Quick Look

ProAcceso is dedicated to ensuring the right to access information for all Venezuelans.

Project Scale: 


ProAcceso is dedicated to ensuring the right to information access for all Venezuelans. The members, working closely with the Venezuelan chapter of Transparency International and many local governments, hope to create a public demand for the public’s right to access high-quality, timely, and complete information and to use that information for the public good. The information demanded includes public health, education, politics, law enforcement, the use of public resources, and salaries of public officials. The idea is that greater transparency can combat corruption, encourage public engagement, and create a better society. The organization is pushing for laws on the municipal and local levels that protect and guarantee this right to information access in an enforceable way.


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Date of Audio: 
April 12, 2010


What problem is your project aiming to overcome?: 

The organization is pushing for laws that ensure the right to access information on public health issues, the salaries of public officials, use of public resources, and other information that can be used for the public good. The Venezuelan federal government is not interested in passing such a law, so the organization is focused on municipal and state governments, where the goal is more attainable.

What are the roots of that problem?: 

Public institutions in Venezuela tend to be very weak -- with little understanding of the power of public citizens. Too much public information is currently classified as secret, tightly controlled by the state, or massively complicated to obtain. This situation creates corruption and further secrecy. ProAcceso aims to open government in Venezuela by pushing for greater access to information. This is nearly impossible on the federal level, so the organization has been pushing for more local laws that will eventually filter up to the national level. So far, six municipalities and three states have approved such a law with the help of the organization.

Why did you personally become involved in this project?: 

Mercedes de Freitas is the CEO and Founder of the Transparency International chapter in Venezuela, where she was dedicated to fighting corruption in the country and pushing for greater information transparency. There, she realized that a more broad coalition of people was needed to fight for information transparency, including public health advocates, journalists, educators, and human rights advocates. In response, she helped create this organization as a coalition.

Are you providing unofficial channels of information that should be provided by the government?: 

No. The organization is pushing the government to create laws that protect the information.

Why is the government not providing the information?: 

Democracy in Venezuela is not strong. Too much information is private and secret. Many in the government see civil institutions as the enemies of the state. Human rights organizations have been attacked. It’s not a government that encourages civic participation or public accountability.

Is there a freedom of information law in the country where this project is based?: 
Is there a right to information law in the country where this project is based?: 
How does the information published on your website turn into offline change?: 

The organization provides technical support to regional governments interested in pushing for transparency and the right to access public information. They hold training workshops for local governments and organizations. Those governments are pushed to pass transparency and right-to-information laws and ordinances. They also create coalitions between organizations and governments centered on transparency. They also test the transparency systems set up by governments by sending out requests for information and checking for information quality and timeliness. They then present that information to governments and organizations to show how they are complying with their promises.

What is an example of how information on your website has led to a concrete change?: 

Six municipalities have already passed laws, and they’re continuing to test those laws and make sure the governments fulfill their promises. In Varuta, the mayor presented a training plan that promotes transparency. The organization is now training and graduating 20 trainers who will support the mayor and train the mayor’s staff on the freedom of information. The trainers will also set up community workshops to help citizens access information for the public good.

How many people work on your project?: 
How many hours a week do you personally spend on the project?: 

It’s an issue that cuts across most everything that she works on.

How many hours does the whole team spend on the project?: 

Three people are employed full time by Transparency International working on the issue.

What are the most time consuming tasks?: 

The most time consuming task is dealing with the issue of polarization in the country. Government officials tend to view civil organizations as the enemy, and it’s very difficult to make them see otherwise. It’s necessary, yet time consuming, to incorporate Chavistas or Bolivarianos into the issue of transparency.

How do you attract new participants?: 

The best way of identifying and engaging new constituents is by appealing to their immediate needs. If you’re talking to a mother with a child in school, for example, you need to attack the issue of educational transparency and information about schools, teachers, and public health. You need to help people see what kinds of information they need to access and why they need it.

What has been the most effective method of spreading awareness about your project?: 

The organization is constantly reaching out to new municipalities and local governments to expand the outreach of the coalition and to replicate the program in different parts of the country.

What other organizations are you working with?: 

Transparency International and any Venezuelan governments willingly take part. The organization does not take money from the United States government, for fear of the response by the Venezuelan government.

Have you thought about developing your own tools?: 


Has there been any communication between your project and government officials?: 

Yes, a lot.

Have there been any attempts to replicate your work elsewhere?: 

Yes. In many municipalities throughout the country.

If someone gave you $30,000 how would you use the money?: 

That kind of money would provide for a greater integration of information dissemination and documentation on the web. The organization currently creates training guides for citizens throughout the country. More money would provide for a more integrated system of training guides on the web accessible to all people. It could also provide a system for documentation of some of the most dramatic cases where people have been denied access to information. If the cases were more publicized, more people would know about the issue of transparency and more people would demand freedom-of-information laws.

One hundred thousand dollars would extend the coalition to many more municipalities throughout the country. They would be able to set up transparency systems in more rural areas. It would also allow for more integration between the different municipalities and organizations throughout the country, using the web and other platforms of discussion. They would develop a software that creates daily accountability and budget updates, and roll those out in ways that all citizens can understand and use. The idea is to not only update the technology, but also the human rights situation in Venezuela.

What are your plans for 2010 and 2011?: 

The first goal is to reach many more municipalities throughout the country. Specifically, they’re going to present on best practices in 100 municipalities and eight governorates. They will also move forward creating more ProAcceso chapters in different regions, making sure this is a country-wide effort, not simply in Caracas. They will also continue documenting individual cases and court cases where people denied the right access public information. They will also continue reaching out to more diverse groups of people, including doctors, lawyers, and educators, creating a movement of people who push for greater transparency in Venezuela.

Further Questions

Is there anything we haven't asked that you would like us to?: 

A note: The interview was delayed, and nearly impossible over Skype, due to the electricity rationing that was occurring throughout Venezuela.


Information = knowledge ?

The main question for a project like this is: does information really bring a change? Do people use information responsibly? Pro Acceso is a very ambitious project looking to cover a wide number of cases and information that has been incredibly hard to manage and to understand due to the complicated machine that Venezuelan bureaucracy is. Also, the issue of credibility has been a big one in the last ten years. To gain credibility in a country in which rumors are the basis of a lot of informations, and that is strongly divided is a very difficult task. The objective of expanding information is a very important one, but we should take a moment to look back at the way things have been developing in Venezuelan politics. When the Constitution was about to be changed; it was sold on the streets, almost everywhere... Nevertheless, that didn't make people be aware and informed about the laws that were changing.

It is important to underline the fact that in Venezuela there are a lot of laws created to protect and to empower citizens, but that are actually not known or understood. The constitution has strong laws regarding, for example gender violence, family protection and also accountability. Before heading to new phases of the project and to expand it, it seems important to check if the main objectives are actually being reached. The expansion of this project might find challenges caused by the strong division between government and opposition.

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