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Crafting Civilian Control of the Military in Venezuela

A Comparative Perspective

Harold A. Trinkunas

Publication Year: 2005

Unlike most other emerging South American democracies, Venezuela has not succumbed to a successful military coup d'état during four decades of democratic rule. What drives armed forces to follow the orders of elected leaders? And how do emerging democracies gain that control over their military establishments? Harold Trinkunas answers these questions in an examination of Venezuela's transition to democracy following military rule and its attempts to institutionalize civilian control of the military over the past sixty years, a period that included three regime changes. Trinkunas first focuses on the strategic choices democratizers make about the military and how these affect the internal civil-military balance of power in a new regime. He then analyzes a regime's capacity to institutionalize civilian control, looking specifically at Venezuela's failures and successes in this arena during three periods of intense change: the October revolution (1945@-48), the Pact of Punto Fijo period (1958@-98), and the Fifth Republic under President Hugo Chávez (1998 to the present). Placing Venezuela in comparative perspective with Argentina, Chile, and Spain, Trinkunas identifies the bureaucratic mechanisms democracies need in order to sustain civilian authority over the armed forces. Unlike most other South American democracies, Venezuela has not succumbed to military takeover during its six decades of democratic rule. Trinkunas examines Venezuela's transition to democracy following military rule and its failures and successes at attempts to institutionalize civilian control of its military over the past sixty years, a period that included three regime changes. He argues that current president Hugo Chavez has begun to deliberately dismantle Venezuela's institutions of civilian control of the armed forces. He also puts Venezuela in a comparative perspective against democratization processes in other countries, including Chile, Argentina, and Spain. Trinkunas examines Venezuela's transition to democracy following military rule and its attempts to institutionalize civilian control of the military over the past sixty years, a period that included three regime changes. Placing Venezuela in comparative perspective with Argentina, Chile, and Spain, Trinkunas identifies the bureaucratic mechanisms democracies need in order to sustain civilian authority over the armed forces. Unlike most other emerging South American democracies, Venezuela has not succumbed to a successful military coup d'état during four decades of democratic rule. What drives armed forces to follow the orders of elected leaders? And how do emerging democracies gain that control over their military establishments? Harold Trinkunas answers these questions in an examination of Venezuela's transition to democracy following military rule and its attempts to institutionalize civilian control of the military over the past sixty years, a period that included three regime changes. Trinkunas first focuses on the strategic choices democratizers make about the military and how these affect the internal civil-military balance of power in a new regime. He then analyzes a regime's capacity to institutionalize civilian control, looking specifically at Venezuela's failures and successes in this arena during three periods of intense change: the October revolution (1945–48), the Pact of Punto Fijo period (1958–98), and the Fifth Republic under President Hugo Chávez (1998 to the present). Placing Venezuela in comparative perspective with Argentina, Chile, and Spain, Trinkunas identifies the bureaucratic mechanisms democracies need in order to sustain civilian authority over the armed forces.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7

Contents

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pp. vii-11

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

Writing about Venezuelan civil-military relations has often seemed like an effort to pin down a rapidly moving target, especially when I consider how muchVenezuela has changed since the earliest origins of this project in 1991. Although the civil-military system appears to have reached a new equilibrium as of the fall of 2004, there will certainly be new opportunities for instability now that civilian control is no longer institutionalized. Nevertheless, the findings of...

Abbreviations

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pp. xiii-15

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1. Democracy and Civilian Control of the Armed Forces: Venezuela in Comparative Perspective

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pp. 1-26

The failed 1992 coup attempt by Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chávez Frias came as a surprise to many observers of Venezuela who had long considered it a consolidated democracy. Although the coup attempts were beaten back by forces loyal to the regime, Venezuela’s democracy began to unravel. President Carlos Andrés Pérez was...

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2. A Lost Opportunity: The Failure of Democratization in Venezuela, 1945–1948

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pp. 27-61

Following weeks of tension between the armed forces and Venezuela’s fledgling democratic government, President Rómulo Gallegos was detained by army officers at his home in Caracas on 24 November 1948. Other officers quickly arrested the leadership of the ruling party, Acción Democrática (AD), along with labor activists, journalists, and prominent civilian supporters of the Gallegos government...

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3. The 1958 Transition to Democracy in Venezuela: Strategizing Civilian Control

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pp. 62-109

In 1958 Venezuela experienced a second opportunity to democratize. Unlike the first attempt in 1945-48, in this case Venezuelan democracy survived and became consolidated, enjoying an unusual degree of political stability by South American standards, at least until 1992. Certainly, the political and economic conditions in Venezuela had not changed sufficiently during the decade of authoritarian rule to...

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4. Statecraft and Military Subordination in Venezuela, 1959–1973

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pp. 110-155

On 26 December 1958 Rómulo Betancourt addressed a closed-door assembly of 1,200 military officers in Caracas to explain his administration’s future policies and to listen to their concerns. It was the high point of his tour as president-elect of the country’s major garrisons. As Venezuela’s first democratically elected president following...

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5. Civilian Control under Fire: Resisting Challenges from the Military in Venezuela, 1992

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pp. 156-205

On the evening of 3 February 1992, army troops led by members of an elite parachute regiment attempted to take control of the government of Venezuela. In Caracas, soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chávez Frias attacked the presidential residence of La Casona, the seat of government at Miraflores palace, the Generalísimo...

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6. Revolutionizing Civil-Military Relations? Hugo Chávez and the Fifth Republic in Venezuela, 1998–2004

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pp. 206-233

On the evening of 11 April 2002, the third day of a general strike, elements of the Venezuelan armed forces rebelled against their commander in chief, President Hugo Chávez Frias. Reacting to the bloody outcome of clashes between pro- and antigovernment demonstrators near the presidential palace, the commander of the army, General Efraín Vásquez Velasco, announced in a nationally televised address that...

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7. Assessing the Relationship between Civilian Control of the Military and the Consolidation of Democracy

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pp. 234-264

The key to establishing civilian control is the use by democratizers of regime leverage to define narrow boundaries for military authority and to institutionalize supervision of the armed forces. After all, regime leverage over the military is what allows civilians to resist conditions placed by outgoing authoritarian elites on the institutions of a new democracy, and it is what allows governments to compel the armed forces to accept institutions of civilian control. These institutions...

Notes

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pp. 265-268

References

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pp. 269-288

Index

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pp. 289-297


E-ISBN-13: 9781469603643
E-ISBN-10: 1469603640
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807829820
Print-ISBN-10: 080782982X

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 17 figs., 2 tables
Publication Year: 2005