Meet Global Citizen and Activist, Pradiip Alvarez

I was given the great chance to interview one of Florida State’s most inspiring and proactive young leaders. Pradiip Alvarez, currently pursuing a Masters of Science in International Affairs, shares with us his passion for human rights and activism. One of the most empowered and passionate people I’ve met, Alvarez has proved to be a catalyst for change by raising awareness about his country Venezuela. In this interview, Alvarez gives insight about his trip to South Africa, advice for future advocates, and thoughts on the current Venezuelan crisis.

Her Campus (HC): Great to have this opportunity to chat with you. Talk to us about your involvement here at Florida State and abroad?

Pradiip Alvarez (PA): Since 2011 I have been very active in several student organizations and programs. I co-founded the Venezuelan Student Association (VenSA) at FSU, helped organize and host TEDxFSU 2012, and directed InternatioNole in 2013. I have also had the honor of speaking at various conferences such as the Florida International Leadership Conference 2013, the Democracy in the Americas Symposium 2013, the NAFSA Region VII Conference 2013, and at One Young World 2013 in South Africa.

HC: What exactly is One Young World?

PA: One Young World is the most important youth summit in the world and the most international youth event in the globe after the Olympic Games! I attended One Young World 2012 in Pittsburgh as a delegate from Venezuela, and One Young World 2013 in South Africa as a returning ambassador and first speaker ever (along with Liz Rebecca Alarcon) from Venezuela. 

HC: How was your experience in South Africa?

PA: It was amazing! My friend, Liz Rebecca Alarcon, and I spoke to over 1300 representatives from 190 countries in the Leadership and Governance Plenary Session. We became the first Venezuelans to tell representatives from the whole world about the reality of Venezuela. I also had the chance to experience two incredible opportunities.

First, on the first full-day of the summit, I joined NASA astronaut, explorer, entrepreneur, and humanitarian Ron Garan for a photoshoot for the Vanity Fair UK magazine. The aim of the photoshoot was to highlight the talent, energy, and passion behind One Young World by profiling some of the Counsellors, Founders, and Delegates who are part of the charity. At this iconic South African landmark where both Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were jailed, Ron and I discussed the power of global collaboration, his vision of a united world through the orbital perspective, and the responsibility that the youth have in Venezuela and around the world to change the course of history. Ron and I share the belief that, through collaboration at a global scale, we could solve many of the world’s most pressing issues. The possibilities are only limited by our imagination and our will to act. We just have to keep in mind that in everything we do, we are interconnected; we are in this together.

Second, right after the Vanity Fair photoshoot, I ran to the Al Jazeera studios and joined Pakistani author and journalist Fatima Bhutto, and Somali human rights activist Ilwad Eman for a 30-min show called South2North that focuses on the Global South’s perspective on international affairs. We had a very interesting discussion about the main problems affecting our countries, the role of youth in solving these critical issues, and how social media has revolutionized the way we communicate and organize. We talked about our role models, our vision for the future, and the values that leaders must have in order to be effective. It was a very special opportunity; it was an absolute honor to have sat next to them.

HC: What an increible and empowering experience! What impact do you believe you left on others who attended the youth summit?

PA: A few years ago, my friend Liz Rebecca Alarcon taught me that every single conversation that you have is extremely important and valuable, no matter whom it is with. I believe that our impact at One Young World was made mostly through our conversations with young leaders from all around the world. We went with the goal in mind of telling as many people as possible about the reality of Venezuela, and we definitely succeeded.

HC: What advice could you give students who want to advocate for a cause, but don’t know where to start?

PA:  Starting is the hardest part. You don’t have to do everything at once. Just start by doing something, by taking the first step

  • You can’t go from A to Z immediately. Keep Z in mind, but focus all your energy in going from A to B. Small steps will lead you to huge changes
  • Do not be afraid to make mistakes. The more mistakes you make, the more you learn. This applies to everything in life
  • Often most of the limitations that we think we have are imposed by ourselves
  • Surround yourself with leaders and you will have a different perspective of life. You will also be constantly inspired
  • Keep a positive attitude in everything that you do. The cup is always half-full, no matter what happens. Failure does not exists, because for every obstacle you encounter you will gain valuable lessons

HC: Who has been the biggest influence in your life? 

PA: The person that has had the biggest influence on my life is definitely my mom. Among many other things, she has taught me to love unconditionally, to always be thankful, and to dream big!

HC: What philosophy do you live by?

PA: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Gandhi 

HC: How have you seen Venezuela change throughout the years?

I lived in Venezuela until age 16. Venezuela has an extremely high biodiversity, with habitats that range from snowy mountains in the Andes, to the Amazon basin, extensive plains, the Caribbean coast, and even a desert. Venezuelan people are very joyful, warm, and social. However, the Venezuela that I was raised in has been changing very rapidly, mostly in negative ways: 28 out of the 100 most basic products are scarce, its 56% annual inflation in 2013 was the highest in the region, and with over 24,000 homicides in 2013, 90% of which went unpunished, and it has become the most violent country in South America and one of the most violent in the world.

HC: Can you share with us how the corruption in Venezuela has impacted you directly?

PA: Four years ago my father was victim of the widespread violence in Venezuela. He is just one of the more than 200,000 people that have been violently killed in the Chavista regime. Ever since my father passed away, I have started looking at life in a different outlook. It made me realize how fragile life is. It made me appreciate every single second of my life and focus more on today, rather than tomorrow. It taught me to smile every day, realizing that it could be my last day.

My anger and sadness have turned into strength and hope for a peaceful and prosperous Venezuela, one where leaders value democracy and human rights above all.  

HC: What is your definition of democracy?

PA: We often think of democracy as being the direct result of elections; this is far from the truth. Democracy is much more than simply being able to cast your vote and elect your leaders. A real democracy must also comply with other features such as separation of powers, freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly, and freedom to travel. A real democracy promotes pluralism, instead of polarization and hatred towards those who think differently. In a real democracy people can protest pacifically without being violently shut down by the government. In a real democracy newspaper, radio, and television can openly talk about what is happening in the country without being denied access to dollars to buy paper, or threaten to be suddenly closed by the regime. Based on all this requirements, Venezuela is far from a democracy; it is an authoritarian regime where even the election results are highly questionable.

HC: What can other supporters of Venezuela do to help?

PA: Change in Venezuela needs to come from within, but the international community like NGOs, human rights organizations, heads of state, and you can help by pressuring the Venezuelan government to protect human rights.. You can help us by telling your friends, your local government, and everyone you can about the reality of Venezuela.  The world needs to know about the critical situation of Venezuela and understand that the regime is taking every possible measure to oppress its people and cover the truth. May the common humanity in all of us prevail and may authoritarian heads of state like Maduro disappear not just from Venezuela, but from the whole world.