Saturday, December 26, 2009

Rafael Caldera

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.


  1. Here are some comments from Bloomberg. Seems that all of Latin America EXCEPT Venezuela is starting to recover!

    Regards, and get well soon.

    Ken Price

    Brazil Stocks Head for Best Gain in Six Years, Real Set for Record Rally Brazilian stocks are headed for their biggest annual rise in six years and the real is set for the best gain since its 1993 creation as Latin America’s largest economy pulled out of a recession faster than most nations.

    Fugitive Argentine Banker Arbizu Says He Won't Respond to JPMorgan Lawsuit Hernan Arbizu, a former JPMorgan Chase & Co. private banker who fled the U.S. after being indicted for embezzlement, said he won’t respond to a related lawsuit the bank filed against him.

    Chile Stocks, Peso Cap Record Year as Industrial Output Unexpectedly Jumps Chilean stocks rose to a record, capping their best year since 1993, after industrial production unexpectedly rose for the first time in more than a year, leading economists to raise economic growth forecasts.

    Latin American Trade to Climb Up to 15% Next Year, Bladex's Amaral Says Latin American foreign trade will increase as much as 15 percent in 2010 as a global economic recovery and rebound in commodity prices bolster exports, according to Banco Latinoamericano de Comercio Exterior SA.

    Uruguay Peso Posts 25% Annual Gain in Biggest Rally Since 1993 Creation Uruguay’s peso headed for a record annual gain as neighboring Brazil’s economic recovery fueled demand for the country’s exports and central bank interest-rate reductions help fuel growth.

    Argentina's Boudou Says Reserves Plan Provides `Certainty' to Debt Holders Argentine Economy Minister Amado Boudou said a government plan to use central bank reserves to make 2010 debt payments shows investors the country is able to meet its commitments.

    Colombia's Central Bank Board Says Rate Cuts Continue to Stimulate Growth Colombia’s central bank said its record low benchmark lending rate will continue to stimulate economic growth after eight cuts this year, according to minutes of the board’s last meeting.

    Argentine Corn Crop Will Rise to 15.8 Million Tons in 2010, Exchange Says Buenos Aires Cereals Exchange said the country will produce 15.8 million tons of corn next year, up from the previous season’s 13.8 million tons.

    Colombia Approves Energy Futures Company as Part of Derivatives Expansion Colombian regulators approved the formation of an energy-futures trading company, part of an expansion in derivatives as Latin America’s fifth-biggest market seeks to attract investment.

    Venezuela's Economy Is Entering Period of `Stagflation,' Esteruelas Says Venezuela is entering a period of “stagflation” signaled by a central bank report that the economy in 2009 probably shrank for first time in six years, said Patrick Esteruelas, a Latin America analyst at Eurasia Group.

  2. Anonymous5:56 AM

    Aside from the fact that the sobreseimiento was one of Caldera's electoral promises (as it was of the other candidates), there was a strong national opinion that the perpetrators of the coup attempts should be sobreseídos. Prominent and not-so prominent politicians as well as other personalities and most of the media were of this opinion. One might question what people would be saying today if he hadn't completed the sobreseimiento process initiated by Carlos Andrés and if Chávez were still in prison.

    But most importantly, the greater culprit here is the votes of those who , as far as I know, were not forced to vote for Chávez and still did. People tend to forget they had a choice in 1998.

  3. Anonymous

    True, people votes are those that brought this nightmare, but that still does not exempt a statesman to do what is right.

    Caldera thought that Chavez star would burn itself and released him to gain the social peace he was unable to provide himself because of his erroneous economic policies and the impossible coalition he put together with the sole aim to be reelected.

    What Caldera should have done is to promote a speedy trial, and once Chavez was found guilty release him but keep him deprived of his right to be elected to any post.

    But Caldera in his arrogance (and the arrogance of many others) thought either they could manage Chavez for their goals or that he would fade, dramatically underestimating Chavez.

    I will point out to you that some were not willing to release Chavez and opposed that measure, me included.

    A statesman, someone that would have considered the long terms objectives of the country would not have released Chavez or Arias Cardenas or the other plotters, at least not that easily. See, Chavez has no such qualms and keeps his political prisoners in exile or in jail. His is not a statesman attitude either but at least it is more logical with his regime than the Caldera attitude is. In the defense of democracy justice must be applied all the way through and Caldera failed there, totally.

  4. Ken

    I think you put your comment in the wrong post :)

  5. Anonymous10:58 PM

    A statesman also has to judge the present and short-term future, and determine which is the least of all evils. Caldera did think that Chávez's star would fade quickly, and perhaps rightly so: when released, Chávez was low in polls and failed in his 1995 abstention campaign. Not sobreseyéndolo may instead have lit a powder keg of instability, a situation which Caldera himself characterized by saying that "si no se hubiera logrado la pacificación estaríamos padeciendo la grave situación de Colombia".

    Trying and releasing Chávez would not have precluded him from a presidential candidacy after he got out of prison. Inhabilitación política only lasted while in jail, and in any case was only applicable by judicial authorities, not by the president, as an accesory to a jail sentence for the duration of the incarceration; if not specifically done so, political rights remained intact. Caldera would not have been in any position to restrict Chávez's political rights, which he still retained while imprisoned awaiting trial; in fact, had Chávez been submitted as a candidate and elected president during this time, he would have been released. By not sobreseyendo Chávez, he would only have incurred even more political bad faith from all sectors clamoring for the coupsters' release, including the bulk of public opinion.

    In addition, as Chávez's sobreseimiento was one of Caldera's electoral promises, who knows what may have happened if he'd gone back on his word. Remember that Chávez was largely hailed as a champion against a corrupt regime, not as the fascist megalomaniac he is. That is the main reason why all presidential candidates of the period promised the same thing.

    In the end, it's voters who put Chávez in place, and until our society develops a better short-term memory, more curiosity, greater knowledge and better analytical skills, we will put more Chávezes and Pérezes in place too.

  6. Anonymous

    First, a trial and a guilty condemnation would have allowed for a partial pardon, such as Chavez been released but his other rights suspended until the end of his sentence. Nowhere it is written that a pardon must be made in full.

    Second, I wrote the following "I am no fan of the man those no eulogy from my side." Which means that if you do not want me to attack Caldera as a lousy president on Chavez pardon I can find plenty of other ways to do so.

    Third, a true statesman recognizes that his electoral promises are untenable and say so. The more so in Venezuela where thousands of electoral promises are made and at best a handful fulfilled. Caldera would not have fallen for that.

    Fourth, invoking a possible Colombian situation if Chavez was not released was simply ridiculous. For the very same reason the opposition cannot unseat Chavez because of its lack of commitment to the task, the eventual pro Chavez group would have probably failed even at forming a small terrorist cell. And, are we better off today than taking the risk of a "colombianization" of Venezuela? Writing such things from you or folks in 1993 is simply showing a deep lack of understanding about the basic differences of Venezuelan and Colombian societies, in particular as far as land ownership is concerned, a main reason why in Colombia the FARC found so many recruits.

    Last and not least, please try to avoid using anonymous, invent any moniker you want but do not use anonymous.

  7. 467830253:01 AM

    Well I should have understood that you were looking for another reason for bashing Caldera. It was just an outlet for your dislike of the man. However I will defend him on this issue in particular because not doing so means giving in to our society's penchant for blaming everything on one cause or predecessor. Caldera's action was a continuation of a process initiated by Carlos Andrés and continued by Ramón J. Velásquez under vocal and widespread pressure from many sectors. Waiting more time for a trial may have had consequences akin to civil unrest and stopping the processs midway would have been incoherent, possibly having the same effect. And thinking that a "semi-pardoned" Chávez and his supporters would not have been able to organize into armed rebellion may even be naive, considering the backing he's had and his current organization.

    I don't want my IP associated with anything, which is the only reason I neglected to use a moniker.

    You don't have to print any of this as is your prerogative. Let me just say that we as society should be more careful at how we look at past events, and at making choices when deciding the future.

  8. anonymous



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