FEDN Statement on Salvadoran Government Attempt to Prevent Pro-Democracy Groups from Participating in Community of Democracy Meetings
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Following the actions of the Salvadoran government to attempt to prevent an accredited private sector representative from participating in the recent Community of Democracies (COD) Ministerial meetings hosted by the Salvadoran government, the Free Enterprise and Democracy Network (FEDN) issued a statement today expressing alarm at their behavior.
Mauricio Tancredi – a highly regarded representative of the Venezuelan private sector who is a past president of the National Council of Commerce and Services (Consecomercio) and a sector member of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce (Fedecámaras) – was barred from speaking in a panel discussion on Public-Private Dialogue. This was not an isolated incident; others were prevented from speaking, including an entire country delegation of pro-democracy advocates.
Democracy is about inclusion and freedom of expression, not exclusion. The banning of speakers is not only an act against a particular group, but also is a behavior that reveals the anti-democratic sentiments of the presiding authority.
“It’s both unbelievable and disgraceful that the host government of the Community of Democracies Ministerial meetings would actively silence the voices of the private sector and pro-democracy groups,” said the Chairman of the Board of the Center for International Private Enterprise, Greg Lebedev. “This is the type of police state treatment that you’d expect from an authoritarian government, not of the president of a prestigious international organization such as the Community of Democracies.”
The Center for International Private Enterprise, located in Washington, DC, serves as the Secretariat of FEDN and is a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy.
FEDN is a worldwide network of pro-democracy and private sector advocates from business and civil society. The network aims to promote the economic underpinnings of democratic transition and bring private sector voices into global discourse on democracy. The network provides a mechanism for private sector leaders and advocates of economic freedom across the world to exchange ideas and support, and make the case for democratic, prosperous societies.
The Community of Democracies is an intergovernmental coalition of states established in 2000 to bring together governments, civil society and the private sector. Their goal is to promote democratic values around the world. El Salvador served as president of the Community of Democracies for two years culminating in the 8th Ministerial Conference in San Salvador July 22-24, 2015.
The following is the text of FEDN's statement:
On July 22, the Salvadoran government prevented a civil society representative from the private sector of Venezuela from speaking in a private sector panel at the 8th Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies. The Free Enterprise and Democracy Network (FEDN) expressed alarm at government interference in civil society discussions at the conference that were intended to inform the ministers convening at the event.
The Salvadoran government maintained the presidency of the Community of Democracies and hosted the conference. As the president of the COD El Salvador was supposed to be a leader of democratic principles. The Salvadoran government cannot have it both ways. On one hand, as president of the COD, it was supposed to uphold the principles of democracy and allow dialogue – even with those ideas it doesn’t agree with.
The Salvadoran Minister of Foreign Affairs talked openly at the conference about the importance of transparency and inclusion in a democratic society. But actions speak louder than words. Without explanation, the government refused to let a voice for the private sector in Venezuela express his ideas about the role of business in a free society. Among the declarations of the Private Sector Forum at the conference, was recognizing “the importance of public-private dialogue, dedicated to strengthening spaces that permit the development of proposals and policies that enhance participation…” Two of the recommendations of the forum were: 1) construct integral spaces of dialogue between the private sector and governments; and 2) governments should work transparently and generate actions that build trust between the different sectors of society.
Democracy is about inclusion, not exclusion. The banning of speakers is an act against dialogue on the private sector, entrepreneurship, and the basic fundamentals of democracy.
FEDN believes the actions of the Salvadoran government at the conference violated this declaration and recommendations. The participant, Mauricio Tancredi, was a legitimate representative of the Venezuelan private sector as past president of the National Council of Commerce and Services (Consecomercio) and a sector member of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce (Fedecámaras).
Mr. Tancredi was set to be a panelist at the Public-Private Dialogue panel of the Private Sector Forum, but, without reason, was told he could not participate at the conference. With the intervention of the Secretariat of the Community of Democracies he was allowed to enter the country and attend the conference but still was not allowed to speak.
The exclusion of Mr. Tancredi was not an isolated event. The Salvadoran government also detained a pro-democracy delegation at the airport, and prevented other groups from participating at the conference. Democracy is all about inclusion – even if you don’t agree. As the president of the Community of Democracies, El Salvador failed at being a leader of a democratic organization and its actions did not reflect the values of democracy and freedom.
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