Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Original sin (Why Venezuela cannot make it to democracy Eden?)


With the return of Carlos Andres Perez remains to Venezuela as I type this note, and the uttering of yet more intemperate words from Chavez today I was struck by an idea, or rather a perspective on Venezuelan history that the indulgent reader may forgive me.

Accion Democratica, AD, came to power through a military coup.  True, in 1945 the regime overthrown was barely taking baby steps towards more democracy but it had at least reached a certain level of institutionality if we place ourselves in the context of the time. And it is also true that the military regained their barracks for 3 years until back out in 1948 they created our one before last dictatorship that lasted until 1958.

But the original sin existed for AD.  It came through that initial coup even if the popular fervor was with it for decades afterwards.  It did not matter what Romulo Betancourt and Raul Leoni did to atone, it did not matter that COPEI was able to replace AD at Miraflores for two terms, there was always that 1945 sin hovering over the whole system.

That sin was finally redeemed by Carlos Andres Perez, CAP, in his second term, 1988 to 1993 when he stared down two coup attempts against him, and then was removed from office through legal ways even though they were politically unwise and for the wrong motivations. The charges that brought down CAP have been amply surpassed by the current regime and if Venezuela had any coherence today the jails will be filled with people like Chavez, Ramirez or Cabello.

No matter what we may throw at CAP, his legacy to us will be a democratic one, the one that comes from facing down coupsters, from sharing more power by letting governors be elected instead of appointed, by accepting the rule of law even though he was clearly a victim (many were able to see it at the time even if they did not support CAP).  Note that the one that writes these lines would not have voted for CAP in 1988 so resentful he was from his first term in office 10 years before.  For all of his faults CAP never ceased to be a democrat and it is a paradox of history that his downfall would mark the beginning of the end for democracy in Venezuela even though his courageous stand washed away the original sins of AD in 1945.

Chavez has been the great enemy of CAP even though in stature he does not reach CAP's ankle.  Like AD Chavez has come to power with his own original sin of 1992 when he tried a bloody coup against CAP who left scores of people killed.  But unlike AD Chavez had never any intention to wash out his original sin, instead spending significant amounts of time and money to transform vice into virtue.  In fact we even have many instances to confirm that Chavez has a non democratic character, besides his arrogance and freely dispensing of insults.  Chavez more than once has confessed his early conspiratorial nature, his desire to create an unchanging regime and what not.  Heck, today he even said that the goal was to establish a political and economical hegemony.

That is why contrary to what happened to AD in 1992, the 2002 April events did not wash Chavez of his original sin, a confirmation coming from himself when he claimed that he had provoked the April events so as to get rid of his opposition.  At no point in his career was Chavez a democrat and most of his followers today know that and seem to care little, which speaks very ill of the nature of the Venezuelan and its relationship with a democratic future.

And that is why perhaps Venezuela has never really entered the path to a democratic Eden as we have consistently sabotaged any attempt through our hisotry, starting with the first coup on record, the one against Vargas in 1835.  It is a fitting tribute to CAP as he comes back to be buried in Venezuela that his presidency might have been paradoxically the most and the last democratic term of our history, even if at the time most were blinded by his faults.  Including yours truly. I do not mean to excuse CAP at all, but time is the best prism to look at history and clear up the dirt around the rock.

UPDATE: I highly recommend the view from an insider of the CAP second government, Moises Naim who was one of his minsters.  In Spanish unfortunately for those who cannot read it.


  1. We could even say things go even further back in time...I mean: if you see the way Julius Caeser just vinit, vidit, vixit Hispaniam: I mean, what a mess!
    Spaniards hadn't really got out of the Middle Ages when they arrived in Venezuela...and then Venezuela had what? Beyond the coast, it was unhospitable Llanos, which were hell at that time.
    Venezuela was a capitanía, unlike Nueva Granada, Mexico, etc.
    Bolívar was a dictator, he never had any intention to relinquish power, in spite of all the theatre he gave about quitting for the good of people.

    Venezuelans haven't got a clue up to this day what a real debate is.

    Democracy? We who were born in the longest intermezzo between military dictatorships thought our country had some democratic tradition. Germany in the Weimar times had more of it. At least when the Kaiser was ruling and Bismark was still a chancellor there were more debates in parliament than anything we had.

  2. Island Canuck2:23 PM

    Nice perspective Daniel.

    Hope everything goes smoothly to get him in the ground here & the red shirted thugs don't try & disrupt it.

  3. Nice historic perspective. Question: who stole more, the CAP or Chavez regimes? Back in the early 70's.. that's when the oil boom happened, Opec and all that, as you recall. Barely about 12 million people back then to share such bonanza. Did those Adecos build any roads or schools or anything with that wealth? Or they just stole 95.87% of it? Who have been the biggest crooks in Vzla's shady past?

  4. "Who have been the biggest crooks in Vzla's shady past?"
    Vinicio Carrera was one of them, and he got away with it becuase his case "expired" while he was on the loose. And he was copeyano, not adeco.

  5. RabbiBulla6:38 PM

    It's not just who stole the most
    money- Chavez is in a class all
    of his own-the worst. It's not even close, agreed. (-Sledge do
    you really compare others to Chavez?)For example- connections to terrorism(-Mr.Kepler-do you think so,or not?)

  6. Who has some facts? It's not all about despising the Chabruto here, although I enjoy most of that..

    Is healthcare better or worse now than with the AD/Copei or whatever before? Say 3 decades comparison.

    How about education?

    I'd love to see reasonable numbers about murder rates, theft, street violence.. Adecos, Copeyanos vs. Chavez.

    How about infrastructure? If memory serves, the one who did something was a dude called Perez Jimenez, no? Cota Mil, autopistas, etc.. And he had a lot less money than Chavez, of course, but also a lot less than Carlos Andres, pinerua, Luis Herrera or any other Venezuelan thugs.

    There's no question the Chavez regime has been THE worst, overall, in Venezuelan History. It will take decades to repair the various damages on all facets of the economy, and life in general. That said, again, did CAP steal more than Chavez, or not? I really don't know.

  7. What...?? Sean Penn didn't get the memo.???? How funny how these Hollywood Crack heads don't have a Clue, this Guy is showing up in Libia to praise the Revolution.?? Reminds me of "I voted for it, before I voted against it" Typical Far Left Stuff...!

  8. (sigh) The Beto pop-up advertises his wares...Back to the topic at hand, thank you Daniel, also for the link to Moises Naím's article.

  9. RabbiBulla4:56 AM

    Sledge said-"I'd love to see reasonable numbers about murder rates, theft, street violence.. Adecos, Copeyanos vs. Chavez."
    Where have you been, pal?
    Can you use your memory?
    Did you feel safer when you were
    younger-did you hear about people robbed on a bus in a traffic jam, or kidnapped, guns, drugs or rap music...
    I know- you want to see numbers, but, can't you believe anything without numbers? I think if you add all years together it would not be as bad as one year under Chavez..

  10. Sledge,

    Those who speak favourably of Pérez Jiménez haven't got a clue.
    Venezuela had 5 million people back then. The population boom we saw in the next 20 years can only be compared to that in a couple of other underdeveloped nations like Bangladesh.
    Universities were greatly expanded later on. One of the problems was clientelism, primary education was forgotten...

    As for crime: the murder rate started to skyrocket in the nineties. There was indeed more crime in the eighties than 30 years earlier, but that is not so strange given the whole social factors in place, it was not just about the government.

  11. Kepler, I did not say Perez Jimenez was a Saint. But tell me how much more infrastructure have the Copeyanos, the Adecos or the Chavistas has BUILT since. Please refer to specific examples of lasting acomplishhments, and consider the the limitations in the 50's compared to the 70's, 80's, 90's, .. and today.

    When you drive a car in Venezuela, ask yourself: Who built this thing?

    And why.

  12. Anonymous4:26 PM

    El tiempo poco a poco nubla todo y cada quién percibe una realidad a su manera, en el futuro todo cambiará, me acuerdo del disgusto que sentia por Perez Jimenez, ahora pienso que no tuvo tanta maldad, CAP de su tiempo tuvo muchos "Fans", igual a Chavez, quién sabe como pensará la gente dentro de 10 años o mas.
    La Maga Lee

  13. Carolina & Sledge:

    You want to hear a Vinicio Carrera story?

    Vinicio was busted entering the US, at MIA, carrying $2 Million US in a couple suitcases. His lawyer lit into him, reminding him that he was to ferry the money "poco a poco".

    Vinicio's answer? "Well, that what I was doing!, poco a poco!"

    Que tal? Does that answer your question, Sledge?

  14. Sledge:

    I think it is safe to say that most of the infrastructure was built by Perez Jimenez. Amongst them:

    Bridge over lake Maracaibo
    Caracas - Macuto Teleferico
    Central University
    Hotel Humboldt
    Autopista Caracas Valencia Puerto Cabello
    Parque del Este
    Autopista La Guaira - Caracas
    Autopista del Este
    Torres del Silencio

    Cota Mil
    Half assed Autopista de Oriente
    Half assed Autopista de los LLanos
    Complejo Petrolero del Zulia
    Complejo Criogenico de Jose
    Centro Simon Bolivar
    Parque Central

    I know I am missing more from both PJ and "the Democrats" lists. Feel free to fill in.

    One thing that distinguished PJ from the "Democrats" was that contracts had a delivery date, with huge daily fines for non compliance.

    Before he signed a contract he asked "What day and time am I supposed to be there to cut the ribbon?"

    Woe betide you if you were late!

  15. Anonymous5:22 AM

    You are wrong on the highways

    Autopista Caracas Valencia Puerto Cabello - During Perez Jimenez Valencia -Tejerias was built , then Coche Tejerias (Technically much more difficult) was built by Romulo Betancourt / Raul Leoni Government. One company, Eneca worked with both Governments (Cabrera bridge PJ and Hoyo de La Puerta - Tunel de los Ocumitos syretch. Eneca also worked on Hotel Humboldt

    Valencia - Pueto Cabello was builr later than PJ, but I am not sure

  16. you are comparing midgets vs. midgets


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