Rafael Caldera, twice president of Venezuela (69/74 and 94/99), passed away just before Christmas.
I am no fan of the man those no eulogy from my side. I will only recognize in him his civilian values and that he managed successfully the first democratic political transition in Venezuela history. Until Caldera transitions were always violently contested and never finished their term, starting with Vargas in 1834 (all historical parameters taken into account!). Caldera together with Betancourt and Villalba understood that democracy in Venezuela would be possible only when political opponents would be looked upon as mere opponents and not as enemies that had to be destroyed. That was the foundation of the "Pacto de Punto Fijo" who brought to Venezuela 40 years of civilian discourse and democratic culture. That is why chavismo is so bent in discrediting these years as chavismo is a throw back to the era of violence and segregation that existed before 1958.
But together with Carlos Andres Perez, Caldera suffered from the reelection bug. He went as far as wrecking the political party he founded, COPEI, when this one did not want to give him the nod for reelection. As such his return to power was ensured by him riding the consequences of the 1992 Chavez murderous coup and accepting to preside over an electoral alliance including small and/or unsavory parties, most of them finding their way to Chavez in 1998. Trapped in his own discourse, and probably feeling threatened by the military, he gained time to finish his second term by allowing Chavez go unpunished from the murders of 1992 and thus allowing for a military regime to take office through the vote in 1998. Today Venezuela is a military regime and in my opinion Caldera is one of the main culprits, if not the main one when we put him with Alfaro Ucero.
At least his family had the good sense to refuse state honors from the regime they helped come to office. Not that much honor would have come anyway if we look at the dismal treatment offered Herrera Campins when he died. But what can you expect from the vile uncouth soldiers controlling Venezuela?
You can find in Spanish a summary of Caldera's life here.