History of Venezuela (1958–99)

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Venezuela saw ten years of military dictatorship from 1948 to 1958. After the 1948 Venezuelan coup d'état brought an end to a three-year experiment in democracy ("El Trienio Adeco"), a triumvirate of military personnel controlled the government until 1952, when it held presidential elections. These were free enough to produce results unacceptable to the government, leading them to be falsified and to one of the three leaders, Marcos Pérez Jiménez, assuming the Presidency. His government was brought to an end by the 1958 Venezuelan coup d'état, which saw the advent of democracy with a transitional government under Admiral Wolfgang Larrazábal in place until the December 1958 elections. Prior to the elections, three of the main political parties (with the notable exclusion of the Communist Party of Venezuela) signed up to the Punto Fijo Pact power-sharing agreement.

The Betancourt administration (1959-1964)[edit]

Leoni and first Caldera administrations (1964-1974)[edit]

First Carlos Andrés Pérez administration (1974-1979)[edit]

Herrera Campins and Lusinchi administrations (1979-1989)[edit]

Second Pérez administration (1989-1993)[edit]

But Pérez proved less generous with hand-outs than previously. Despite being elected after a populist, anti-neoliberal campaign during which he described the IMF as "a neutron bomb that killed people, but left buildings standing" and said that World Bank economists were "genocide workers in the pay of economic totalitarianism",[1] he had become a closet liberalizer and globalizer. His economic adviser was Moisés Naím, today an influential journalist in the United States and the editor of the journal Foreign Policy, and he defined the presidential economic agenda, which included no price controls, privatizations, and laws, or their elimination, to attract foreign investment. Naím began at the lowest rung of economic liberalization, which was freeing controls on prices and a ten percent increase in that of gasoline,[2] which in Venezuela is sacrosantly very low. The increase in petrol price fed into a 30 percent increase in fares for public transport[2] In February 1989, barely into his second term, Pérez faced a popular uprising, which he had the army crush with a death toll of 276, according to government officials. It is known as the "caracazo" (from "Caracas"), where the rioting and looting was on an unforeseen scale.

Pérez and Naím went on with their reforms, which had the full backing of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Venezuelan economy started picking up[citation needed], but only slightly and Venezuelans, who are not very keen on capitalist globalization, were resentful. Rightly or wrongly, Pérez, who after his first presidency was a rich man, was singled out as Mr. Corruption himself.

1992 coup d'état attempts[edit]

The MBR-200 officers started plotting seriously and on 4 February 1992 they struck. Hugo Chávez was a lieutenant-colonel, but other generals were also involved in the coup attempt. The plan involved members of the military overwhelming military locations and communication installations and then establishing Rafael Caldera in power once Perez was captured and assassinated.[3] They almost had him cornered in the presidential palace, but he managed to escape to the presidential residence and from there, loyal troops cornerered Chávez arrested him. In exchange for prompting his co-conspirators to lay down their arms, Chávez, fully uniformed and unbowed, was allowed to speak on television to the entire nation in a moment that captured Venezuela's attention and granted him a place on the nation's political stage.

On 27 November 1992, higher ranked officer tried to overthrow Pérez but the conspiracy was easily put down.

Impeachment and transition[edit]

Pérez's downfall came when a legal process was begun to force to him reveal how he had used a secret but legal[citation needed] presidential fund, which he resolutely resisted. With the supreme court and congress ranged against him, Pérez was imprisoned, for a while in a detention center, and then under house arrest. He handed the presidency in 1993 to Ramón J. Velásquez, an adeco politician/historian who had been his presidential secretary. Though nobody has charged Velásquez with corruption, his son was involved in an illegal pardon for drug-traffickers, but was not charged. Velázquez oversaw the elections of 1993, and these were at once familiar and unique.

Second Caldera administration (1994-1999)[edit]

Rafael Caldera, who had been candidate for the presidency six times and won once, wanted to have another go, but COPEI this time resisted, led by Herrera Campins, and Caldera founded his own brand-new political movement, called Convergencia. COPEI chose a mediocrity from within its ranks. The adecos chose the pardo Claudio Fermín. Petkoff had seen the futility of trying again and backed Caldera. Even Velázquez got into the act. When the returns were in, Caldera won and in the process shattered the strict bipolarity thesis. Abstentions reached a record of 40%. The main reason Caldera, who was 86 years old, won was in essence the same as for Pérez's victory in 1973: everybody knew him and the middle classes, probably decisive for the only time in Venezuela's history, thought that he could do the miracle that had been expected of Pérez, that is, in some manner to get the country back on track to the "good old times".

Once back in the presidential palace, Caldera had to confront the Venezuelan banking crisis of 1994. He re-imposed exchange controls, which Pérez's administration had lifted as part of a general financial liberalisation (unaccompanied by effective regulation, which contributed to the banking crisis). The economy had suffered under the falling oil price, which led to a collapse in government revenues. The steel corporation Sidor was privatized, and the economy continued to plummet. Fulfilling an election promise, Caldera released Chávez and pardoned all the military and civilian conspirators during the Pérez regime. The economic crisis continued, and by the Venezuelan presidential election, 1998 the traditional political parties had become extremely unpopular[citation needed]; an initial front-runner for the presidency in late 1997 was Irene Saez. Ultimately Hugo Chávez Frías was elected President.


  1. ^ Ali, Tariq (9 November 2006). "A beacon of hope for the rebirth of Bolívar's dream". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 12 October 2008. 
  2. ^ a b Joquera, Jorge (2003). "Neoliberalism, the erosion of consensus and the rise of a new popular movement". Venezuela: The Revolution Unfolding In Latin America. Chippendale, New South Wales: Resistance Books. p. 10. ISBN 1-876646-27-6. Retrieved 12 October 2008. 
  3. ^ Maria Delgado, Antonio (16 February 2015). "Libro devela sangriento objetivo de la intentona golpista de Hugo Chávez" [ook reveals bloody putsch goal of Hugo Chávez]. El Nuevo Herald. Retrieved 17 February 2015.