Saturday, December 25, 2010

Carlos Andres Perez dies

After Chavez, Carlos Andres Perez has been the most controversial president in the last century (twice elected, in 1973 and 1988).  And he also was the first populist president of Venezuela even though with Chavez we had to redefine the populist terminology....


Four men have marked Venezuelan politics in the last century of our republican or not so republican existence.  The first one was of course the long dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gomez who at least had the virtue of ending the never ending succession of local caudillo revolts that made Venezuela a chaos all through the XIX century.

The second one was Romulo Betancourt who for all his faults had always a clear goal in mind: transform Venezuela into an elective political system where social justice would be a compass.  The third one was Rafael Caldera who demonstrated that political alternativeness was a possibility in Venezuela even though he managed to do that espousing some of the vices of the Adecos of Romulo Betancourt.  The fourth one was Carlos Andres Perez, CAP in his campaigns (for his death on Christmas day El Universal has a photo gallery of some of his main political moments).

It is very easy to speak ill of CAP.  It is certainly true that populism became the political modus operandi during his first tenure.  But it is also true that in his second tenure he tried to get away of that corrosion.

It is very easy to accuse him of all sorts of corruption, but it should also go along with some of modern ideas he brought to the country such as new and large national parks, or sending thousand of kids overseas to soak in new technologies and new ways of thinking.

For all the criticism we can throw at him it remains that he is vindicated today because whatever corruption happened under his tenure it has been dwarfed, by orders of magnitude, by the corruption we see today.  And if his tenures were corrupt they also were productive in many aspects, something that still needs to be achieved with any, ANY of Chavez programs.

It is not that I am trying to defend CAP: I did like him at first, specially when he created new National Parks rescuing areas that were all but doomed.  I also was one of the Fundayacucho kids.  But I was bitterly opposed to his reelection sensing that this was not the way Venezuelan democracy had to go, something confirmed when the subsequent reelection of Caldera paved the way for Chavez.  The political culture of the masses in Venezuela has remained rather primitive and loves a good caudillo; thus reelections IMO should be banned because with such a culture the populist temptation is always too strong to resist, the more so if oil prices are high.

But when everything is said and done the regime of Hugo Chavez will have been the great rehabilitation of CAP even though CAP was Chavez demon.  Because you know what?  When CAP was put on trial he left power without anything more than the legal fight.  CAP was a democrat.  And Chavez has demonstrated that he is not, and thus Chavez will always be the lesser man to CAP, no matter hate crazed chavistas may scream.

10 comments:

  1. Glenn9:39 AM

    Not to hijack Daniel's blog, but here's a great recap of what's happened lately, thank's to CAP letting Chavez off the hook!

    http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Venezuelan+President+Chavez+Teflon+popularity+fraying/4026550/story.html

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  2. metodex9:48 AM

    Great post.
    You couldn't have put it better,and im so glad you didn't start throwing shit at him.And yes,Chavez will always be the lesser man out of all presidents and most men in venezuela.
    Viva la democracia.

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  3. When CAP was first president I could not stand him.He looked like a malandro to me, but my husband told me " yeah he is kind of bad, but in a certain way that was good for Venezuela."

    I never understood that until now.Now I would take him back in a heart beat.

    There are many Chavista family members of mine who are so lacking in intelligence that they say that they know Chavez is super bad, but he is at least not Adeco, and he is at least a " leftist revolutionary".

    The inability to comprise and measure proportion is THE common denominator in Venezuela.

    In a country of great oil wealth and a large portion of uneducated people whose access to justice is limited, one would have to be a fool to expect miracles.

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  4. Daniel,

    I also went to study abroad at the time of the first CAP presidency, but with a much less generous scholarship (we envied the lavish living style of Fundayacucho and Conicit kids). It was a time of optimism: we thought we were building the new Venezuela.

    We returned after five years or so to find a prosperous country. Our school friends who didn’t go out to study were relatively well off when we returned. Many already had a house, a car, and even a bar stocked with the finest liquors. I remember feeling a little frustrated at not been able to share in the prosperity, but I certainly shared the optimism of my friends and their firm belief in the future of our country. I think CAP had much to do with this forward looking atmosphere.

    I bumped into CAP a few times. Once it was when I was sitting in a hotel lobby very early in the morning, waiting to collect a visitor. CAP came and sat next to me to wait for whatever it was he had to do there, with only one bodyguard-secretary. I don't look particularly threatening, but I always thought he was a brave man.

    CAP was very understanding of the plight of the Cuban people at a time when conditions in Cuba were only slightly worse than what they are in Venezuela today. It was the time when everyone was supposed to be a socialist, studiously ignoring the destruction and suffering that the regime was forcing on the Cuban people. CAP was not fooled: he knew what was coming to Venezuela, and tried to do something about it. He didn't succeed in averting the disaster, but it was not totally his fault, as you seem to indicate.

    I wouldn’t have written these lines about CAP 20 years ago. I do so now only by contrasting his time with in power with what Chavez and followers are doing to our country today. No comparison is possible.

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  5. Polique3:50 PM

    It seems, you have forgotten an important part on the equation that one of the most barbaric regimes in the region, by the coming to power of Chavez. First of all it was Caldera that pardon him during his second mandate. Had Caldera goverment officials (94 to 99), kept him and his gang of Malandros in Jail and without any civil or political rights. This catastrofic dilapidation of wealth and rampant political and economic corruption would have never come about, at least not in such magnitude. To top it off, the social hate and division that this leftist paranoian had caused into the minds of the Venezuelan countryman will be hard to erased after the chavez years. Se le acabo su cuarto de hora, Abajo Chavez. Por una Democracia Participativa y libre.

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  6. Anonymous6:05 PM

    Al pobre CAP lo sacaron malamente, que si se la hacen al que esta ahora no será malamente sino con muchas razones. Ni lo dejo venir a morir en su tierra. La MAGA lee

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  7. Here's my post, Daniel.

    http://cuentosintrascendentes.blogspot.com/2010/12/la-muerte-de-carlos-andres-perez.html

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  8. Yngvar4:59 AM

    Perez makes an appearance, a bit reduced, in Miami, in this Norwegian Public Broadcasting, er, broadcast.
    Spool to 19:00.
    He is painted in a good light.
    But please; Do watch the whole ting.

    Most of it is in Norwegian, but...

    Yngvar from Norway

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  9. Thx for the link with the pictures of CAP political life Daniel.
    The guy was great at keeping good relationships with castro, jimbo and kissinger at the same time, like it should be... somebody needs to take some notes about it... errr... no lo quiero nombrar... sigh...

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  10. Piotr7:55 PM

    CAP was a terrible president. In a way, he paved the way for the culture of corruption that followed; it had been pretty clean from Betancourt II to Caldera I. In addition, he abused his power whenever he wanted to and was in his interest, rigged/fixed elections, persecuted dissent (including journalists), was responsible for the deaths of hundreds during the Caracazo (he came up with Plan Avila), and in many other ways emulated Chavez.

    In addition, he began the pardoning process for Chavez and his friends. Not to mention he invited Castro to his inauguration.

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