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The Unraveling of Representative Democracy in Venezuela

edited by Jennifer L. McCoy and David J. Myers

Publication Year: 2004

For four decades, Venezuela prided itself for having one of the most stable representative democracies in Latin America. Then, in 1992, Hugo Ch

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiii

A Saudi-like oligarchy that created a corrupt, exclusionary, and deeply flawed democracy in which poverty reigned despite the nation’s immense oil riches. A charismatic army o≈cer who gave voice to the anger and the hopes of the poor, who was able to gain power through fair and free elections, and who, once in...

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xvi

We initiated this project at the March 2000 LASA Congress after discussing theneed to better understand the demise of Venezuela’s Punto Fijo democracy inorder to understand its replacement. We both had long and deep involvementin Venezuela, Myers going back to the late 1960s with his doctoral research andMcCoy to the early 1980s with her doctoral research. Since then, we both...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xvii-xx

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pp. 1-8

The unraveling of an apparently consolidated representative democratic regime poses new theoretical challenges for comparative politics. Early literature on democratic transition and consolidation focused on identifying the conditions and paths by which those transitions would ‘‘consolidate’’ into institutionalized liberal democracies...

PART I: Antecedents: The Foundations of the Punto Fijo Regime of Representative Democracy

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1 The Normalization of Punto Fijo Democracy

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pp. 11-29

The unbroken thread of Venezuelan democracy dates from January 1, 1959, when R

PART II: The Actors: Making Political Demands

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2 Urban Poor and Political Order

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pp. 33-49

The convergence of economic and political crises throughout the 1980s and 1990s contributed to the unraveling of Venezuela’s representative democracy. As a result of these crises, mass dissatisfaction with the institutions and policies implemented by the Punto Fijo regime paved the way for the emergence of a charismatic leader who appealed...

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3 The Military: From Marginalization to Center Stage

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pp. 50-70

On the evening of April 11, 2002, the third day of a general strike against the government, the Venezuelan armed forces rebelled against their president, Hugo Ch

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4 Entrepreneurs: Profits without Power?

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pp. 71-92

Venezuela’s private sector, in contrast to most of its regional counterparts, was diverse and powerful in 1958 when the Pacto de Punto Fijo was signed.1 At the beginning of the twentieth century, when agriculture and commerce predominated and petroleum played no significant role, names such as Vollmer, Boulton, Phelps, Delfino, Mendoza,...

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5 Civil Society: Late Bloomers

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pp. 93-114

The crisis and decline of the political system governed by the parties, which were once the fundamental channels for citizen representation and participation,as well as channels for articulating popular demands, left a vacuum that spurred the politicization of social and cultural actors, such as civil society organizations and the media...

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6 Intellectuals: An Elite Divided

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pp. 115-129

Comprehensive examination of a political regime in the ‘‘gray zone’’ (Carothers, 2002; Myers and McCoy, 2003) requires analyzing diverse inputs from its environment (Easton, 1966). This chapter addresses the role of writers, journalists, and scholars, whose engagement in opinion formation by articulating positions on political issues...

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7 The United States and Venezuela: From a Special Relationship to Wary Neighbors

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pp. 1130-151

Venezuela at the beginning of the twenty-first century is much changed from the country that U.S. policy makers dealt with during the first three decades of the Punto Fijo era. Three changes have great import for Venezuela-U.S. relations: (1) the country is in the midst of a prolonged political and economic crisis; (2) the once admired model...

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8 The Unraveling of Venezuela’s Party System: From Party Rule to Personalistic Politics and Deinstitutionalization

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pp. 152-178

The political transformations through which Venezuela passed in the last decade of the twentieth century included, along with the other changes examined in this volume, a profound change in its system of political parties. The mid- 1990s system of national political parties, like its immediate predecessor, had roots in the 1940s...

PART III: Policy Making and Its Consequences

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9 Decentralization: Key to Understanding a Changing Nation

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pp. 181-201

Many Latin American countries have moved along the path of decentralization, a type of state design which normally strengthens and expands democratic institutions. Until recently Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico had moved farthest in this direction...

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10 The Syndrome of Economic Decline and the Quest for Change

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pp. 202-230

The Venezuelan economy spun out of control sometime in the 1970s after many years of stability and high growth. Successive governments applied different approaches to solving the deep problems that spread from the economic system into the very heart of the society. Their failures contributed to a malaise that undermined confidence and generated competing theories of what had gone wrong....

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11 Public Opinion, Political Socialization, and Regime Stabilization

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pp. 231-260

This chapter examines the relationship between public opinion, political socialization, and regime stability in post-1958 Venezuela by addressing four puzzles. The first asks how the innovative policies pursued by those who founded the Punto Fijo polity created opinions that facilitated regime normalization and political stability...

PART IV: Conclusion

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12 From Representative to Participatory Democracy? Regime Transformation in Venezuela

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pp. 263-295

The conditions that facilitated the institutionalization of the Punto Fijo system during the 1960s had changed by the 1990s. The dramatic transformation from a poor, rural society to one that was urbanized and characterized by a highly unequal distribution of wealth between an expanded upper middle class and slum dwellers was...

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pp. 297-305

On August 15, 2004, Hugo Ch


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pp. 307-318


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pp. 319-320


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pp. 321-336

List of Contributors

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pp. 337-340


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pp. 341-352

E-ISBN-13: 9780801892387
E-ISBN-10: 0801892384
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801884283
Print-ISBN-10: 0801884284

Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 20 line drawings
Publication Year: 2004