Venezuela History – From Betancourt to Maduro

By | December 16, 2021

A civic-military junta chaired by R. Betancourt initiated a series of social reforms, promulgated a democratic constitution (1947) and revised the national oil policy to ensure the state at least 50% of the proceeds. The conservatives and the more reactionary wing of the armed forces they reacted by setting up a military junta which from 1952 turned into the personal dictatorship of Colonel M. Pérez Jiménez, overthrown in 1958 by the military, who a year later restored power to civilians. Having won the elections, Betancourt promulgated a new Constitution (1961) and initiated some moderate reforms. The consultations of December 1968 were won by the social-Christian R. Caldera Rodríguez, who did not deviate too much from his predecessors. AD returned to power with CA Pérez Rodríguez (1974-79), whose administration benefited from the increase in the international price of oil, allowing for a moderately progressive policy, culminating in the nationalization of the iron (1975) and oil (1976) industries.

● Starting in 1980, economic conditions worsened; L. Herrera Campins (1979-84) and by that of J. Lusinchi of AD (1984-89) with unpopular and ineffective austerity measures, while social protest and the threat of left-wing terrorism resumed in the country. In 1989 Pérez returned to the presidency with an economic program inspired by the most intransigent liberalism, which caused the outbreak of violent protests, severely repressed by the police and army. Accused of embezzlement, in 1993 Pérez was suspended from office. The subsequent elections were won by former president Caldera Rodríguez, whose mandate was characterized by strong social instability and a severe financial crisis. For Venezuela history, please check

● In 1998, populist leader H. Chávez Frías, founder of Movimiento V República (MVR), became president. As a first measure, the National Assembly, the main instrument for the implementation of Chávez’s “peaceful revolution”, set up a commission with the task of dismissing corrupt judges and issued a new regulation of the legislative power that suspended the powers of the Congress. A referendum in 1999 approved a new Constitution which proclaimed the birth of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The Senate was suppressed and state control of oil resources increased; the president was granted the possibility of remaining in office for two successive terms of 6 years each. The presidential elections of 2000 brought Chávez a new success, and as strikes multiplied in the country, the National Assembly granted the president new special powers. In a climate of strong political and social conflict, in April 2002 an ephemeral civil-military coup d’état overthrew the president for just over 48 hours. Back in power, Chávez regained the support of the poorer classes and in December 2006 he was re-elected with over 60% of the vote. Shortly thereafter he announced a new nationalization plan in the energy and telecommunications fields, gaining extraordinary powers from Parliament. In 2009, the limit set by the Constitution on the re-election of the president and other institutional offices was abrogated by referendum. In the 2010 parliamentary elections, Chávez’s party won the majority, but not the qualified two-thirds majority needed to pass certain types of reforms.At the presidential elections held in October 2012, the politician asserted himself on the opposition candidate H. Capriles, receiving 54.4% of the preferences and obtaining his fourth term. In March 2013, upon his death, his deputy N. Maduro took office ad interim, who in the consultations held the following month was elected the new president of the country, obtaining 50.66% of the preferences. The local elections held the following December amply confirmed Venezuelan support for the Maduro government: the Partido socialista unido de Venezuela (PSUV) obtained 49.2% of the votes, against 42.7% awarded by the Mesa de la unidad democr ática.In the following period, Venezuela experienced a phase of instability and violence, produced both by the intensification of the repressive measures implemented by the government against anti-Shavist oppositions, and by the worsening of the country’s economic conditions. Despite some government reshuffles, aimed above all at consolidating central power by eliminating the fronds inside and outside the PSUV, the erosion of consensus has been unstoppable, as evidenced by the electoral results of the legislatures held in December 2015, won by the opposition for the first time time after 17 years of “chavismo”.

In the country, exhausted by the worsening of the economic and energy crisis that prompted Maduro to proclaim a state of emergency in January 2016 – this entailing, among other measures, planned blackouts, two-day working weeks for civil servants, changes to the summer time for saving electricity -, extending it by another three months in the following May, there were violent street demonstrations to call for a referendum to end the mandate of the president. Electricity rationing measures were revoked in July, but the measure worsened general living conditions, leading to bankruptcy many businesses, causing the unavailability of basic necessities and further increasing the crime rate. In March 2017 the Supreme Court of Justice decided to sack the Parliament, largely in the hands of the opposition, from all functions, accusing the National Assembly of outrage and rebellion against Maduro – after the majority of deputies had voted to impeach the president, held responsible for the very serious humanitarian crisis and famine that is sweeping the country – and effectively assigning all powers to the head of State; a few days later, following massive protests and condemnation by the international community, the sentence was revoked and the constitutional powers returned to Parliament. The clashes between the civilian population and the police continued in the following months, causing dozens of deaths and dragging the country to the brink of a civil war. In August 2017, after the disputed elections held the previous month and despite the firm protests of the opposition and the international community, the new Constituent Assembly, composed only of representatives close to the government, took office, and in May of the following year Maduro was re-elected with 67.7% of the votes against 21.2% of the dissident Chavista H. Falcón. In a country exhausted by the economic crisis and torn by incurable political conflicts, in January 2019 the leader of the opposition and leader of the National Assembly J. Guaidó proclaimed himself pro-tempore president, recognized by the United States and Canada, Brazil, Paraguay, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Kosovo, Chile and Guatemala, while Bolivia, Cuba, Mexico, Turkey and Russia have lined up in favor of the deposed president. The attempt to overthrow the Caracas government constituted by the Operation Libertà launched by Guaidó in April was however thwarted by the defection of important members of the security apparatus and by the lack of support from the armed forces, which in the following days confirmed their total loyalty to the constitutional government; however, in January 2020 Guaidó was reconfirmed as president of the National Assembly. In the legislative elections held in November 2020, the coalition of the Grand Patriotic Pole, which supports Maduro, obtained 67.7% of the votes, while the opposition won 18% of the votes.

Venezuela History - From Betancourt to Maduro