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Saturday, December 1, 2007

Chavez defeated in Venezuelan vote on indefinite re-election.

HISTORY IN THE NEWS:



History never dies. It is reborn every minute of every day.

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DEDICATED TO THE ORIGINS OF CONTEMPORARY EVENTS AROUND THE WORLD.

"Democracy and socialism are a means to an end, not the end itself."
-
Jawaharlal Nehru.

HISTORY IN THE NEWS: DEVOTED TO THE DEEP ORIGINS OF CONTEMPORARY EVENTS AROUND THE WORLD.

TAG: In attempting a long presidency and something bordering on a cult of personality through unlimited re-election, Hugo Chavez, threatens his own much-needed reforms for the poor by recalling the great "caudillos" of the Venezuelan past like Guzman Blanco and Vicente Gomez.

IN THE NEWS: VENEZUELA'S CHAVEZ LOSES THE VOTE ON CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS. THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL OF THESE WOULD ABOLISH PRESIDENTIAL TERM LIMITS, ALLOWING CHAVEZ TO STAND INDEFINITELY FOR RE-ELECTION. THE REFORMS WOULD ALSO FACILITATE THE EXPROPRIATION OF PRIVATE PROPERTY AND ALLOW EMERGENCY SUSPENSION OF THE MEDIA. CHAVEZ CLAIMS THE PROPOSALS ARE NECESSARY TO SET VENEZUELA ON THE PATH TO SOCIALISM. THE DECISIVE OPPOSITION COMES FROM HIS OWN FOLLOWERS WHO SEEM TO HAVE WANTED SOCIALISM BUT LESS OF CHAVEZ'S GRANDSTANDING; SOME CHAVEZ DISSIDENTS WERE LOWER CLASS PROPERTY OWNERS AND DID NOT RELISH EXPROPRIATION.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: In 1846, Venezuela's first president, Juan Paez, jailed Liberal opposition leader and newspaper editor a Antonio Guzman for using the press to attack Paez's abuses. In 1870-1888, rule by Guzman's son, Guzman Blanco, brought about popular reforms by decree. Several times he defied constitutional limits to his rule by arranging for the election of a successor, in reality really a place holder through whom Guzman Blanco continued to rule. After a period of coups and instability, another strongman, Juan Vicente Gomez ruled from 1908-1935, continuing Guzman's tradition of popular, authoritarian reform. But his regime turned into a tyranny and his death, in office, was celebrated. In 1947, Romulo Gallegos of the liberal Democratic Action party was elected and declared that the age of the Caudillos (strong men, or dictators) was dead. But in 1948, dictatorship returned when Gallegos was overthrown by General Marco Perez. In 1958, Perez anticipated Chavez in holding a plebiscite to extend his rule.

IN A NUTSHELL: While improving conditions for Venezuela's poor, Hugo Chavez's rule by decree, silencing of parliament, rewriting of the constitution, extension of presidential term limits and use of Venezuela's oil wealth to fortify his government's popularity- all have precedents in conservative and liberal versions of Venezuela's dictatorial 'strong man' or 'caudillo' tradition. The Latin American cult of "caudillismo" or rule by a strong man is, in fact, neither left nor right. It is better described as "personal rule" and political parties have, traditionally, been defined by their leaders' personalities and proclivities, rather than by ideology. So a 'caudillo' will veer to left or to the right, toward revolution or reaction, fair rule or favoritism, dictatorship or democracy. Though Chavez pursues left-wing policies, he shares many characteristics of the traditional right, including the cult of the leader and growing cronyism and corruption.

THEN AND NOW: During the 1970s, the last period when Venezuela benefited from high oil prices, there was, despite continuing poverty, relative political consensus around the political centre between the Democratic Action Party and the Christian Democrats. In Venezuela's current era of high oil prices, Hugo Chavez has, by contrast, brought about deep polarization between left and right.

CONTENTS: SCROLL DOWN FOR:
DISTANT BACKGROUND TO THE EVENTS
RELEVANT DATES
RECENT BACKGROUND TO THE EVENTS
PREVIOUS ENTRIES
REMOTE BACKGROUND TO THE EVENTS
LOCATION OF NOTE: Caracas.
PROFILE: Antonio Guzman Blanco
CROSS-CENTURY SUMMARY
EYEWITNESS:
PRESENT SITUATION
PLUS CA CHANGE
CURIOSITY
TIMELINE FOR THE HISTORY OF

DISTANT BACKGROUND TO THE EVENTS.Just before World War II, Venezuela's long history of despotism appeared to come to an end with the emergence of a new, more conscientious liberalism. Under Presidents Gallagos and Bentancourt, Democratic Action, the social-democratic party took power with promises to attack poverty. However the 'age of the cauldillos" returned (as it always seems to) with a coup in the person of General Perez Jiminez.
who overthrew President Gallegos in a military coup, installing a repressive right-wing junta and police state. Perez carried on the old tradition of modernization by decree, improving Venezuela's infrastructure, enriching Venezuela's oil rich middle and upper classes and doing nothing for the poor majority. In the late 1950s, however, Perez was overthrown and Democratic Action returned to power in the person of President Betancourt. In 1958, just before he was overthrown by a group of liberal officers, Perez asked for a plebiscite to extend his term in office, again contrary to the constitution. In the 1960s, the centrist Democratic Action party resumed democratic rule but soon it was atacked from the left, the poor supporting rebels backed by Fidel Castro. In the 1970s, nemesis arrived in the form of high world oil prices, producing a lop-sided, oil-rich economy while other sectors remained undeveloped. Agricultural products had to be imported. In the 1980s, the truth hit home with a slump in oil prices. To fight massive recession, successive presidents imposed austerity which only provoked massive protests from the poor and the left. The recession of the early 1990s only made things worse. In 1992, it was to oppose the austerity measures that Hugo Chavez, then a military officer, launched a failed coup d'etat. In the mid-nineties, Venezuela continued to suffer as a single-resource economy.
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RELEVANT DATES

-1811- Venezuela declares its independence.
-1819-1830- after the campaigns of Bolivar, he rides into Bogota and Colombia, then “New Granada” gets its independence before uniting with Ecuador, Venezuela and Panama. In the Union of Gran Colombia.
-meanwhile, Jose Antonio Paez acts as dictatorial governor of Venezuela.
1830-1835 Venezuela, led by Paez, wins its independence from Gran Colombia. Landowners hold the power.
-Antonio Guzman starts a liberal newspaper attacking the abuses of Paez.
1846- Paez jails Guzman and makes an alliance with the party of the Monagas brothers. Jose Tadeo Monagas and his brother wrest power from Paez.
-1861- Paez returns to make himself dictator.
-1863-Paez hands over power to liberal Juan Falcon.
-1861-1868- civil war wracks Venezuela. The Blue party represents the army and the conservative centralists. The liberal Yellow party is led by Guzman's son, Guzman Blanco .
-1870- Guzman Blanco ends civil war at the head of the army and is elected president.
-1870-1888- President Guzman Blanco represses the Church and reforms communications, education and finances. Primary education is made free and public. Industries are set up in the towns. All his reforms were done by decree. He hoards wealth and lives in luxury with his clique.
-By repeatedly appointing a successor who hands the power back to him, Guzman sidesteps a provision in the constitution limiting the presidential term to two years.
-1908-1935- tyranny of the dictator Juan Vincente Gomez who nevertheless brought prosperity. He centralizes the government, taking power from the local elites.
-1917- Vincente Gomez inaugurates the exploration and exploitation of oil. He grants leases to foreign oil companies which try to curry favour with Venezuela by hiring and providing benefits for Venezuelan oil work
-1945- the popular political movement, Democratic Action is founded and takes power with support from the military. Romulo Betancourt, appointed to succeed outgoing president Medina, in a transitional junta, achieves a degree of democracy and social reform.
-1946- Democratic Action leader, Roman Gallegos elected president.
--Gallegos declares the Age of the Caudillos to be dead.
-1948- after stopping a group of officers from embezzling from the treasury, President Gallegos overthrown in a military coup, giving way to a repressive junta led by General Marcos Perez Jiminez.
-1952- General Marcos Perez Jimenez leading a repressive police state in the caudillo tradition.
-1957-58- a recession causes the US to cut back on oil imports, reducing social security in Venezuela, provoking in turn, a surge of anti-Americanism.
-1958- Perez asks for a plebiscite to extend his term in office, contrary to the constitution.
-1958- February- a popular, liberal revolt rises against Perez Jiminez who flees to Miami. Betancourt takes power again.
-Wolfgang Larrazbal of the left heads a junta with Communist support. Larrazbal, with popular support and spurred by anti-Americanism, places a 60% tax on foreign oil profits.
-1962- two left-wing military revolts, supported by Fidel Castro, are repressed while the Betancourt government faces violent opposition from the right as wll.
-1970- high world oil prices enrich Venezuela but create a highly unbalanced economy with underdevelopment of agriculture.
-1973- President Carlos Andres Perez wins presidency for the Democratic Action party.
-1976- foreign-owned iron and oil companies are nationalized.
-1980-83 –depression in world oil prices strains a Venezuelan economy in which other resources remain underdeveloped. Severe recession sets in despite government attempts to reduce agricultural imports.
-military officer Hugo Chavez leads demonstrations against Perez’ austerity measures.
1992- Perez survives an attempted coup led by Hugo Chavez.
-1998- Chaves campaigns to become president- He unveils his Bolvarian plan:a a “party-dominated” “new republic” . He promises to overhaul the constitution and fight corruption and poverty.
-1999- February 2- Chavez wins the presidency.
-1999- August- “legislative emergency “ declared- a committee takes over functions of assembly. New constitutional assembly drafts new constitution: presidential term limits of 5 to 6 years. Greater powers for president.
-2001- Chavez reelected. But international observers claim a lack of transparency in the voting.
-Chavez embarks on an ambitious plan of social reform through his “Bolivarian Missions”, a development program with citizen and worker-managed governance. Land reform; free land titles to the poor. Expropriation of unused factories and estates. Free health care for the poor. A Cuban-aided medical school. Is set up. A program is launched for free education. Primary school enrollment is increased.
-polarization of parliament and abstention and absenteeism of the deputies give Chavez parliamentary control , eliminating its capacity for criticism and oversight. This will result in corruption..
-2002- Chavez is briefly deposed during an attempted opposition coup.
-2004- world oil prices spur huge economic growth, enabling Chavez to enact many of his reforms.
-2006- Chavez personally revokes license of RCTV, the 2nd largest TV channel, accusing it of anti-government activities and violating "social responsibility” legislation for the media.
-2007- Jan. 21- the assembly gives Chavez the right to rule by decree for 18 months. Starting a new 6-yr term., he wants a socialist society.
-According to the Berlin based research institute, Transparency International, Venezuela is listed at 130 out of 159 nations for the transparency of its government.
-July 23- Chavez proposes to extend presidential term limits.
-December 4, 2007- Chavez loses vote on a new constitution which would allow him indefinite re-election.

RECENT BACKGROUND TO THE EVENTS. Chaves was elected in 1999 and there is some irony in the fact that his campaign was illegally funded by Venezuelan banks. Almost immediately, he handed the duties of the assembly over to a committee while a plebiscite gave him the authority to rewrite the constitution. He then launched reforms based on a populist, nationalist "Bolivarian" ideology. "Bolivarianismo" (named for South America's liberator, Simon Bolivar) loosely descibes a populist nationalist ideology espoused elsewhere in Latin America. But while it is radical and socialist in tone, Venezuelan "Bolivarianismo" so closely reflects its leader that it is known as "Chavismo" by supporters and opponents alike. While Chavez has reduced inflation and infant mortality, redistributed land to the poor, and launched programs of free education, the initiatives have been made possible by world oil prices which have been surging since 2004. In the meantime, Chavez has polarized the country alienating the middle and oil-rich upper classes. Discouraged from democratic participation, they have left parliament to the Chavez supporters. As a result, the assembly has become a rubber stamp for his programs. The opposition's attempt to enact a law of recall and remove Chavez from the presidency is held to have failed but the petitions on both sides seem to have been rigged and the process, like Chavez' landslide re-eection in 2001, has been judged far from transparent by international observers. He survived a coup in 2002. With the gradual muzzling of the press and an assembly shorn of any critical capacity, debate has taken to the streets, where it is waged between organized bands of Chavez and opposition supporters.

In January, 2007, the Chavez-controlled assembly voted to give him power to rule by decree for a year and a half. While sabre rattling against the United States and making an informal alliance with opponents of Washington, like Iran, Chavez has forged ahead with programs of health and education for the poor and measures to gradually nationalize the oil industry and the banks. There is no doubt that Chavez' high-handed, undemocratic campaign to wrest as much of the national wealth as possible on behalf of the poor has produced social progress. But the absence of any effective division of powers, not to mention parliamentary oversight, is allowing for the massive corruption which may, in the end, render 'Chavismo' itself futile.
On May 6 Chavez, threatened to nationalize the country's banks, if they refused to support Venezuelan enterprises. The news shook the Venezuelan stock market and pushed down the share prices of Venezuelan banks. The response was mixed. New York-based Citibank, for example, found the injunction to support the Venezuelan economy reasonable. Others suggested it might result in capital flight spurred by natiuonal seizure of financial assets. Since January 2007, Chavez has already moved to nationalize telecommunications, electricity and oil. May 27 saw Chavez shut down the country's oldest and most popular telelvs ion station- Radio Caracas Television. He defended his move to revoke RCTV's license as an act of democracy, by transferring it to a government public service channel. He accused RCTV, whose talk show and comedy program were often critical Chavez, of subverting his socialist government as well as backing an attempted coup in 2002. Chavez pointed out that his bill revoking the license was passed in the assmbly with only scant votes in opposition.

On July 23, he submitted to the legislature a bill that would allow him to be re-elected for office an unlimited number of times, contrary to the limit of two terms currently allowed by the constitution. With committed support from the entire national legislature, it seemed he would get his way, clearing the path for a nationalization campaign that has already added to state control over energy and telecommunications. He has given reassurances, however, that the new law will only apply to the presidency and not to governors and mayors as some of his allies would like. On August 10 Chavez toured South America, offering economic deals with Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador. In the fall of 2007, Chaves offered to assist Columbia's President Uribe in negotiating with the rebel group FARC for the release of hostages. Uribe hoped that Chaves's left wing credentials might help with the Marxist resistance- on condition that Chavez did not talk personally with the leadership. Chavez broke the pledge and Uribe relieved him of his position in negotiations.

PREVIOUS ENTRIES:

REMOTE BACKGROUND TO THE EVENTS. Venezuela was first inhabited by the indigenous Carib and Arawak people. In 1520, the Spanish established the town of Cumana, their first settlement in South America. Most Venezuelan towns were founded before 1600. Since there was little mineral wealth, the economy was mostly agricultural and pastoral; slaves from Africa worked the plantations. Spain included Venezuela in the Viceroyalty of New Granada, which included Colombia. Francisco Miranda led failed revolts against Spanish rule in 1806 and 1811. Bolivar led the successful revolution in 1823 and Venezueal became part of his "Gran Colombia" which included Colombia and Ecuador. After the collapse of Simon Bolivar's dream of a united 'Gran Columbia' of northern South America, democratic and free from Spanish rule, the "caudillo tradtion" began with the despotic General Paez who brought about the Venezuela's secession from Grand Colombia. He ruled on behalf of the landowners at the expense of the cattle herders. His reign was long and interspersed with liberal rebellion and civil war. The mid-nineteenth century saw, finally, the rise of a liberal tradition, of which Hugo Chavez might be said to be the descendant. In 1870 Venezuela's Guzman Blanco ended a civil war with the Perez faction at the head of the army and was elected president. Like Chavez (who got himself voted eighteen months' rule by decree only last January), Guzman used rule by decree to make reforms. He repressed the church and reformed communications, education and finances. And like Chavez, Guzman also challenged a provision in the constitution limiting the presidential term to two years. But Guzman's way was slightly different from that of Chaves: Guzman repeatedly appointed a successor who would then hand the power back to him. That way, he stayed in power for eighteen years, until 1888. In 1908, Vicente Gomez took power, reduced the influence of local elites and oversaw the discovery and exploitation of oil and the granting of concessions to foreign oil companies. His long authoritarian rule, until 1935 was marked by popular reforms but also by massive corruption, tyranny and cruelty. Though he had modernized the country, his death was celebrated. At the end of his rule, Venezuela was without representative institutions, civil liberties or political parties.

LOCATION OF NOTE: Caracas, capital of Venezuela. The city was founded in 1567 by Diego de Losada who named it Santiago de Leon de Caracas, capital of the province of Caracas and then of the Captaincy-General of Caracas and Venezuela. Near the heart of the piracy of the Spanish Main, Caracas was plundered by the English in 1595 and by the French in 1766.
In 1750, the revolutionary leader Francisco de Miranda was born there as was Simon Bolivar in 1783. In the 18th century, in the Cabildo or town council of Caracas began movements demanding increased representation from the Spanish Crown, even developing into open rebellion in 1750. Appealing to the king for their rights, the people of Caracas also rebelled against the Cabildo for allowing the foreign, Basque-owned Guipuszcoa company to control all of the city's trade. The revolt was crushed by royal troops. In 1797, Jose Maria Espana and Manuel Gual, spurred by the ideas of the French Revolution, planned a general revolt with support from the British colony in Trinidad but the conspiracy was betrayed and many of its leaders were hanged. It was in Caracas that independence from Spain was declared in July, 1811. Less than a year later, on March 26, 1812, the city was destroyed by an earthquake, putting a stop to Miranda's revolution. Bolivar recaptured the city in August, 1813 but after his army was defeated in June, 1814, he abandoned it. After his signal victory at Carabobo, Bolivar made a triumphal entry into Caracas in June, 1821. But the repeated pillage and slaughter suffered by the city from both sides of the revolution set development back for decades. Between 1810 and 1881, the city grew from 50,000 to only 55,000. Inspired by Paris, President Guzman Blanco remodelled the city in the mid-19th century. By World War One the population had doubled and Venezuela's newly discovered oil reserves would support further urban development. During the 1950s, Venezuela's oil wealth led to the city's vast expansion and modernization.

PROFILE: Antonio Guzman Blanco (1829-1899); president of Venezuela, 1870- 1887. After newspaper editor Leocadio Guzman, was released from prison for exposing the abuses of the regime of Jose Antonio Paez, Guzman's son Antonio helped him found a liberal-federalist coalition against Paez's centralizing conservatives. There followed the 'Federalist' civil war which wore on through the middle years of the century. In 1863-68 Antionio Guzman Blanco served as vice president in a Liberal administration only to turn against it in disillusion. In a new round of fighting he was leader of the liberal "Blues" against the conservative "Yellows" and rode into Caracas on April 20, 1870 at the head of the army. He was then elected president. Grandiose and sophisticated, from the upper crust of Caracas society, he had already secured a mountain of academic degrees. He published and wrote copiously if not aggressively, even as he ruled the country. When the Congress didn't re-elect him, it re-elected substitutes through whom he continued to rule before it re-elected Guzman again. During the terms that he held on to power behind the scenes, he traveled the country visiting literary salons as a sort of one-man enlightenment as well as travelling in Europe. France was his paradise and his model for the redesign of Caracas; he filled the city with portraits and statues of himself. His daughter married a French citizen and her apartment on the Champs Elysee became Guzman's second headquarters. Back in Venezuela, meanwhile, the congress was his lap dog. A modernizer, the built roads and a railway, brought in free, compulsory schooling and developed education and industry, supported secularism and opposed the Church. At the same time, he has no use for civil liberties. A relatively benevolent dictator, he ruled by personal whim, side-stepping the constitution. It was during one of his sabbaticals in Paris, in 1887, that his current place-holder president back in Caracas was faced with an uprising. The people had had enough of Guzman's arbitrary, absentee rule and his regime was finally overthrown. After four years of instability, one of his stand-in presidents, Joaquin Crespo, took power in a coup in 1891. Antonio Guzman Blanco himself died in Paris in 1899 a little sad but probably content to be in the city of his dreams.

CROSS-CENTURY SUMMARY: There is a long history of reform in Venezuela, though much of it has amounted to modernization rather than social progress. Nevertheless, free primary education has been introduced by leaders of different political stripes. But even when they have helped the poor, presidents have carried on traditions of personal rule or "caudillismo". It continues to this day, in the person of Hugo Chavez.

EYE-WITNESS: A biographer's description of the illiterate Andean peasant dictator Vicente Gomez, probably based on rumour, superstition and some eye-witness description: "He has the slow energy of the animals of the cat family, of snakes and bull-fighters. Heavy-lidded eyes, almost asleep, face and body immobile; then suddenly, lightning action; and then repose again, lethargy, and then there is nothing there but the results...The Indians say that he reads your mind, that he is a brujo, a witch-doctor. They tell of how he remembers everything, how he remembers every man and animal that he ever saw...They tell of his disregard for the priests and the mass, his contempt for religion. They tell of his preoccupation with numbers and dates. He attracted men. He didn't arouse their affections, he was too cold for that, but he drew them to him by the reputation he had for uncanny discernment. His men feared him and followed him. He knew how to get the best from them. Often he would say: "You, compadre, you undertake this mission, for you do things well and you are not afraid of anything." -Thomas Rourke, Gomez, Tyrant of the Andes.

PRESENT SITUATION
: It must be said, to Chavez' credit, that he has accepted the defeat of his constitutional proposals with realism and unexpected modesty. He is also right in pointing out, to those who doubt it, that acceptance of defeat with such a close margin (49% to 51%) is a sign that democracy is alive and well. US President Bush has not helped things by cheering Chavez'z policy setback; only exacerbating the Manichaean enmity that has arisen between the two nations. Though Chaves's conduct has in the past been increasingly demagogic, he still has the chance to become one of the few leaders Latin American leade3rs to lift his country out of poverty while continuing o honour democracy.

PLUS CA CHANGE: In 1958, the dictator General Perez Jiminez asked for a plebiscite to extend his personal rule. In December, 2007, Chavez asks for a vote in support of changes to the constitution that would allow him to stand indefinitely for re-election.

CURIOSITY: In 1958, Perez Jiminez fled a left wing coup and settled in Miami. A recession caused the US to cut back on oil imports and Venezuelan social security was reduced. Anti-Americanism was rife. When USVice President Nixon visited, crowds in Caracas, aware that Washington had given refuge to Perez, greeted him with mass booing and jeering.

TIMELINE FOR THE HISTORY OF VENEZUELA: EUROPEAN

Exploration and Spanish Colonization.


1498- on his third expedition, Columbus sights the mouth of Venezuela’s Orinoco River, believing he has discovered not only the East Indies, but the gates to paradise and the Garden of Eden. He proclaims that here “no one can go but by God’s permission.”

1499- coast explored by Alonzo de Ojeda and Americo Vespucci.

1520- the Spanish begin to colonize Venezuela.

-Germans Ambrosio de Alfonger and George de Speyer explore Venezuela for Habsburg
Charles V

1550-1800- English buccaneers prey on the coast of Venezuela

1785- brief uprising against Spanish rule.

VENEZUELANS RESIST NAPOLEON'S USURPATION OF SPANISH RULE.

1808- after invading Spain, Napoleon sends a captain-general to rule Venezuela.

-revolutionary juntas are proclaimed in various cities in New Granada- but the most radical is in Caracas, represented by Simon Bolivar and Francisco de Miranda.

-1810- in response to Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and upsetting of the Spanish monarchy, Cabildos, or districts of popular sovereignty, begin to take power in Venezuela and New Grenada on behalf of a sovereign Spain.

1810- Francisco de Miranda starts a movement against Spanish rule, deposes the captain-general ruling on behalf of Napoleon and Simon Bolivar sets up a junta.

BOLIVAR FIGHTS FOR REGIONAL INDEPENDENCE.


1811- Venezuela declares its independence.

1812- an earthquake hinders the cause of the patriots and helps the royalists. The rebels relent and sign a peace treaty. Believing that Miranda had collaborated with the royalists, Bolivar and his followers hand Miranda over to imprisonment in Spain. Bolivar takes refuge with revolutionaries in Cartagena.

1813- Aug. 6- Bolivar's new army marches from Cartagena and retakes Caracas.

1815- the rebel cause suffers reverses and Bolivar goes to Jamaica in exile.

1818- Bolivar joins forces on the Orinoco and declares the Third Venezuelan Republic.

1819- Bolivar is elected dictator and president of the liberated areas. He campaigns into the Andes and defeats Spanish forces at Boyaca. He creates the state of Gran Colombia which includes Venezueala and all of northern South America.

1819-1830- after the campaigns of Bolivar, he rides into Bogota and Colombia, then “New Granada” gets its independence before uniting with Ecuador, Venezuela and Panama. In the Union of Gran Colombia.

-meanwhile, Jose Antonio Paez acts as dictatorial governor of Venezuela.

1821- the capital of Gran Colombia is set up at Cucuta on the Colombia-Venezuela border.

1821- Simon Bolivar wins independence once and for all, in Venezuela, at the battle of Crabobo.

1821- Bolivar inaugurates the confederation of Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador as Gran Columbia but Venezuela is an unwilling participant.

THE FALL OF BOLIVAR'S DREAM OF GRAN COLOMBIA

1823- Jose Antionio Paez brings down the last Spanish garrison at Puerto Cabello. Paez is the natural leader of the ranching population.

1829- the collapse of Gran Colombia.

THE AGE OF PAEZ: RULE OF THE LANDOWNERS.

1830-1835 Venezuela, led by Paez, wins its independence from Gran Colombia. Landowners hold the power.

1838- Paez is re-elected. He consolidates the power of the landowners at the expense of the cattle herders or "llaneros".

-Antonio Guzman starts a liberal newspaper attacking the abuses of Paez.

1846- Paez jails Guzman and makes an alliance with the party of the Monagas brothers. Jose Tadeo Monagas and his brother wrest power from Paez.

-Guzman, released from jail, forms a federalist-liberal alliance against the conservative-centralist Monagas brothers.

1858- the Monagas brothers overthrown in a civil war.

1861- Paez returns to make himself dictator.

1863-Paez hands over power to liberal Juan Falcon.

1861-1868- civil war wracks Venezuela. The Blue party represents the army and the conservative centralists. The liberal Yellow party is led by Guzman's son, Guzman Blanco .

1864- a brief federation, the United States of Venezuela created by liberal Juan Falcon.

THE LIBERAL GOLDEN AGE OF GUZMAN BLANCO.

1870- Guzman Blanco seizes power at the head of the army.

1870-1888- President Guzman Blanco represses the Church and reforms communications, education and finances. Primary education is made free and public. Industries are set up in the towns. All his reforms were done by decree. He hoards wealth and lives in luxury with his clique.

-By repeatedly appointing a successor who hands the power back to him, Guzman sidesteps a provision in the constitution limiting the presidential term to two years.

-Venezuela, after years of anarchy since 1810, finally has a strong state.

-Guzman, an auto-didact, travels and soaks up culture in Europe. He even legislates from abroad.

-1887- Guzman Blanco is overthrown while he is in Paris- where he remains until his death in 1899.

1892- dictatorship is renewed by Guzman Blanco's lieutenant, Joaquin Crespo who continues the policies of Guzman Blanco.

-Venezualan boundary dispute with Britain over the border with British Guiana. Britain's territorial claim extends into Venezuela.

1898- alarmed by British incursions into Venezuela, US President Grover Cleveland invokes the Monroe Doctrine which declares American guardianship of the western hemisphere. Britain submits to arnitration but still wins territory for Guiana.

THE TYRANNIES OF CASTRO AND GOMEZ.

1899- from the Andes, President Cipriano Castro takes power by force ruling with a "peasant and soldier" government. Incompetence and corruption.

-Castro alienates the international community by refusing to pay down the foreign debt.

1902- British, German and Italian war ships blockade Venezuela to force the payment of international debts. The US intervenes and brokers an agreement- but in the long run Castro avoids ppaying any of Venesuala's foregin debt.

1908-1935- tyranny of the dictator Juan Vincente Gomez who nevertheless brought prosperity. He centralizes the government, taking power from the local elites.

-Gomez keeps Venezuela neutral in World War I.

1917- Vincente Gomez inaugurates the exploration and exploitation of oil. He grants leases to foreign oil companies which try to curry favour with Venezuela by hiring and providing benefits for Venezuelan oil workers.

1935- Gomez' death greeted by mass celebration.

REBIRTH OF LIBERALISM AND THE RISE OF DEMOCRATIC ACTION.

1935-41- President Eleazar Lopez Contreras, a liberal, renegotiates contracts with foreign oil companies in Venezuela’s favour.

- Contreras’s successor, another liberal president, Isaias Medina Angarita reforms agriculture, cattle ranching, harbours and ports.

-Medina brings Venezuela into alliance on the side of the allies.

1945- the popular political movement, Democratic Action is founded and takes power with support from the military. Romulo Betancourt, appointed to succeed Medina, in a transitional junta, achieves a degree of democracy and social reform.

1946- Democratic Action leader, Romulo Gallegos elected president.

1947- new constitution enshrines election of Democratic Action head, Romulo Gallegos, by popular vote.

-Gallegos declares the Age of the Caudillos to be dead.

PEREZ- THE RETURN OF THE CAUDILLO.

1948- after stopping a group of officers from embezzling from the treasury, President Gallegos overthrown in a military coup, giving way to a repressive junta led by General Marcos Perez Jiminez.

1952- General Marcos Perez Jimenez leads a repressive police state in the caudillo tradition.

1953- confirmed as president, Perez brings about economic reforms in which the country is modernized and the middle and upper classes prosper. But conditions for the poor majority remain the same.

1957-58- a recession causes the US to cut back on oil imports, reducing social security in Venezuela, provoking in turn, a surge of anti-Americanism.

1958- Perez asks for a plebiscite to extend his term in office, contrary to the constitution.

-January- Perez jails thousands of officers and liberal priests after an attempted coup.

RETURN OF LIBERALISM WITH BETANCOURT


- February- a popular, liberal revolt rises against Perez Jiminez who flees to Miami. Betancourt takes power again.

-Wolfgang Larrazbal of the left heads a junta with Communist support. Larrzbal, with popular support and spurred by anti-Americanism, places a 60% tax on foreign oil profits.

-President Betancourt of Democratic Action wins a fair election.

-May- US vice President Nixon is given a harsh reception in Venezuela due to a tide of anti-Americanism.

1961- A new contitution. Oil revenues leave the country wealthy.

LIBERALISM FINDS ITSELF OPPOSED FROM THE LEFT.


-Communisists, socialists and the poor begin to form a restive opposition.

1962- two left-wing military revolts, supported by Fidel Castro, are repressed while the Betancourt government faces violent opposition from the right as wll.

1964- President Raul Leoni.

1966- Left wing attacks in Caracas provoke the army to occupy the university.

1968- President Rafael Caldera brings the Social Christian party to power.

-border strains continue with British Guiana and relations with Columbia are strained over Columbian workers flooding into Venezuela.

1969- an amnesty helps to constitute a left wing rebel movement

-the social democratic Democratic Action and the Christian Democrats vie for power.

-1970- high world oil prices enrich Venezuela but create a highly unbalanced economy with underdevelopment of agriculture.

1973- Venezuela joins the Andean Group economic association.

1973- President Carlos Andres Perez wins for the Democratic Action party.

1976- foreign-owned iron and oil companies are nationalized.

1978- President Luis Herrera Campins.

RECESSION: THE OIL DREAM BEGINS TO COLLAPSE.

1980-83 –depression in world oil prices strains a Venezuelan economy in which other resources remain underdeveloped. Severe recession sets in despite government attempts to reduce agricultural imports.

1983- Haime Lucinci elected President. Introduces austerity measures but inflation and unemployment continue.

1989- Venezuela is crushed by its national debt. Wages decline by 38%.

1989- President Perez re-elected. Rioting erupts in response to austerity measures enacted by Perez.
THE EMERGENCE OF HUGO CHAVEZ: HE ATTACKS AUSTERITY ON BEHALF OF THE POOR.

-military officer Hugo Chavez leads demonstrations against Perez’ austerity measures.

1992- Perez survives an attempted coup led by Hugo Chavez.

1993- Perez, accused of corruption, is impeached and removed from office.

1994- Rafael Caldera elected president.

VENEZUELA SUFFERS FROM DEPENDENCY ON OIL.

-low world oil prices result in increasing poverty in this one-resource economy..

1997- oil amounts to 80 per cent of Venezuela’s oil exports.

-1998- Chaves campaigns to become president- He unveils his Bolvarian plan:a a “party-dominated” “new republic” . He promises to overhaul the constitution and fight corruption and poverty..

-but Chavex’ campaign is illlegally funded by the banks.

HUGO CHAVEZ ELECTED PRESIDENT.

1999- February 2- Chavez wins the presidency.

1999- the rule by traditional parties ends. Hugo Chavez vows to fight corruption and poverty.

1999- August- “legislative emergency “ declared- a committee takes over functions of assembly. Constitutional assembly drafts new constitution- presidential term limits of 5 to 6 years.- greater powers for president.

CHAVEZ PUSHES SOCIAL REFORM, MAKES A NEW CONSTITUTION.

-Chavez organizes a referendum for a new constitution.

-2001- Chavez reelected. But international observers claim a lack of transparency in the voting.

-Chavez embarks on an ambitious plan of social reform through his “Bolivarian Missions”, a development program with citizen and worker-managed governance. Land reform; free land titles to the poor. Expropriation of unused factories and estates. Free health care for the poor. A Cuban-aided medical school. Is set up. A program is launched for free education. Primary school enrollment is increased.

Chavez moves to help preserve the rights and culture of indigenous peoples.

-Inflation and the infant mortality rate are both lowered. Meanwhile Chavez maintains economoic growth.. Aaccess to higher education improves anlong with remedial high school education.

However:

-Chavez forces labour unions to have state-monitored elections. International labour protests at this encroachment on labour’s independence.

PARLIAMENT IS WEAKENED.

-polarization of parliament and abstention and absenteeism of the deputies give Chavez parliamentary control , eliminating its capacity for criticism and oversight. This will result in corruption..

2002- Chavez is briefly deposed during an attempted oppostion coup.

2003- the opposition volunteer civilian voter rights group, Sumate, organizes a vote for presidential recall. Ironically, the law of recall had been passed by Chavez.’ Government.

Both sides claim coercion in signing or refusing to sign the petition. New petition but claims of fraud

-since 2003, the GDP hasincreased; inflation is down; unemployment down and oil production is up- Wolrd Bank and CIA Wodl Fact Book-.
TRANSPARENCY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND FREE SPEECH SUFFER.

-2004-recall attempt defeated. European observers were absent, saying Chaves placed to many restrictions on obervation of the vote. Allegations of vote rigging.

-March, 2004- during recall demonstrations- Amnesty International reports human rights violations- detention of oppositions leaders- national guard use of violence in oppositions demonstrations.

-2004- world oil prices spur huge economic growth, enbling Chavez to enact many opf his reforms.

-2005- Chavez inaugurates Mission Barrio Adentro for secondary and tertiary health care centers run by Cuban doctors. Other doctors complain that funds are being redirected away from regular hospitals.

2007- Jan. 21- the assembly gives Chavez the right to rule by decree for 18 months. Starting a new 6-yr term. He wants a socialist society.

2007- Chavez nationalizes the phone companies and begins to implement state control of the central bank.

-According to the Berlin based research institute, Transparency International, Venezuela is listed at 130 out of 159 nations for the transparency of its government.

-2005- libel and slander laws directed at media criticismof gov’t.

2006- law for spontaneous “communal councils” to skip state and municipal governments which are believed to be corrupt.

-gov’t gangs allegedly attack media which Chavez accuses of being pro-US.

-2006- personally revoked license of RCTV- gov’t’s 2nd largest TV channel- because it is accused of anti-govenrment activities. And violating :social responsibility” legislation for the media.

2007 -increasing complaints of crime and corruption.

CHAVES GRANTED A TERM OF PRESIDENTIAL DECREE.

May 1- Hugo Chavez is using his new powers of presidential decree to regulate prices in private hospitals in Venezuela. Clinics that refuse to comply will be nationalized.

May 6, 2007- Chaves announces possible nationalization of foreign banks.

May 27- Chavez closes Venezuela's largest private television ststaion.

July 23- Chavez moves to extend presidential term limits.

August 10- Chaves spreads largesse, funding foreign energy projects on a tour of South America.
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