Antonio Ecarri Wants Peace and Normality

Refusing to go to the primaries given that he doesn’t belong to the unitary platform, the leader of Alianza del Lápiz sells himself as the key to change in a post-polarization Venezuela

A longer version of this interview was published first in Spanish by Politiks

Are you taking part in the primaries?

No, because those are not primaries, I don’t belong to the Unitary Platform or MUD. We are generating a historical change in Venezuela, that change is coming, it’s being prepared and organized, and it will be big. We are generating a platform that will unite all Venezuelans. To try to set ourselves on one side or the other means keeping the process of division. We are turning the page on polarization.

What would you consider to join the primaries?

I’m a strong believer in plurality, but joining an incoherent mix of different parties won’t take us anywhere. We must invent new things, instead of doing the same with the same people and getting the same results. So we are creating, and on a clear path: we don’t want to topple the government, we want to defeat the government. Chavismo arrived through votes, and through votes it should leave.

Second, we don’t want violent change in Venezuela, we’re looking to bring peace and stability to generate a government of trust. So I can’t join otherb actors with pending bills who aren’t accountable. Here, those who are not stealing, have already stolen. Nothing born out of corruption will go well, so we need something new to refresh the political landscape.

The primaries will produce a presidential candidate. Would you debate with that person and all other candidates?

I won’t waste my time with pre-candidates. Once they choose their candidate, I will happily go to a debate, after their primaries. If they really had their primaries; one never knows what’s happening within that bag of crabs. I wish them luck. 

In the last elections you participated (for mayor of Libertador municipality in Caracas), you had 15.54% of the votes. What makes you think you could make it at the national level?

I love that question, because those votes came from low income sectors of Caracas, where we duplicated the votes of the G4. I was defeated by low turnout, not even PSUV, due to a terrible dirty war with WhatsApp voice notes recorded at the time I left the campaign in 2013. 

Let’s suppose you win the primaries and later the presidential election, but the CNE declares Maduro the winner. Which would be your strategy to defend the vote and stop fraud? 

We’re going to defend the people’s will. Our votes will be overwhelmingly popular, so I’m absolutely sure chavismo will accept my victory and Maduro will hand me the presidency. 

How do you define yourself, ideologically?  

I am an innovative centrist, coming, of course, from Christian democracy. However, at this point of the 21th century we must overcome ideologies. We need an innovative country and a government that enables an important change in education, that could be responsible for public health and services, that drives and respects democracy, individual freedom, the right to choose. And in order to choose, you need to be educated. This is why 21st century education is the key, and we are inspired by the Finnish model, adapted to the Venezuelan reality. 

What’s your plan to recover the country’s economy? 

First, a government of trust. In the post-chavista era, we’ll need a minimal agreement of governance to bring stability and trust. I think it is very important to create a national superintendence of protection to investors that could cover both the little investor in Antimano, in Western Caracas, and the likes of Chevron, Repsol or Eni. I would summarize my administration as the government who restores trust in order to get foreign investment back. 

I believe in monetary freedom and in a multicurrency system without that aberration that is the tax to big financial transactions. We must be open to economic freedom, with an important sense of social responsibility. We need to privatize some companies which don’t need to belong to the state, and to provide minimal services and opportunities for all. 

One goal of this government is overcoming extreme poverty. How? With education, trust, supporting the banks in granting microcredit and lifting the weight of bureaucracy. It’s common sense: foreign investors deserve to take their foreign currency when they want, but they must leave investment here. Of course, oil is very important and reforming the hydrocarbons law must include trust in that sector. 

Would you require economic aid from the IMF?

From all organizations. At the IMF, for instance, there’s Venezuelan money retained that is not even reimbursable, 13 billion dollars that we need in the country, which we must negotiate with the IMF. We must also knock at the doors of CAF, IDB, and the World Bank. Naturally, on a sovereignist policy: multilaterals packages are good as much as they adapt to the Venezuelan reality.

Would you privatize PDVSA? 

I would leave it as the Constitution says: a company 100% owned by the state but open to private investment. PDVSA must be the big partner of domestic and foreign investors. But following the legacy of Arturo Uslar Pietri, we must remember that while oil will be ours, the industry must be privatized. Like in 1943 hydrocarbon law, which brought 40 years of sustained development. We need partners to rebuild our refineries, not to reform our Constitution. That is the last thing our people want at this moment, when they need running water and reliable power. 

How would your  foreign policy be? 

Focus on Latin American integration, through Pacto Andino, plus Mercosur and UNASUR, all the instances we can join. My government will promote integrating many instances and we are already meeting several foreign ministries of the region on that matter. We must open as well to the US, Europe and China, using our geographical advantages by developing our ports and diversifying our economy, “sowing the oil” as Uslar Pietri said.

In this context of global democratic decline, how do you expect Venezuelans will trust a new democracy?

The challenge is being an effective democracy, and for my government will be key to really deliver beyond words. People will see that their government and their democracy can really make them have power, water, internet, security, health, education. This is why we must abandon extremisms, which prevent governments from being effective. In the innovative center, the important thing is not where the government comes from, but to be effective.

Must indefinite reelection stay?

No. Five years with no reelection for all positions. But discussing those things is not urgent. First we must have a country and a democracy. 

And the recall referendum? 

Yes, definitely. 

National Assembly or Bicameral Congress?

I believe having the Senate back is important. But the next presidency must be one of emergency, of getting the country back on track. As a professor of Public Law, however, I believe in Bicameral Congress, and when the time comes, I will try to make that reform happen, just like General López Contreras. 

Promotions in FANB must be approved by the President or the Congress?

In the parliament, and with no interference from the military. FANB must recover its institutionality. 

What’s your stance on decentralization?

A fundamental subject for me. We need decentralized highways, ports and airports.

What would you do with the courts? 

What the Constitution says, same as with the parliament. Everyone must do their job. I would have to cohabitate with this TSJ and this AN, but imagine what the patients of the Pérez Carreño hospital would think if I invest my time in fighting the Supreme Court and the parliament. Venezuela does not need more conflict from Miraflores, but a president who solves social problems instead of creating more. Great presidents did great things with minorities in the parliament: Betancourt, Leoni, Caldera, the most efficient governments of our democratic era.

Would you keep the current five powers (Executive, Legislative, Judicial, Electoral, and Moral)? 

The President can’t be a caudillo. I won’t win the presidency to take powers away, like Carmona Estanga or Guaidó. We need institutional normality. I have to solve the Guri problem or how to stop flooding around Lago de Valencia. 

In favor of public financing of parties? 

In Venezuela everything is obscure and we need to close all those black markets for everything. We need a strong third sector that may be financed by the State, but made of real NGOs, not parties disguised as NGOs, as we also have here. Parties must be accountable and transparent. At Alianza del Lápiz we never received foreign aid, and we finance ourselves with the inscription of start-ups at low rates.

In favor or against same-sex marriage?

In favor when it comes to civil union, as soon as possible, to protect same-sex couples. 

In favor or against adoption by same-sex couples?

First we need to fix the whole system of state protection of minors, in a country where we have hunger in the schools, child prostitution, child traffic. Before addressing that question, Venezuela must have in place a proper adoption system that could serve any kind of couples. The most important thing here is protecting the child.

In favor or against punishing abortion?

In the middle of this crisis of teen pregnancy, I prefer to start with a massive sex ed campaign. Of course there are exceptions for abortion, but we need in the first place a state able to manage the problem. Same with euthanasia, a discussion of more developed countries. Can you imagine the chaos here if we legalize euthanasia? I’m not avoiding the answers, but signaling that we must be very responsible on these delicate subjects in a country where state capabilities and social stability are so precarious. 

In favor or against legalizing marijuana?

Again, I would agree if we were in Europe, but we are in Venezuela. In January 2025 my problem will be how to deal with a drug producing and trafficking reality here. 

Nicolas Maduro?

The next former president.

Rafael Lacava?

The next former governor of Carabobo.

Juan Guaidó?

I don’t know.

Henrique Capriles?


María Corina Machado?


Julio Borges?


Leopoldo López?


Lorenzo Mendoza?

A good businessman.

Benjamin Rausseo?

A good comic.

Rómulo Betancourt?

A statesman.

Marcos Pérez Jiménez?

A technician who turned into a military officer and a president.

Carlos Andrés Pérez.

A statesman.

Simón Bolívar?

A continent’s liberator.

Juan Vicente Gómez?

The founder of the modern Venezuelan state.

Hugo Chávez?

The last stage of the petrostate.

How would you like to be remembered as a former president? 

As the man who brought peace, education and normality to Venezuela. I would like to join the memory of Luis Beltrán Prieto Figueroa and Arturo Uslar Pietri, among others, the ones who promoted beautiful stories.