Following two days of internal closed-door debate, Venezuela’s largest chamber of commerce, Fedecamaras, decided to accept the Chavez government’s offer for dialogue. Fedecamaras spokesperson Albis Muñoz said, however, that the dialogue would take place, “despite the existence of fundamental differences [we have] with official policy.”

Albis Muñoz also presented a manifesto that calls for an atmosphere in which the rule of law, the independence of the branches of government, and respect for private property predominate. An important demand Fedecamaras is making is that the private sector play a “protagonist” role in the reactivation of the economy. The organization further wants the government to recognize the union federation CTV as the sole representative of Venezuela’s workers. The statement also said that the organization still harbors doubts about the results of the recall referendum.

José Manuel Gonzalez, the president of the agricultural chamber of commerce, Fedeagro, said that the majority of groups discussing the possibility of having a dialogue with the government were in favor of doing so “without preconditions.”

The minister of information and communication, Jesse Chacon, who will be leaving this post soon to become Minister of Interior and Justice, said that the government is conducting conversations with all business sectors, not just with Fedecamaras. Other sectors with which the government is planning to have discussions include the chambers of commerce of the oil industry, of the banking sector, and the construction industry.  Chacon also expressed criticism of the Fedecameras manifesto, saying that it was “inappropriate” and “does not constitute an adequate response to the climate of dialogue that businesses and the government want.”

Miguel Perez Abad, the president of the Federation of Artisans and Small and Medium Industries (Fedeindustria), referring to the government’s discussions with the country’s business sector, said that the dialogue Fedeindustria has had with the government is based on several main issues: judicial insecurity, the reform of the state, and the fight against poverty and for social inclusion. Fedeindustria has had regular discussions and cooperation with the government ever since the beginning of Chavez’ presidency. Abad added that he was not sure if “Fedecamaras is clear about the need for a respectful, frank, and unconditional dialogue.”

Fedecamaras, ever since the passage of a package of 49 laws that Chavez considered fundamental to his political project, has been one of the main driving forces in Venezuela’s opposition. Pedro Carmona, a former president of Fedecamaras was temporarily named president of Venezuela during the brief coup in 2002. Also, the organization was instrumental in supporting the late 2002/early 2003 oil industry shut-down.