Venezuela in the 1990’s

By | December 16, 2021

During the 1990s, the Venezuelan electorate’s distrust of the two parties in power, the Christian Democratic Party Comité de Organización Política Electoral Independiente (COPEI) and the Social Democratic Acción Democrática (AD), which had not been able to administer the immense oil wealth of the country (between 1976 and 1995 the sale of oil had made the state about 270 billion dollars), began to manifest itself at the elections with high peaks of abstention and with the shift of preferences towards new political formations.

In the presidential elections of December 1993, where only 65 % of the electorate voted, the 80-year-old former president R. Caldera Rodríguez managed to return to power with just 30.4 % of the votes by presenting himself as an independent candidate. As with his predecessor CA Pérez, Caldera’s mandate was also characterized by social instability, aggravated however by a severe financial crisis. The intervention to support the economy was accompanied in June 1994the assumption of extraordinary powers, the suspension for a year of some constitutional guarantees and the massive deployment of anti-crime police forces in the main cities. These measures exacerbated the popular discontent that manifested itself with street demonstrations, the abstention in the 1995 administrative and regional elections of about 40 % of the electorate and an unprecedented consolidation at the regional level of the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), which in return of his alliance with the president he managed to get, in the March 1996 reshuffle, the appointment of the party’s founder, the former guerrilla T. Petkoff, to the department of economic planning. Despite promises not to give in to a neoliberal policy (Petkoff’s appointment seemed a guarantee in this sense), Caldera was forced to resort to an International Monetary Fund loan of 1,400 million dollars in 1996 and to accept a severe adjustment plan. structural, the consequences of which fueled other anti-government demonstrations, such as the general strike proclaimed in August 1997 following the increase of 27% of the price of petrol. The government managed to mitigate the social protest by convening a tripartite commission (government, employers and trade unions) which reached an agreement on pension reform and on wage increases in the public sector. For Venezuela 2008, please check

During the first years of his mandate, Caldera made a decision that later turned out to be fraught with consequences for the history of the V: the release of those responsible for the failed 1992 coup d’état, first and foremost Lieutenant Colonel H. Chávez Frías. The former coup leader Chávez decided to continue his political battle by founding in 1998 the Movimiento V República, a party that coalesced in the Polo Patriótico with some minor leftist and nationalist-inspired formations, including MAS and Patria para Todos (PPT) . In November 1998, on the occasion of the regional elections, the Polo Patriótico it won success in seven states and recorded 34 % of the votes in legislative elections, where Chávez’s Movimiento V República established itself as the second party behind Acción Democrática. The former officer was able to skillfully interpret the disaffection towards traditional political formations nurtured by many Venezuelans, who called for drastic solutions to put an end to the corruption and consociativism of the ‘politics of cronies’, also driven by the persistence of the economic recession that he had created. record a fall in GDP of around 10% in the last years of Caldera’s tenure and the loss of half a million jobs. During the presidential election campaign in December 1998, Chávez promised to initiate a radical change in the country by creating a National Constituent Assembly to be entrusted with the task of rewriting the Constitution in six months. In order to counter the nation’s grave economic inequalities, it also promised generic measures of social justice and a program to fight ‘savage neoliberalism’ and the dictatorship of the financial markets. A few days after the consultations, in an attempt to curb the advance of Chávez, which enjoyed the favor of the polls, the two traditional parties of the Venezuela, AD and COPEI, withdrew their support from their own candidates, surely doomed to failure, and they sided with the independent H. Salas Romer, the only one apparently able to oppose Chávez’s candidacy. The trafficking of candidacies exposed the strong concern and political opportunism of AD and COPEI, resulting in a further loss of confidence in their traditional electorate. Innovative reforms such as the electronic system of reading the vote and the draw of the tellers (who were formerly party men) nevertheless guaranteed the peaceful and transparent conduct of the presidential elections, held for the first time in Venezuela separately from the legislative ones.

Proclaimed president with over 56 % of the votes (he was elected with the favor of the urban proletariat, while the wealthy bourgeoisie abstained from voting), Chávez set up a new executive which saw, among other things, for the first time an Indian representative (AU Pocaterra ) assigned to the Department for the Environment and Natural Resources. To ensure greater control of the very powerful Petroleos de Venezuela, which manages the country’s main source of exports, two colonels were appointed to the company’s board of directors. In the elections of 25 July 1999 for the allocation of seats to the National Constituent Assembly, the Polo Patriótico, thanks also to the uninominal system, obtained 121seats out of 128. As a first measure, the Assembly, the main instrument for the implementation of Chávez’s ‘peaceful revolution’, set up a commission in August with the task of dismissing corrupt judges and issued a new regulation of the legislative power that suspended the powers of the Congress. The referendum of December 15 approved with 71% of the votes (but more than half of the voters did not go to the polls) the long and detailed new Constitution which proclaimed the birth of the new ‘Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’, so named in honor of S. Bolívar, hero of the independence of the Venezuela by the Spaniards. The Senate was suppressed, leaving only the Chamber of Deputies alive, and the state’s control of oil resources was increased. The president was granted the possibility of remaining in office for two consecutive terms of six years each.

Venezuela in the 1990's