Engaging Society in Venezuela

William Ury

Director of the Global Negotiation Project, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

And I was only a little player in this, I was doing my bit, but Francisco was there all the time, and the Carter Center President Carter would come in; Cesar Garvidio who was the former president of Columbia and head of the OAS, the Organization of American States, was involved. There were a number of players, and it was just trying to basically create a container for the forces within Venezuela to be able to realize, "Hey, we don't need violence." And you know you had the examples, I mean, within Venezuelan society and culture, I would say, there is a culture that despite really deep emotional, bitter differences and some blood flowing, is able to I mean, like you had a demonstration in the middle of Caracas where there was a million people on one side and maybe a million people on the other and the two demonstrations meet and you think, "sure-fire trouble, bloodshed, and everything like that." And there were occasions when there was, but on this particular occasion, there were young men on both sides and during the demonstration got together and started playing soccer. I remember seeing on the front page of the Brazilian newspaper at the time. But to me it's those kinds of things that suggest Venezuelan culture, which has a third side strength to it. And this was all I was trying to my message and I did a lot of media work on TV and radio, and it was very simple. It was like, the mediators aren't going to come in and save you. You, the Venezuelan people, have the ability, I believe, to show the world you can actually prevent war before it happens. You've got this unusual opportunity and you can do it. And it's not something that just happens just at the top. There's a ??? (Spanish word) going on between the government and some of the opposition movements by having a ??? on every street corner. The society needs to get engaged and that's starting to happen. That's starting to happen. And certainly some points where escalation of major violence had been diffused, and as I mentioned, it's too early to say but I mean, but I hope Venezuela will go down as a good case example of a the potential prevention of a calamity