Venezuela 2010

Yesterday, our democraticaly elected president, Hugo of Sabaneta, as usual in cadena nacional (forced TV and radio transmission) wished all of us a Happy 2010. He said that if the bourgeoisie - obviously never meaning his billionaire friends - returned to power, they would desmantle "the achievements of the revolution", that his people have to guarantee we do not lose the majority in the 2010 parliamentary elections" and that if the opposition were to get that majority, they would destabilize the country. So far for his love for plurialism.

The National electoral council is working very hard now to define the key electoral districts again in a show of massive gerrymandering. In January we shall find out how they transformed the electoral regions for the most populous states. Two of the council's key members are hard-core chavistas who had previously declared they would do anything to guarantee the success of the so-called revolution.

Hugo also announced "major advances" on crime reduction, citing again some magic chavista numbers about people's perception of crime. Never mind the government refuses to discuss openly about numbers on murder rates. Never mind the murder rate in Venezuela was 19 per 100000 in 1998 and now it over 60: crime is, according to chavismo, in the eyes of the beholder. Never mind Hugo of Sabaneta recently announced the national police was getting a 260% rise now as an achievement, as if the government had been elected just some days or months or years ago.

Perhaps - best case scenario - we finally see next year a reduction of the murder rate compared to this year, which is not hard given the current numbers, given the fact we have long become South America's most dangerous country. If this were to happen, I am sure the government will announce it as a huge success, even if the rate would still be several times worse than when the government took office over 10 years ago...then people in Venezuela have a very short memory retention span.

As the red-very red National Assembly diverted a huge amount of the budget from the municipalities, the states, the Ministries of Education and Justice to be directly controlled and distributed by the president, he will have some cash in hand to impress a bit for election time. He will probably close a couple of very bad deals with the chinese or the Spaniards or someone else to get some fast cash as well. Things will not be easy economically, as even Ow (former chavista) says in his latest post here. Still, the government is the one with the petrodollars and the opposition not.

Still, the opposition has to wake up and at least use the few opportunities it has. It does not communicate well. It still thinks it has to talk through Venezuela's FOX version, Globovision, which only reaches the converted. Most of the new opposition leaders are people with middle to upper-middle class background from the capital or the largest cities. It does not matter that most chavista leaders are wealthier than many of those leaders now. It is a matter of perception in Venezuela, at least with voters.

Most know Venezuela is highly urbanized. What the opposition leaders and many of their supporters don't seem to realise is that "urban" is much more than just the capital and the other largest 5 cities. As soon as we get out of those regions our influence drops dramatically. We have forgotten the "rural urbans", so to speak. The opposition will need to put its act together with regards to defending the votes outside the major 5 cities during the September elections. Those leaders will really have to move their asses.

Below you have a couple of maps about the 2008 local elections. Firstly you have very urban and central Miranda state. Then you have the rural Monagas. In red you see the municipalities won over by chavista mayors. In blue those the opposition got (kind of, as the government rushed to decrease their resources and competences). The dots represent population (a big dots means 100000 inhabitants, a midle one about 50000, a tiny one some 10000).

The third map shows my region, another very central and urban state, with Venezuela's third largest city and one of the main industrial sectors of the country (as far as we can talk about industry in Venezuela). The blue and cyan regions refer to those municipalities where the current opposition governor, Salas, got the majority. The pink and red municipalities are where the other candidate, Mario Silva, won. This is incredible as 1) Salas is well-known and his dad was also governor of the state and 2) Mario Silva is hated even among chavistas. One of the things that happened was that Salas, who comes from a family of people who were players in the local politics already 2 centuries ago, is acting as the usual local caudillo, wanting every other group, including PJ, to accept his candidates.

Finally, I put here the start of a Mind Map about Second-in-command Diosdado cabello (aka God-Given Hair, aka Pretty Eyes). He is very linked to billionaire Berrueco, who just recently fell from Grace. Diosdado's Ministry had signed some obscure deals with the Spanish government as Gringo tells us here (and in other places), deals with no public tender and the like. As the electricity problems of the country have become just too much, Hugo of Sabaneta recently passed the control of the electricity industries away from Diosdado to a new Minister, the minister of Popular Power for Electricity, Rodríguez.

Let's see what fortunes await Diosdado and the other Second-in-command, Aristóbulo Istúriz, who is capable of anything for the "revolution", but who seems not to be connected to very murky billionaires and deals (as far as I know).

In spite of it all, I think we have good chances to avoid the worst and start turning Venezuela towards sustainable development and away from autocrats and other caudillos. For that we must work.

In that spirit I wish you a very happy and succesful 2010!

2010 for Latin America (the failure of Lula?)

This map lifted from the Economist will do fine to introduce a Latin American forecast of 2010 because it explains a lot. If you observe well, all of Hispanic America is in trouble, besides Costa Rica, Uruguay and Cuba (then again, how could trouble start in totalitarian Cuba?). Flanking that zone of probably social unrest there is the US and Brazil. This last country has decided to take advantage of the relative USA weakness to make a gamble and establish it area of influence across the sub continent.

For quite a while I have been writing about Brazil imperialism, US withdrawal, and such things. But when we look at the result of Honduras elections, not the vote count but the reactions around, it seems that suddenly a few cards are falling. The clearer hint comes probably from Uribe deciding to recognize the new Lobo government while a few yards away at the Lisbon summit Lula kept saying that there is no way Brazil will recognize the Honduras vote, just as he was fresh from receiving Ahmadinejad who has killed infinitely more people than Micheletti, and quite deliberately at that. At least on a morality point of view Lula would do better to shut his big mouth.

The Honduras election of November, I am convinced, will mark a turning point in the inner politics of our continent and as such are probably the most important event of 2009, the event that unmasked a lot of pretensions and that will explain the major moves of 2010.

What has started in the months since Zelaya was ousted is the division of the Americas between the US and Brazil, or rather between the free market democratic economies and the other guys.  It is really not a new concept: divisions of the Americas in areas of influence dates from almost Columbus trip.  At Tordesillas Spain and Portugal split America on a meridian.  That old map below shows that division and also shows how successful was Luso-Brazilian "imperialism".  Without neglecting of course other European powers, in particular England who did carve quite a zone of influence, eventually all inherited by the US.

The open shift in the Americas games

It all started indeed when Obama took over and in a nice gesture went all smiles to the Americas summit at Trinidad. He put up with Ortega's insults. He shook hands with Chavez and put up with his show when he gave Obama an outdated book. Obama and his administration genuinely thought that the Latin Americans were hating Bush and that a few smiles would go a long way to ease things. They were wrong.

First they noticed that after Trinidad there was really no improvement. In fact Brazil was, if anything cozening up further with Venezuela against the safest ally of the US in the Americas after Canada: Colombia. But the US stayed quiet.

Second, there was the OAS summit at San Pedro de Sula which saw the return of the Cuban dictatorship among the "civilized" nations. The US had all the trouble in the world to limit the reunion to a suspension of sanction to Cuba while still demanding that Cuba improves its internal conditions before it could become a full member of the OAS. It was hard swallowing for the US even though Obama had already proved his best intentions toward Cuba through a dialogue.

Third there was the Honduras coup. At first the US in a gesture of good will followed the cues of the OAS, that is, punish the small country, expel it form the OAS and wait for the OAS to find a solution. Months went by and the Obama administration learned what other administrations had learned the hard way: the OAS is a club of presidents that would be much happier if there was no US ambassador in its midst.

The US got tired and seeing the incompetence and partisanship and idiotic positions of too many within the OAS (and we are not talking Chavez only here), and thus the US decided to move and broker some Honduras deal that they suspected Zelaya could never carry. Zelaya foolishly signed on the deal, did not respect it and allowed thus elections to take place. He has ruined his chances as now the solution will not go through his restoration (which for once, in a rare sign of common sense, he had admitted by "refusing" to return to office even if the outgoing Honduras Congress had voted his return).

But Honduras is only the more apparent sign of the fight for America's control between its two giants, Brazil and the US. True, in Honduras the heavy and very clumsy hand of Brazil was to be seen everywhere, even before it allowed Zelaya to use its embassy. The fact of the matter is that Brazil attitude toward the US has changed considerably since Obama was elected. I suppose that before Obama's election Brazil did not worry much thinking that Bush could really not threaten its growing influence. That Brazil was so confident was seen when it received Bush quite well to discuss the future of ethanol. However when Obama came into office he, who was supposed to be a natural ally for a socialist Brazilian president, was seen in fact as a threat.

First, Obama did not sign an FTA with Colombia, but kept the close relation with the country, a close relation which keeps intensifying with the permission by Colombia for a few hundred US technical personnel to be permanently based in selected Colombia bases to monitor drug trafficking and Chavez bellicosity.  Can an FTA be that far behind?

Second we must note that during all the UNASUR inner conflict that followed that US-Colombia agreement we never saw any serious understating of Colombia's problem by Brazil. That is, Lula has always been complaining about the bases but never we did heard a true statement of support for Colombia fight against the terrorist FARC, and even less about the open support of the FARC by Venezuela. The partiality of Lula speaks volumes.

UNASUR is Lula creation, an instrument through which Brazil would become the umpire of South America conflicts and through which Brazil could exert an increasing control. For Lula, the founder of the Sao Paulo Foro, it was also a security system that would consolidate the left supremacy over South America where the only country with an open center right government is Colombia. Things were going well for Lula and he could advance in his plans without being too obvious. But that worked until this year when the election of Obama coincided with the renewal of the Colombia-Chavez conflict.

It is important to note that I write Colombia-Chavez conflict instead of Colombia Venezuela because there is one important detail that pundits tend to forget only too easily when they describe the situation: Uribe has certainly his own political interests at stake, but he has also those of Colombia in mind, and they are his priority. Chavez has only his personal interests at stake and all that he does against Colombia is actually hurting Venezuela.

How would this all play out?  A country by country visit

We must look first at Lula new found ego. With high popularity as he finishes his second (and last?) term in office he wants to leave with a bang. He has thus forgotten the wiser counsel of his foreign experts at Itamaraty palace and put his diplomatic legacy into the hands of a leftist hack, Marco Aurelio Garcia (and friends). For some reason these guys have decided that the time was right to make a continental move. Chavez is under control: the extent of Venezuela debt toward Brazil allow this one to use Chavez as a scarecrow whenever it is needed. Chavez check book also allow for the indirect control of the ALBA country, from Cuba to Bolivia. MERCOSUR is comprised by two small countries already under the Brazilian orbit and a big one half bankrupt which cannot afford to alienate Brazil. Only Chile, Peru and Colombia escape the Brazil orbit.

Peru is still too politically weak to be of any threat.

Chile is just too far, clinging to Andes to avoid falling into the ocean.

But appearances deceive!

There is only Colombia left to challenge Brazil in South America; but a Colombia which has the best trained army in the Americas after the US one; a Colombia which economy has been steadily growing; a Colombia which has a strategic position and a climate wet enough to become an economic power at some point the more so as Venezuela is self imploding. And more importantly, a Colombia with the support of the US even when an administration changes as radically as it did going from Bush to Obama.

There are many reasons why Colombia is under such pressure this end of year, including the vile assassination of one of its local governors.  But all, from Brazil to the FARC and Chavez, know that Colombia must be stopped A.S.A.P. because time is running for Chavez and the FARC and that a post Chavez administration could well abandon Brazil and reconcile very fast with Colombia.  Of course Brazil cannot go much further than being unfair at UNASUR when Colombia is discussed.  But Chavez for domestic reasons and the FARC for the survival reason seem decided to go to the bitter end and do Lula's dirty work. 

Due to its mercurial leader and its interior complicated situation Venezuela, or rather Chavez, will appear as more of a threat to many, and a saboteur regime to all.

Chavez has suffered two major defeats this year: he lost its Honduras colony and he lost his seemingly bottomless check book.  Thus no new friend has come to join Chavez gang and even some of the gang as Correa or Lugo are questionable.  For Venezuela 2010 will be a time of reckoning and as such Chavez foreign actions will reflect his troubles at home, the graver those, the more strident or violent Chavez risks to become when faced with Colombia or the US.  Heck, even the little Netherlands have been threatened by Chavez!

Why is the Honduras defeat so bad for Chavez?  Although the Honduras situation is far from settled, the actors that started the tragedy, Zelaya and Chavez are going to fade as new actors will take over and try to benefit politically of Honduras troubles.  Thus no matter what, Honduras remains a major setback for Chavez.  In fact it is much worse for Chavez than what you may think at first.  The intemperate actions of Chavez and Brazil through the OAS have probably alienated Central America as a whole.  These countries do not depend at all for their prosperity from Brazil, and little from Venezuela besides cheap oil.  There is thus no reason for these countries to put up with the bullying of Lula and Chavez.  Panama and Costa Rica are already all but in open disagreement.  Honduras, never mind!  And Guatemala and Salvador, in spite of their left office holders have been careful in marking their distance.  Nicaragua is weakening fast and Ortega retaining office looks everyday more of an uphill battle.  And Mexico, to the great surprise of many, is seeing a PRI becoming the next political option as the PRD slowly implodes due to the naked ambition of its leaders.  A putative PRI administration will neither be pro Lula nor pro Chavez: it will be pro Mexico.

The ripple effect of Tegucigalpa goes from Mexico City to Panama City.

The issues here are simpler: all are waiting for Fidel's death to see how the chips fall.  Cuba is bankrupt and survives courtesy of its colony: Venezuela.  None of the other countries is important or prosperous enough to have a role except for Trinidad and Barbados who are already distanced with Chavez.  The Dominican Republic plays an ambiguous role but it has nothing to fear from anyone: an island offers security advantages to play "dare".

And none of them, except somewhat Cuba and Haiti, depend from Brazil.  For all of its useless intervention in Tegucigalpa, Brazil is finding the hard way that its influence and arm twisting power does not reach Panama City or Port of Spain.


And thus we return to South America, the area Brazil should not have left.  Argentina should be a major player but more than half a decade of Kirchner rule is bringing all of its internal contradictions leaving still the country in the edge of bankruptcy.  With the opposition gaining a congressional majority this month things are going to become more difficult for Cristina Kirchner.  Argentina is probably going to be, by necessity, the biggest enabler of Brazilian ambitions for the time being, probably more so than Chavez who is in many aspects a mere tool of Brasilia.

Uruguay and Paraguay are too small to have a significant effect.  Or do they?   Paraguay holds the key to Venezuela's entry in Mercosur and one is allowed to suspect that it fits everyone just fine that Paraguay is nowhere close to welcome Venezuela.  See, the divide between the troubled Lugo presidency and a seante that laready thinks about a post Lugo era gives unexpectedly a bigger role to Paraguay than expected.

Uruguay is an enigma.  An ex-guerrilla as its new president all is possible, the more so that his coalition is not as united as people think and his election was more difficult than expected in spite of the good Tabare years.  But does Uruguay matter much today?


Ecuador and Bolivia are going to face a difficult year.  The autocratic temper of its leaders is going to face increasing opposition, though of different nature.  As such, depending of the nature of their inner trouble, both will require more or less help from Chavez.  Lula does not seem to like either much.

Correa still has the best chance to weather the coming storm since he has some economic resources.  But his ambition and ideology are alienating fast the indigenous population that was crucial for his power take over.  He is drifting away from Chavez more because he thinks he is hot stuff than because of real pragmatism.  But his recent rapprochement with Colombia allows us to hope that maybe he will wise up.All in all, Ecuadoran diplomacy is set to remain as mercurial as its leader.

Bolivia is another story.  Morales has exploited the real racial divide and has succeeded in a reelection where numbers, no matter how high, are meaningless.  The country is likely to drift apart, even break up, as the minority will rebel against a majority that will become inexorably oppressive and vengeful.  As such Santa Cruz might be an easy prize for Brazil.  The paradox for Bolivia is that the strong Morales victory is in fact a sign of weakness and a harbinger of trouble ahead..

These two countries must be treated together in spite of their huge differences.  The reason is that the eventual success of Chavez and Lula in the international stage will depend greatly on what will happen there, more even than what will happen in Colombia.

Chile and Peru are the two real success story of South America and as such the counter model of Brazil semi success and Venezuela open failure.  The ideological challenge resides there, between a further drift to a controlling left, represented in the extreme by Chavez or in moderation by Lula, or a staid course in Liberal economics with a significant state supervision, as the capitalist world is accepting since last year crisis.

Peru has been rather quiet in the international scene because its economic recovery is still fragile and because the election of Alan Garcia was rather weak.  But he has proved that at least on occasion second terms can be infinitely better than first terms.  His challenge is to organize a succession that will not jeopardize Peru's hard earned relative prosperity.  On its borders Peru has two hostile regimes in Bolivia and Ecuador while Chile and Colombia have less access to Peru (though the never ending border problem with Chile make this country of little help for Peru).  Thus 2010 will be a year of diplomatic quiet where Peru will prepare for the 2011 political transition.  That is, depending what happens in Colombia and Chile.

The paradox of it all is that suddenly the Chile second round presidential vote of January 17 might be a crucial moment in diplomacy for the Americas.  Chile has always remained discrete in the past two decades, worrying about its growth more than anything else, and thus engaging in all sorts of free trade associations, with great success.  But the second round vote will yield a new Chile.  Either we will see the return of Frei who will this time be held hostage by the left and thus be forced to side more and more with Lula and, gasp, Chavez.  Or Piñera will win and might become after Panama the second country not afraid to be vocal about the democratic violations in other South American countries, in particular Venezuela.

Imagine what a Piñera victory means.  Add to it that either Uribe or its chosen successor keep the Colombian reins.  Imagine that Alan Garcia feeling more supported joins an informal front with Colombia and Chile, and a friendly relationship with the US.  Suddenly the entire edifice that Chavez and Lula have tried to establish will start cracking!


The calculation of Marco Aurelio Garcia  and Lula da Silva was very simple: this was the time for Brazil to take over. That Brazil is in fact far from ready does not seem to have crossed their mind. And that is where sadly you realize that being a trade union leader is just not enough to make you a true statesman, even though you can still be a rather good president of your country. The statesman condition is reserved to a very few men and this year Lula has revealed himself not only to be sorely lacking it, but of being in fact a crass manipulator with little vision.

It is also worthy to recall that Brazil aspires to a permanent seat at the UN security council. There is certainly a lot of merit for such a quest, but the country needs to demonstrate a certain acumen to deserve it: we are not anymore in 1945. Maybe Marco Aurelio and Lula thought that they could buy their ticket faster by controlling half a continent? The fact of the matter is that Lula da Silva has been accumulating errors, and huge ones, all through this year. There was the ganging of UNASUR against Colombia which has resulted in this one moving steadily out and possibly dragging with it Peru, and making Chile increasingly weary. Thus would die the brain child of Lula. There was the meddling of Brazil in Honduras, a place where it had nothing to do and of which it ignored pretty much everything. This only brought the antagonism of the US. And there was the obscene reception of Ahmadinejad, the contested president of Iran, the one who routinely kills political opponents, who veils its women, kills its gays. Has Lula forgot all about the Rio Carnival? the freedom it stands for? Has the trade union leader who knew jail forgotten his origins, renounced them by receiving the Teheran butcher?

I think the US has seen the light. Embroiled as they are in Afghanistan and Iraq and health care and other issues the Obama administration has decided that it cannot put up with spoiled brats. This is how we must understand Uribe speedy recognition of Lobo election in Honduras fast followed by other countries.  Thus started the division of the Americas in two blocks, sped up unnecessarily by Lula and Chavez mistakes.

Lula gambled heavily thinking he controlled Chavez and that the US was much weaker and more friendless than it really was.  Certainly not all is said, but right now Brazil is retreating unnecessarily, and grievously for its pride.

The first test of this unexpected (one year ago anyway) re-arrangement will have its first test when the election of the new OAS secretary takes place.  Stay tuned.

HTLM and Haloscan catastrophe!

UPDATE:  I give up!  Trying to follow haloscan/echo instructions I went back to the old template.  Blogger failed to save the template I had.  Then haloscan wanted me to pay BEFORE I could try the solution they supposedly were offering.  Of course, if it did not work and if I asked for a refund, you can imagine the risk on my CADIVI card: credit cards are blocked for less than that (I mean it is not a matter of many bucks, echo only asks for ten bucks, but after the initial setbacks, I sort of lost trust in their tech support and their skills...)

So eventually I was left tonight to set up back the new template I worked these past days.  At least by some  quirk blogger gave me back the widgets I had installed.  Still I had to restore fonts and colors and I did not get back what I had yesterday.  But too late tonight to worry about that.

I made a decision:  I am going to forget about the 50,000 + comments of haloscan/echo.  Many were excellent but it is just going to be too much of an ordeal to recover them.  Besides, few people ever show a disposition to dig for old comments.  For those who do, I have them backed up and with the appropriate indications might be able to retrieve them.
I am still weak, I tire easy, and my job is not to design fancy sites but to provide content.  In addition after this experience I lost trust in Echo and I do not want to be tied with them forever.  That is, with them I have no warranty they will be around next year whereas blogger comments belong to Google, if you see what I mean.  They are simpler than haloscan, do not allow me to ban people or edit trolls, just to erase them.  It will be less fun but more reliable: the features offered by Echo so as to post videos or tie comments to social networks are not really something that this blog cares much about: if people really want to point a video, the link is fine, and if they want their comments to appear in their twitter or facebook, well, they can link to the post........

Let's just say that with the change of year we changed to new blogger.  On one side we lost a treasure of comments (I am still going to write them a last chance note)  but in the other hand we get to put as many widgets as we want, including better link lists and polls.  And a lighter design that still respects the intention of the old one.  In addition we get rid of "the end " in blue at the end of truncated posts since now I get an automated post cutter in my editor.  Small compensation perhaps but times are a changing and if I ever make a book of posts I can still scavenge for the comments of the time to include the most telling ones.


And the day of reckoning cometh....

Haloscan is closing and going out of my blog in barely 24 hours. The replacing system, that supposedly saves the old comments only works with the new blogger version, not the old classic one that I have been holding until now.

In other words, I am screwed. There is only a small chance to save my comments and thus I had to update my blog fast. All the look and feel of the old blog is temporarily lost. Over time I will recover some of the design but it will never be quite the same. I am a victim of advancing technology. True I had the option to open a new site like Miguel or Quico, but all that work would be really worth it if I could locate it out of Venezuela and find a way to pay for it in spite of CADIVI. Amen of security options....

But I have links in too many places and the look is, hate it or love it, an institution of sorts. So I chose blogger upgrade. Over the next few days I will try to recover my comments and slowly but surely recover what can be recovered from the old design (the flag is already up!). Meanwhile you can write to me for comments, or post on the blogger comment system whihc I have a feeling we might get stuck with.

Wish me luck!

Ideas for Venezuela: adopt a Wikipedia topic

Most of us know how useful Wikipedia has become. We also know the many problems it faces. In spite of those problems a lot of people use it as one of their main general references online.

I have a wee proposal: let's help improve the information there is there about Venezuela. I am talking about collaborating on Wikipedia articles to

  1. help create awareness about Venezuela's regions among Venezuelans and foreigners alike
  2. inform about Venezuela's scientists and artists, who should be more our role models than they have been so far (we need to stop the obsession with military figures)
  3. make it easier for Venezuelans and non-Venezuelans to have a better overview of Venezuela's history (beyond the War of Independence or the last 20 years)
Point 1) is about planting some seeds for future tourism in Venezuela and about helping Venezuelans know what areas beyond the main cities have or still are lacking. Are there public libraries or hospitals in Venezuelan Parapara as they are in tiny German or British towns? Do they have museums? Environmental problems?.

I have been helping a little bit over the years with articles in Spanish and other languages on some regions of Venezuela, on native American languages and on Venezuelan scientists, but there is a lot to do compared to other regions. You can take a look at the articles about Carabobo (Spanish), Carabobo (German), Los Guayos (Spanish, but also in German or Russian) and Acuario de Valencia (German) and compare them with other regions in Venezuela.

This is what I propose:

  1. Select a region outside the capital or the main urban centres (a state or municipality or otherwise from Los Llanos or elsewhere) and try to improve it little by little with reliable information on history, geography, infrastructure or whatever you think may be useful (doing a quick search on place + "biblioteca", place + hospital helps). A minute or two a week or a month could mean a lot
  2. Select a topic like Venezuelan scientists or ecology issues about Venezuela and try to expand the information on that
  3. Translate articles about forgotten regions into English, German, Dutch or other languages
Venezuela is a country with terrific weather, wonderful, very varied nature and welcoming people, but it lacks a tourist infrastructure. Tourism is chaotic, the industry is mostly in the hands of adventurers. and it tends to be rather expensive. Some of the tourist operators are so-called ecourist organizations with no ecology in mind, people who settle down in national parks without permits and without contributing to the region and rip off tourists. Some regions have a lot to offer but nobody knows about them.

Take a look at the pages on states, villages and scientists from the German (like Aichach) or English Wikipedia. They are not perfect but they tend to be better documented than similar regions in Venezuela. Venezuelans don't seem to put much information about public libraries or hospitals, for instance. Those libraries and hospitals are some of the most forgotten places in the Americas. We know they have hardly the resources people have in Europe. Still, we can help to make people think they are there or they should be there and are not yet.

I will adopt state Delta Amacuro.

Ps. we should always keep in mind Wikipedia's principles about neutrality, documenting sources and good editing practices

The military infatuation or how Venezuelans are manipulated by the military

I was born in a Venezuela economists used to call "Venezuela saudita", a third world country awashed in petrodollars. It was a democracy, even if it was highly dysfunctional. Back then and well into the years of increasing economic decline I used to think that even if Venezuela was very corrupt, dependent on oil and on a path to a crisis, we were rather inmune of the worst ills of other Latin American countries: military dictatorships and civil wars.

There were many people who came from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and other countries to Venezuela to escape from dictatorship. In my classroom from kindergarten through primary and secondary school there were at least a dozen sons or daughters of Spaniards, Portuguese or of Eastern European origin escaping from the dictatorships of their respective countries or from South American countries living under dictatorships. One of my best friends at high school was from Chile, another one was from Uruguay. I knew about Venezuela's past dictatorships because of what my parents would tell me: about how life was under Pérez Jiménez, the right-winged dictator Hugo Chávez admires, or about how my grandparents suffered during the Gómez dictatorship. It was only after the caracazo and specially in 1991 that I started to see the real military threat. People were fed up of the corrupt democracy we had got. Already at the end of 1991 I remember how a good friend of mine and I were discussing when the coup was coming. We were sure it would come on the first quarter of 1992. We did not have relationship with the military. We were just reading on the wall. And we were right: on 4 February there was the first bloody coup in many decades, led by our current president.

Still, I did not realise to what extend we, Venezuelans, always had been prisoners of our long-standing infatuation with the military and I did not know how we were bound to repeat history because of the general ignorance about it.

I always knew the Bolívar cult was over the top, but it was something I found rather kitsch and nothing more. I appreciated the good things Bolívar did do and thought the cult was something that did not really hurt, like some non-extremist religion. Every visitor to Venezuela has seen it: the omnipresent cult to Simón Bolívar, the Venezuelan who played a key role in the Independence war in South America. The highest peak, the largest state, the main avenues and squares in every city or town, countless institutions, the main airport and the currency are just some of the things called after him. Bolívar's name is everywhere. The admiration for Bolívar is not only in Venezuela, but in Bolívar's country the name is so often used that it can get confusing.

There was a hat called "Bolívar" in Europe in the XIX century, a hat liberals would wear. Bolívar was definitely admired everywhere in the Americas and Europe and the many places - towns, streets, squares - called after him are a proof of this. People saw not just his opposition against the Spanish imperialism, but against slavery, against oppression of the Native Americans. It helped a lot that Bolívar died still in his forties.

Still, the cult for Bolívar's has been above all a Venezuelan diseases. Already Bolívar, although rejecting the title of a king promoted the idea of a president for life. Already he declared he only aspired to have the title "Liberator of Venezuela", as if Venezuela's independence would have been inconceivable without him. I won't get into the dark parts of Bolívar's role here, but will go more into the instrumentalization of his memory and that of the other military of his time in Venezuela's history.

Once the country became independent, the military who fought in the wars claimed special rights for themselves, as "próceres", as the ones who had fought with the Libertador. One of our first presidents, who was not a military, physician Vargas, had to resign after much pressure from the military demanding more power. Most of Venezuela's heads of states after that and until 1958 were military or the puppets of military.

Almost every single president since the Independence declared himself a "Bolivarian", whatever that would mean. As historial Manual Caballero said in his "Por qué no soy Bolivariano" (Why I am not a Bolivarian), caudillo Monagas declared himself a "revolutionary", promoted special rights for the military (something the current president has done as well in indirect ways), claimed to revive the Gran Colombia and placed many relatives on top positions in the government, just as our current president. And he was thrown out of the presidential palace in 1858 by people shouting "Death to the thieves". Several dictators were particularly active in cultivating the Bolívar cult but two used this new religion with particular zeal: Guzmán Blanco and Juan Vicente Gómez. Bolívar became an almost perfect figure and anyone associating himself with Bolívar became protected by this divinity.

Gómez in 1934

History books around the world always tended to glorify the national past or at least a part of it. Still, those in Venezuela have been particularly focused on the Independence time. It hasn't helped that many of them (Fonbona's etc) were written mostly by people who were anything but professional historians. It did not help that Venezuelans for many reasons always tended to have an abysmal knowledge of history.

Humboldt was on a related topic when he wrote:

"Native Americans kept their language, their national dress and their national character...[but] through the introduction of christianity and other circumstances I analyse elsewhere, historical and religious heritage progressively became lost. On the other side the settler of European origin looks down upon anything that refers to the dominated nations. He sees himself in the middle between the ancient history of the motherland and the one of his birth country and he is as indifferent to one as to the other; in a climate where the small difference between seasons makes the passing of the years almost unnoticeable he only dedicates himself with enjoying the present and he seldom looks back to past times"

Der Eingeborene hat seine Sprache, seine Tracht und seinen Volkscharakter behalten..durch die Einführung des Christentums und andere Umstände, die ich anderswo auseinander gesetzt, sind die geschichtlichen und religiösen Ueberlieferungen allmählich untergegangen. Andererseits sieht der Ansiedler von europäischer Abkunft verächtlich auf alles herab, was sich auf die unterworfenen Völker bezieht. Er sieht sich in die Mitte gestellt zwischen die frühere Geschichte des Mutterlandes und die seines Geburtslandes, und die eine ist ihm so gleichgültig wie die andere; in einem Klima, wo bei dem geringen Unterschied der Jahreszeiten der Ablauf der Jahre fast unmerklich wird, überläßt er sich ganz dem Genusses der Gegenwart und wirft selten einen Blick in Vergangene Zeiten.

The native American, the European and the African slave all merged into the average Venezuelan of today, but we still show either a complete disdain for history or love for one part of it, the part we identify ourselves most with. You will find most Venezuelans with some e ducation know Bolivar's birthday and death anniversary. Most of them would not know in what century the Europeans arrived in Venezuela or what reactionary tendencies Bolívar had.

And it is in that framework that Venezuelans have evolved. As the economic situation of a nation highly addicted to petrodollars deteriorated, a group of military pretending (and sometimes really believing) to defend some nebulous Bolívar heritage prepared the bloody coups of 1992.

Hugo Chávez has taken the Bolívar cult to new heights. He needs that. He single-handedly renamed Venezuela in 1999 by adding the "Bolivarian" (in spite of the fact that the approved constitutional draft had taken away that proposal of his).

That is why the current president can say Indians were almost socialists and all were equal and most of his followers believe that or that we are mostly a native American and African-American nation (the European part being mostly that of the opposition).

Now take a look at these maps. In the first one you see Venezuela's states. The largest state , in cyan, is called Bolívar. The states in red have been called after military from the times of the Independence movement.

The following map shows the municipalities Venezuela has. Municipalities in cyan are called Bolívar or Simón Bolívar. Municipalities in dark blue are called Libertador (referring, of course, to Bolívar). Those in red are called after military who fought in the Independence war. The ones in yellow are called after other military.

In future posts I will go further into the way Venezuelans process their history.

Municipalities named after Venezuelan military caudillos. In cyan those named 'Simón Bolívar' or 'Bolívar', in dark blue those named 'Libertador' (i.e. Bolívar), in red those named after other military men of the Independence time, in yellow those named after military men of post-independence times.

President Time in power remark Profession
Cristóbal Mendoza, Juan Escalona and Baltasar Padrón 1811-1812
Abogado / Militar/ Hacendista * Respectivamente
Francisco de Miranda 1812
General Militar
Simón Bolívar 1813-1814
General Militar
José Antonio Páez 1830- 1835
General Militar
Andrés Narvarte 1835-1835
Abogado / Político
José María Vargas 1835-1836
Médico, Científico, Cirujano y Catedrático
Andrés Narvarte 1836-1837
Abogado / Político
José María Carreño 1837-1837
General Militar
Carlos Soublette 1837-1839
General Militar
José Antonio Páez 1839-1843
General Militar
Carlos Soublette 1843-1847
General Militar
José Tadeo Monagas 1847-1851
General Militar
José Gregorio Monagas 1851-1855
General Militar
José Tadeo Monagas 1855-1858
General Militar
Pedro Gual Escandon 1858-1858
Abogado / Político
Julián Castro 1858-1859 coup General Militar
Pedro Gual Escandon 1859-1859
Abogado / Político
Manuel Felipe Tovar 1859-1861 coup Político
Pedro Gual Escandon 1861-1861
Abogado / Político
José Antonio Páez 1861-1863
General Militar
Juan Crisóstomo Falcón 1863 - 1868 war General Militar
Manuel Ezequiel Bruzual 1868-1868
Guillermo Tell Villegas 1868-1869
Abogado y Militar
José Ruperto Monagas 1869-1870 war General Militar
Guillermo Tell Villegas 1870-1870
Abogado y Militar
Antonio Guzmán Blanco 1870-1877 war Abogado / General Militar
Francisco Linares Alcántara 1877-1878
General Militar
José Gregorio Varela 1878-1879
Militar / Político
Antonio Guzmán Blanco 1879-1884
Abogado / General Militar
Joaquín Sinforiano de Jesús Crespo 1884-1886
General Militar
Antonio Guzmán Blanco 1886-1887
Abogado / General Militar
Hermógenes López 1887 - 1888
General Militar
Juan Pablo Rojas Paúl 1888 - 1890
Raimundo Andueza Palacio 1890-1892
Guillermo Tell Villegas 1892-1892
Abogado y Militar
Joaquín Sinforiano de Jesús Crespo 1892-1894 war General Militar
Ignacio Andrade 1898-1899
Cipriano Castro Ruiz 1899-1908 coup General Militar
Juan Vicente Gómez 1908-1914 coup General Militar
Jose Gil Fortoul (Gomez puppet) 1914-1915
Victorino Márquez Bustillos (Gómez puppet) 1915-1922
Abogado / Político
Juan Vicente Gómez 1922-1929
General Militar
Juan Bautista Pérez (Gómez puppet) 30 de mayo de 1929 -
13 de junio de 1931

Abogado / Magistrado
Juan Vicente Gómez 13 de junio de 1931 -
17 de diciembre de 1935

General Militar
Eleazar López Contreras 17 de diciembre de 1935 -
5 de mayo de 1941

General Militar
Isaías Medina Angarita 5 de mayo de 1941 -
18 de octubre de 1945

General Militar
Rómulo Ernesto Betancourt Bello 18 de octubre de 1945 -
17 de febrero de 1948
coup Político
Rómulo Gallegos Freire 17 de febrero de 1948 -
24 de noviembre de 1948

Escritor / Novelistas
Carlos Delgado Chalbaud 24 de noviembre de 1948 -
27 de noviembre de 1950
coup Militar
Germán Suárez Flamerich 27 de noviembre de 1950 -
2 de diciembre de 1952
transition by coupsters Abogado
Marcos Pérez Jiménez 2 de diciembre de 1952 -
23 de enero de 1958
coup Militar/Ingeniero
Wolfgang Larrazábal 23 de enero de 1958 -
14 de noviembre de 1958
coup Almirante (Militar)
Edgar Sanabria 14 de noviembre de 1958 -
13 de febrero de 1959

Rómulo Ernesto Betancourt Bello 13 de febrero de 1959 -
13 de marzo de 1964

Raúl Leoni Otero 13 de marzo de 1964 -
11 de marzo de 1969

Rafael Caldera Rodríguez 11 de marzo de 1969 -
12 de marzo de 1974

Carlos Andrés Pérez Rodríguez 12 de marzo de 1974 -
12 de marzo de 1979

Luis Herrera Campins 12 de marzo de 1979 -
2 de febrero de 1984

Jaime Lusinchi 2 de febrero de 1984 -
2 de febrero de 1989

Carlos Andrés Pérez Rodríguez 2 de febrero de 1989 -
21 de mayo de 1993

Octavio Lepage 21 de mayo de 1993 -
5 de junio de 1993

Ramón José Velásquez 5 de junio de 1993 -
2 de febrero de 1994

Rafael Caldera Rodríguez 2 de febrero de 1994 -
2 de febrero de 1999

Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías 2 de febrero de 1999 -
10 de enero de 2001
(elected, but former coupster) Militar
(Teniente coronel)
Pedro Carmona Estanga 12 de abril de 2002-
13 de abril de 2002
(2 días)
coup Economista
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías 13 de abril de 2002 - 10 de enero de 2013

*Por qué no soy bolivariano: ISBN 10: 9803541994

The end of Love as I know it

I met my boyfriend back in February, 2008. On our third date we went to El Hatillo (a small colonial town, very popular tourist spot in Caracas) to have some hot chocolate and talk. About midnight, all the places in the town were closing so it was dangerous to stay there for long. But the conversation was going great and it was clear that neither of us wanted to put an end to that date yet. “So, where you want to go now?” – He asked me at the parking place. Since streets are forbidden because of insecurity and we didn’t wanted to go to a nightclub because is too noisy to talk, I proposed him to go to a mall and find some place quiet to have a drink and talk.

We parked at “El Tolón”, a classy mall famous for its movie theaters and restaurants, thus always open even after midnight and filled with people. We went straight to one of the top floors which haves many restaurants. But most of them were as noisy as a night club or ridiculously expensive.

After walking and walking without finding any successful spot to retake the conversation we left at El Hatillo, we decided to just sit on a bench and talk. I think we spend about two hours or more there just talking and talking and talking; getting to know each other a bit better, same as everyone does on first dates. I finally got home about 2 am. Those talks after midnight at some bench in a mall were the basis of what is now an almost two year relationship.

Why am I using this blog, which is a space, made to give a personal perspective of the Bolivarian Revolution, to tell a corny story about a first date? Could you think of something more off topic?

In George Orwell’ 1984, there’s a scene that has always shocked me. Winston and Julia, the lead roles, agreed to meet at some field. Once there, out of the sudden, they are making love. But, they are not just making love. By doing that they are going against the principles of their current government, they are being carried by an emotion even more important than “Big brother” and thus making love in Orwell’ 1984 is not just making love, is a political act. I didn’t get it when I first read it, about three years ago. I got many things but not that part. How does a political system can dig so deep to end up even inside your bed?

Now I got it. I don’t know when I started to get that. I just know I own this recent enlightenment to those daily prohibitions, to those arbitrary moves, to the paranoia they produce around us, to the fear. When you live inside of a Revolution, no part of your life is left outside. It is not just a matter of politics. It’s a matter of moods, opportunities, expectations, economics, history, entertainment, and love. Even love.

The government just recently launched a new move. From January 1st, 2010; the malls of Venezuela will only have right to use the power service from 11 am till 9 pm. If they dare to turn on a light after 9, they will be punished with 24 hours at least without power service; plus real expensive fines. The government says that this is due to global warming, and excessive consume. But we know that ever since the government bought the electricity company, thus having the monopoly of the power service about – two years ago? -; we started to have troubles with power. Blackouts are now frequent especially outside Caracas and not because just when the government bought the company, coincidence acted and we started to use more power; but rather because of the lack of maintenance and corruption. We know how to read between lines, we know how the government works.

I know it would be more responsible to talk about production troubles, insecurity, more about the causes of this power crisis or the government political repression. But you know this blog is more about honesty than about political correctness. So I must be honest and confess that when I heard the announcement of the power regulations of the shopping malls, all I could think of was that memorable date I just told you; next to many other moments I have had after 9 in a shopping mall. My boyfriend and I, for example, love to go to the movies after 9 because they are fewer chances to share the theatre with annoying kids.

Now, if a couple is introduced in a couple of months, when my boyfriend and I will be celebrating our second anniversary; they won’t be able to have the date we had. They won’t have long and crazy after midnight talks inside a mall. That date, which took place back in February of 2008 now looks like an impossible date. That bench is now forbidden after 9 Pm. And the benches at the streets after 9, due to insecurity, have been long ago forbidden. Couples now will have to end their dates before 9, no matter how great the conversation is going. Or they will have to extend their dates at home, even if its too soon to met the parents.

Inside the Bolivarian Revolution, even love, as we knew it, is now forbidden.

2010 for Venezuela

And we are at this time of the year where you either write the year in review or make up some horoscope. Or both. Safely I prefer to limit myself to a horoscope, as seriously as one can make such predictions considering the nature of the beast.

2010 is going to be a very difficult year for Venezuela. To understand this better we need a quick overview of the actual political and economical situations.

An economy with no signs of recovery
The first thing that one must understand is that unless the government decides to make a dramatic change in the way it is running the economic ship, next year is going to be worse, maybe much worse, than 2009. Unfortunately it is very unlikely that anything will change as the only governmental plan is to wait for a significant increase in oil prices, something that will happen at best late in 2010, too late to have any positive electoral effect before the crucial parliamentary vote of September.
The basic problem of the economy is that the private sector has been reduced, even dramatically in the area of goods production. Currently there is no trust in governmental policies, there is little spare cash for investment and even less taste to invest. In addition the fixed currency exchange rate favors an economy of importations over local production, a convenient tool for chavismo to direct goods to their followers. In other words the private sector is simply unable and unwilling to pick up the slack and try to help a revival of the economy. That would be difficult even if there was a will because with a fixed currency, an inflation rate of 30% and punitive labor laws the private sector simply can do little better than fight for its survival. Forget about job creation: even the financial sector and the import and distribution sector are very unlikely to grow significantly in 2010 because there is less money to go around unless the government continues increasing the country's debt at a scary rate.

Forget about the public sector. With the recent electricity and water crisis it has shown its total incompetence. Add to it the recent corrupt banking crisis and you can figure by yourself that those in charge of the public sector economic activities are in for a quick buck at state expense, way more worried about proving their loyalty to the regime, while lining their pockets, than to produce anything of value. Incompetence and political greed explains also the dramatic collapse of steel production in Guyana since the government took over SIDOR. Reports of equal drop in production and quality are heard from the nationalized cement industry.

The forecast is dim: I predict an increase in joblessness and at least 20% inflation for the first semester. I also predict that the recession will go through at least the first two quarters independently of oil prices variation. I also predict that the government will either have to increase gas prices or devaluate the currency to at least 3 Bs. to the USD from 2.15. These will have little effect on the current crisis except for exacerbating inflation in the second semester. The economic problems of the country are due much more to the legal and coercive repressive system coupled to corruption than to gas or dollar price. What is needed is to restore confidence and this is not going to happen.

A political quagmire

With the economic problems, the fast deterioration of services and the now 11+ years of Chavez rule, it is very difficult to see what novelty can Chavez come up with to improve his numbers again and obtain the electoral victories he will need this year. In fact the measures taken by the regime in the past month show clearly how conscious of its weaknesses it is, at home as well as abroad.

In spite of the reelection of Evo Morales (never in doubt, more about that in a later post), the fact of the matter is that 2009 has been a very bad year for Chavez. If the Honduras fiasco is the more visible sign of Chavez retreat, other signs abound, from and increasing lukewarm Correa in Ecuador to a possible change in the relationship with Argentina and Brazil next year as the new Congressional Majority in Buenos Aires will start to play while the succession of Lula will become a concern for Chavez. That is what explains why Chavez spent so much time going to Copenhagen just to try to recruit to his cause the violent protesters at the summit. His incoherent and shameless ploy (he presides the country with the lowest gas prices of the world and the least emission controls of the lot) will probably not work much to rally the radical leftist crowds whose support he seeks. Times are changing fast and Chavez is looking everyday more like the past than the future. Hence his recent international vehemence.

My prediction here is that through 2010 Chavez is going to be increasingly isolated and thus increasingly dangerous. The rate of the process will depend on many things, from the victory of Piñera in Chile to the difficult wished for victory for Roussef in Brazil. Never mind the ever possible death of Castro. Thus a permanent but larval conflict is to be expected on the Colombian border while Venezuela will be increasingly difficult inside the OAS. Two ways to make sure Chavez remains in the news.

Things are not much better at home. Chavez numbers have been going down together with the economic numbers, except that the time factor is also playing against him: after 11 years more and more of Chavez supporters are simply going to get tired enough to stay home, a universal rule of politics. That is, a slight economic recovery this time will not be enough to secure a vote majority.

There are also much graver problems for Chavez. In spite of all of his histrionic skills he is not able to fully deflect the responsibility for the current problems as well as he used to do. Namely I have in mind the corruption issues which are on the forefront of the news, and the speedy decay of public services, from health to electricity supply. The problem here for Chavez is that ten years of neglect cannot be fixed in a few months even if oil prices were miraculously to reach 100 USD on January 1st 2010. Chavez is starting to have an image problem among his less committed supporters who clearly see that he is unable to put competent people in charge. The Teflon is wearing up some.

Considering that the opposition is for the first time making some organizational progress and standing to benefit from the situation Chavez has embarked on his only option left: repression, and a mean nasty one at that. The obvious evidence of this new harsh line comes from the refusal of Chavez to grant Christmas pardons to even a single of his political prisoners, people that have made no crime when compared to the real crimes that Chavez made in 1992 and for which he was spared trial anyway. You need to go no further to taste the hate within chavismo than to observe this lack of clemency.

But the repressive nature of 2010 is heralded on many other ways, from a new list of people banned from running for office next year, to a radicalization of the electoral board, CNE, whose new two members are radical followers of Chavez and thus certainly willing and able to cheat to make sure their man does not lose elections through 2010. Add to this further measures such as the intervention of cable services to force local cable only networks to pass Chavez cadenas. This is not only an implicit admission of chavismo failure in the open media, but it is also a stupid measure that will cost chavismo more than what it can bring in support. Until now cable only netwroks were spared the obligation of cadenas. You only need to observe the proliferation of satellite dishes in poor neighborhoods to realize that this popular segment is going to resent Chavez interrupting their hard paid soap operas on cable.

In other words, chavismo knows that next year elections will be lost and it is creating fast a legal system to muzzle opposition and reverse the trend, or allow for a cheating that cannot be properly reported. The prediction here is easy: expect more measures to limit individual and economical liberties, to make sure that the opposition campaign will be as handicapped as possible, and that no one will dare finance the campaigns in fear of an unjust but "legal" crackdown in their business.

But will these measures be effective? I doubt. Already the government advanced the legislative elections from December to September knowing fully well that time was against it. But now that September goal is not comforting enough hence the new repressive measures. Soon enough it will be clear that these might not be enough and what will Chavez do then? His final coup? Calling surprisingly a constitutional assembly before Easter? Ban political parties outright? Change electoral laws to forbid political alliances? All is possible....

A prediction becomes thus very difficult: I can predict that in September the opposition will win in spite of every obstacle, BUT I cannot predict whether there will be an election in September.

Is all of these grief really necessary?

The reader that followed up to this point will be very justified in wondering if all of this nastiness is really necessary. The answer paradoxically is yes. The superficial explanation is that we are in the XXI century and thus Chavez needs to find a way for the people to give in and vote willingly his permanent regime until he dies. Chavez retrograde mind to the caudillos of the XIX century is still able to understand that we are not in the XIX century anymore.

But there is a deeper explanation to all this. Since 2003 Chavez has given the upper hand to the Cuban advisers that now surround every aspect of Venezuelan administration. We must understand that at some point in recent years for all practical purposes Venezuela has become a colony of Cuba, exploited with the same intensity as colonial powers exploited Africa or Asia as recently as the 1960ies. This crime against the nation will bring Chavez to jail eventually, or at least excoriate his memory in history books, but for the time being we need to understand the implied meaning of this reality.

Cuba and Chavez are seeing the political opposition as an independence movement of sorts, which should be repressed but not in a scandalous way (remember that large scale repression in the European colonies was rather a rare occurrence, and as much as possible disguised under military operations against some enemy attack or something of the like). As Elizabeth Burgos wrote in the most recent issue of Zeta (not on line) Cuba has no interest in destroying further Venezuela economic potential because it needs the revenue. What Cuba wants is control of the country. As such Cubans and Chavez have allowed all sorts of cipayos (sepoy) to take root in the Venezuelan administration, from corrupt officials, corrupted either through power or payment, to a class of nouveau riche who are likely to favor business to Cuba as a payment for their new riches. Not forgetting the military nature of the regime increasingly tied to Cuban "advisers", a military establishment that has betrayed all of its constitutional functions by choosing to become fat, lazy and repressive as needed.

It is thus important that the political opposition starts understanding that its political actions must go now beyond the expected political discourse of an independent country: now the opposition must prepare itself for a new kind of independence war, with all the violence and repression that this idea carries. As long as the opposition does not understand that, or at least does not speak clearly to the country about that I predict that the chavista cipayos will hold power for a while more.

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.