Carlos Andrés Pérez – 1922-2010 – Fashion Victim

Carlos Andrés Pérez, who dominated Venezuela’s social democratic landscape for over a quarter of a century, has died at the age of 88, on Christmas day.

CAP, as he was universally known, is harder to eulogize than most. Variously described as a corruption-enabling populist, a far-sighted visionary, a proto-Chávez, a champion of third world autonomy in the Cold War, a neoliberal despot, and the godfather of Spanish Democracy, CAP was all of those things and none.

To my mind, we should remember him, first and fore most, as a man of his time…in fact, a man too much of his time.

His two presidencies – 1974-1979 and 1989-1993 – were famously at odds with one another. The determined statist of the 70s gave way completely to the liberal reformer of the 90s. There seemed to be no thread linking the two, beyond the man himself and his steely determination to bring to Venezuela the most up-to-date international thinking on development.

The result wasn’t a catastrophe: it was two catastrophes.

It’s easy to forget now, but the kinds of Big Push, import-substitution industrialization strategies that CAP implemented with such relish in the 1970s were cutting edge stuff at the time. Academics at big name think tanks, hoity toity universities and, of course, throughout the UN System were convinced that without a major state-sponsored drive to coordinate investment, third world countries would remain mired in a peripheral position in the World System, staying poor forever.

Grandiose projects, like the expansion of Sidor behind high tariff walls, were part of the standard World Bank prescription for development back then. CAP positioned himself as an international leader for this movement. Chávez, for one, can barely sleep at night knowing the history books will always credit CAP with having nationalized the oil industry.

The ISI recipe, unfortunately, was badly flawed from the start. In the 1970s, like much of the International Development community, CAP failed to foresee the intractable coordination problems involved in mobilizing the huge new resources unlocked by the 70s oil boom, and the sprawling incentives for corruption they would generate.

The outcome, in terms of Dutch Disease, wasteful investment and plain old graft is perhaps best illustrated by the heaping piles of rusting junk you can still see if you look closely by the side of the runway as you fly into some Venezuelan airports. Snow-plows and aircraft de-icing equipment have been gathering dust there ever since the late 70s, when they were bought as part of airport modernization kits. That the inclusion of Cold Weather components hiked up the price was, of course, a feature rather than a bug from the point of view of the bureaucrats taking a cut of the contract…

CAP’s big push of the 70s set in motion a chain of events that would turn Venezuela – at that point the fastest growing economy in the world over the previous 40 years – into the basketcase it would become over the next four decades.

Mutatis mutandi – and almost everything was mutandi - it was the same story in the late 80s and early 90s, when CAP drank deeply from the cup of the Washington Consensus and tried to implement it, “shock therapy” style, before there was any kind of political, well, consensus for it inside Venezuela. The outcome, in terms of political instability, wholesale delegitimation of the institutions of democracy and, ultimately, the rise of authoritarian politics is too well known to rehash in an obituary.

Once again, CAP set out to apply the recipes handed down from the big development institutions, once again he badly mangled the political economy of reform, with catastrophic results over the medium term.

An Intellectual Fashion Victim until the end, Carlos Andrés Pérez stands as an icon of Venezuela’s failed integration into the World Economy, of its inability to process the currents of international ideas into a viable recipe for broad-based prosperity. In attempt after attempt to bring the country up-to-date with the latest in development thinking, CAP sunk it deeper and deeper into a morass of economic dysfunction and moral degeneracy that was bound, sooner or later, to morph into the tragedy now all around us.

It was the Venezuela traumatized and weakened by CAP’s serial mishandling of reform that found its institutions too frail to withstand Chávez’s authoritarian onslaught. And in that sense it was CAP – far more than his pardon-wielding Christian Democratic nemesis – who is to blame for Venzueala’s relapse into dictatorship.

98 thoughts on “Carlos Andrés Pérez – 1922-2010 – Fashion Victim

    • I think the “fashion victim” is somewhat a good simile of a president that tried to do what was needed and failed, but I find this post focuses only in the bad parts and does not reflect the nuances of the circumstances and none of the redeeming qualities CAP had that- 12 years into Chavez – make many hope we could go back in time.
      Quico’s personal distaste for the guy (as noted in the comments section) is not permitting a truly comprehensive analysis of the person that influenced our history in more ways than one. I would recommend Miguel’s post in Devil’s excrement to get a more objective view, which includes the things Quico mentions here but also can shed light on why so many people are expressing sadness over his death. It is the death of the dream of a modern and prosperous Venezuela.
      The book “La rebelion de los naufragos” by Mirtha Rivero could not be more opportune in light of his death. I am hoping a visitor from Venezuela could bring it; they are asking 60 dollars on Amazon for the paper back!

    • “I would recommend Miguel’s post in Devil’s excrement to get a more objective view…” Right you are Moraimag, Bruni’s, Daniel’s and Alejandro Tarre’s posts also have the objectivity that this post lacks.

  1. While growing up in Venezuela, CAP was always my textbook definition of a politician: someone who, to any reasonable person, looks and sounds like the most obvious, immoral crook you’ve ever seen, yet he manages, quite effortlessly, to make a whole lot of people trust him enough to give him power.

    He also was the best proof that the greatest problem with politics is that the people who want power the most are invariably the least likely ones to do any good once they get it.

    Anyway, how many people in Venezuela are regarding this as a “Christmas present”?

    • There is a school of thought that suggests that presidents should be nominated and elected from the pool of the electorate without their consent. It might not be a bad idea. Perhaps the system should include an early release for good behavior.

      There is a good argument to made that anyone who seeks the job is, by definition, unsuitable.

    • That’s not a school of thought… That “election by contest” or “sorteo”. It was mentioned by Montesquieu and proposed by Rousseau, but no other “major” political philosopher came close to that. Alas, it was the precise definition of democracy: anyone could rule, the implication being that it would have to be a very simple society of relatively small size and with relatively modest affairs.

      The only Venezuelan expert on the subject, at least among political scientists, that I know of, is Sebastian Cova, from UCV/UCAB. He has historied the concept thoroughly (but his work has not been published, sadly).

    • GTAvex,

      Uh… Actually, I was being facetious. I had no idea that it had ever been seriously proposed by any serious political philosophers. Go figure…

  2. Excellent post. Chavez’s disaster is creating the dangerous illusion that all the crooks that came before had nothing to do with his assent to power, and that they were all great leaders of a wonderful past until the Chavez “accident” happened. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

    • The other great illusion is similar: Believing that Chavez and chavismo are some kind of accident, a miracle for some and a disaster for others. Who owes nothing to the style of leaders before him, and who gained nothing from the society and government that they unwittingly bequeathed to him.

      Nothing could be further from the truth. Beginning from the fact that the MVR (and later the PSUV) borrowed (or stole in the manner of artists) most everything from AD (and others), from organization (including the organizers themselves down to hamlet level) up to the project and associated fantasies of a “Social State”. They were original though, in militarism and authoritarianism.

  3. Flawed his policies were, but in comparison to who governs Venezuela today, CAP appears as a giant statestman. As Quico says, he was too much a man of his time, and a good historian would judge him by those standards, instead of as a monday mornign quarterback exercise. One must wonder, if Lorenzo Fernadez– the king of ice cream– had won the 1973 elections, would Venezuela be any different now?

    • If all we had to blame CAP for were policy mistakes I would agree with you. But the looting of public monies under his government didn’t happen by mistake, as well as the mass murdering of civilians, the billions of narco-dollars laundered by the banking system with his administration’s complacency, or the gradual deterioration of the rule of law that set the foundations for the all-out civil war we are into.

      You can relativize everything and make anyone look great by comparing them to something worse. I mean, forget CAP, I prefer Blanca Ibañez than Chavez if you put it that way.

    • LOL Quico que comico, but he was a president elected twice, what can you say about this man. At least Carlos Andrés respected the democratic institution in his own particular gocho way you know what I mean, gochos are authoritarian mofos. Carlos Andrés controlled the gov but never took our democracy. I mean at least that’s how I see it. You know I never like Carlos Andrés but now comparing him to el cancletuo supremo that we have right now… I can’t believe I am defending CAP but I am.
      Regarding this “… it was the same story in the late 80s and early 90s, when CAP drank deeply from the cup of the Washington Consensus and tried to implement it, “shock therapy” style, before there was any kind of political, well, consensus for it inside Venezuela. ” You cannot blame him for trying to do it in his way, you know he tried to fix the country and I applaud him for that. And again I agree with you, it would have been great to have the consensus of the people…. when will that happen…? Not even now… :(

    • Ese comentario destemplado no parece de la misma persona que escribió tan interesante artículo! Shame on you

  4. I would agree such economicist storytelling if the politics in venezuela ever be economicist but it won’t. I mean that the second CAP may be critiziced by such economicismus because of the influence of academic economist on his draft. It was a BIG desaster such an experiment in a growing social storm. I mean it was not only the radical nature of the “measures” but that they were far away from a social reality.
    On the other hand, it is right that CAP made a harakiri following that path, but it is also true that it was not many options, economically. Politicaly was a war in course, and this war was decided before he take administration powers.
    You lie when you say that that misshandling of “reforms” caused the weakening of the venezuelean institutions. The were dead before CAP2 came to “power”. A better cue give you the Crash of 1983 monetary reform from Luis Herrera Campins, it was the begin of the end.

  5. Politicians and institutions around the world haven’t changed much or gotten much more intelligent. Now we are either told that the way to cure a debt-ridden economy is more deficit spending or a bailout from those debt-ridden nations that haven’t crashed yet.

    Idiocy.

  6. CAP commited numerous Human Rights violations that would have landed him in jail ipso facto in any civilized country.
    How fucked up is your administration when you wind up making CAP look like a “democratic” hero? You know you’re a douchebag when people on Twitter go around chanting hails to your enemy, a guy who used military air force power against civilians in the ’60s.

    • Sorry I’m so sub-human that Human Rights violations make me mad. I wish I was cold and calculating like you and could watch innocent people die without flinching.

  7. Ahh, hindsight, such a good thing. So easy to pass judgement, to be an armchair revolutionary…

    Say what you wish, considering the guy’s origin and his education, compared to that of el docto Rafael Caldera, he was by far the better man IMO. A crook? Most definitely, like the rest, past, present and future. The difference is, this guy embraced avant garde, as FT has pointed out. Now it turns, avant garde is a bad thing, and to read it from a lefty, mind you, simply un-fucking-believable.

    Particularly shocking the hatred with which Vinz refers to CAP. Did CAP involvement in El Porteñazo ended the life of a communist in the family, or was it the dream of a communist Venezuela that which perish?

    • War crimes and Human Rights are either respected in every tenor or worth squat. Particularily shocking that you give CAP a free pass on the massacre of civilians and scream your head off when Chávez does the same thing against students, protesters or what have you.
      You can’t have the cake and eat it at the same time. If I substitute “communist” for “pitiyanki oligarch”, I get a perfect defense for what Chávez has done and probably will do.
      I try to be consistent. I denounce the killing of civilians, be them communist, oligarch or both.
      You seem to have no problem with air raids on a certain group of people.
      That’s my definition of hate, not holding a politician accountable.

    • Vinz, no te tomes atribuciones que no te corresponden, i.e. please post here where have I written that killing communists is fine, but killing pitiyankis isn’t. Where have I “given a free pass to CAP on the massacre of civilians?

      War crimes? What war crimes were committed in Venezuela in the early 60ies? I must have missed that part of our history, you know the one about Venezuela being at war at the start of our democratic journey.

      Quite frankly, in this issue both you and Francisco are reacting in a way that undermines your credibility.

    • Sure enough, had our politicians (CAP included) made real efforts to build a State, and inside it police and armed forces respectful of citizens’ rights…

      Hugo Chavez and merry company would not be conceivable, even in our wildest nightmares. But it was conceivable, that they could stage a coup, so much that their superiors just winked. It was conceivable that they would make the Caracazo repression by the armed forces their rallying cry. It was conceivable that the Armed Forces could and WOULD allow themselves to be used in that role and many others.

  8. CAP did everything and tried everything. They say. Everything that was in fashion. Liberalism, of the rights’ respecting kind, was never in fashion.

    For one, he did not push and try to build for a State and a society that cherishes and protects ALL the rights of private parties (citizens, businesses and associations), that tries to reduce coercion towards them to a bare minimum, that strives always to stamp out and despises extortion, panhandling and robbery, both official and freelance.

    1989 reforms were probably more a crisis of the type “money has run out in the State coffers” than seeing the light (of experience); of countries that had experienced and were experiencing development and industrialization.

    In my humble opinion, the present state of disarray of Venezuelan society and State can be said to have begun on the years 1976-1977.

    That said, Rest in Peace. He was surely better in everything that the present specimen. I.e., for all the braying and huffing and posturing of the present specimen, CAP was infinitely braver.

  9. Brilliant post, Francisco. It has always amazed me the drag CAP had among our educated classes. For many years I believed that friends who claimed El Gocho was the best thing that ever happened to the country did so just because it was the cool thing to do. It was trendy to portray yourself as “pueblo” and what could be more popular than loving the ultimate Adeco?

    These days the same unconditional love declarations to CAP are everywhere in Facebook and I bet they will be commonplace at New Year’s parties in Venezuela. However, I now believe that that need to look cool only hides an awful and often unspoken truth: Venezuelans political immaturity is at the same levels, if not worst, than 20, 30 years ago.

    Ultimately, most Venezuelans believe CAP-I was a great era in the country life, corruption was not as widespread as during the Herrera years and even if it was, there were some ethics, some code of honor in it.

    Anyway, all this to say that I’d love to see a Spanish version of it if you ever produce it.

    • Thanks Bruni, I agree with people in your blog, you reminded me of how it was to dream that Venezuela could be a great country…

  10. With all due respect, I think you will go back some day to read this post and realize that it was not your finest hour. Yes, CAP may not have been the most honest politician in our history. But, all things considered, the good with the bad, Who was better for our country’s development? Caldera, the arrogant elitist? Lusinchi, who let his girlfriend run the country? Or the folkloric Luis Herrera who died poor but with multimillionaire cabinet members? Who did more for our country, Francisco? Can you name a single positive development from Caldera, Lusinchi or LHC? We certainly don’t seem to have a list of distinguished presidents, but I’ll take CAPs attempts at “fashion” over anything all the other guys did. At least he was trying.

    • Quico’s comment was immature, lacking in depth, and shows his age to his great disadvantage.If there are advantages to youth, it is not in its affinity with wisdom, but rather its affinity with passion.

  11. Reading of all the antics and mis-governance of past presidents has helped me to understand exactly why Venezuela was so vulnerable to a populist fascist.

  12. Nothing of CAP can be explained without making a reference to a burning wish of a CAP who extolled self-confidence to do something magnificent for his country; in CAP-I by using huge oil income; in CAP-II with little oil-income supplemented with poor-man´s debt-to-equity conversions.

    We wish the current Indian Chief who extols so much self-doubt had some of the same modern burning ambitions, but unfortunately he grew up admiring some truly bad antique icons.

    But a president, taking from Ortega y Gasset, is a president only according to his circumstances, and the circumstances of a Venezuela presidency is either huge oil-wealth concentration or oil-poverty with no institutional Plan B backup.

  13. With the utmost respect to people that I respect as a writers (Vinz) and as a writer /friend (Quico), I think your post and subsequent comments are way behind you. I believe analyzing an historical figure in a dichotomist fashion is an exercise of extreme futility, its intellectually lazy or, at worst, its ill intentioned. I won´t argue that maybe your personal/familiar experiences with CAP are blurring your judgment in this one, but as a loyal reader I would certainly advocate the return of the sanity of the analysis that has always appeal to me of CCSChron. This blog has always characterize its position as an eternal quest for discover the infinite scales of grays that lays in between any issue in a country where too many people fucking approach reality as it would be white or black. The same applies to CAP that was a villain and a hero, a brilliant and a mediocre politician, an authoritarian-repressive with his enemies at the same time he reached a deal with North Korea to free Poeta Ali Lameda – A Venezuelan extremist communist incarcerated by Kim´s regime –. A Jealous guardian of democratic forms and norms, at the same time he allowed pervasive corruption. A person that brilliantly managed to maneuver the narrow space the cold war left for independent international policy, so he was the father of Spanish democracy and Central American peace process. Friend of EE.UU at the same time financed the final push of the FMLN in El Salvador to force ARENA to seat into the peace table.
    I mean, a complex as an historical figure of his caliber can be. Way beyond the ”Ahora, qué carajo gana la MUD deshaciendose en halagos para el CdM este?!? “, that in my opinion is way more offensive with your readers than with the memory of the late CAP.
    Truly yours…
    O

    • Well, it’s precisely because CAP’s record is so mixed that putting out that statement felt so out of line to me. You don’t publish a breathlessly laudatory message like that about a leader with such a controversial record, precisely because for every Spaniard grateful for his contribution to democratization process there will be a family in El Valle with a relative shot on 27F to grieve.

      CAP was a complex figure, with a number of notable achievements and some absolutely gruesome disasters to his credit. The MUD’s statement is simply adulatory. It’s tone-deaf and inappropriate.

    • Omar, nicely put… exactly my feelings. As per the deaths of 27F, it was a terrible thing, and I can’t claim I know much about it, but I lived in Las Adjuntas where the riots were as bad as you can imagine and our feeling when the military came was of relief, malandros were trying to burn stores with the owners inside and things were completely out of control. They did take advantage of the chaos to settle accounts, close to home a few azotes the barrio were executed and I remember one night we had to sleep in the floor for fear of the bullets that could come our way when the malandros fired back. When you live in such a violent environment human rights don’t come to your mind when somthing like that happens, you ask yourself, who did they kill? And if the answers is “one of the bad guys” you let our a breath of relief and prepare to give condolences to the mother who knew her son was a criminal and had already resigned to the fate of having him killed violently either by the police or by his enemies. It was terrible and I am sure many innocents were killed those nights, but I give CAP the benefit of the doubt, he tried to let the police deal with things and did not repress the riots until things were so out of control he didn’t have any options. He definitely did not activate the Plan Avila against a peaceful manifestation coming to Miraflores.

    • Well, what can I say? The MUD’s statement is biased, and so is yours. In journalism the opposite of a laudatory piece of crap is not a derogatory piece of crap, is a well balanced and complex piece, como la vida misma….
      See you in your next post…

    • Here it goes a non-solicited disclosure. I come from a rabid anti-adeco and anti-CAP communist family. My dad, was a former member of urban guerrilas of the JC. My mom, was an irreducible extreme leftist, currently chavista de uña en el rabo. So anti-CAP sources I have had…I never ever voted for the guy or his party, though

    • Here we go again. I frankly find it quite lame to justify any of CAPs marramucias with the same old “life-is-not-black-and-white”, “the-man-was-a-complex-historical-figure” argument.

      Sometimes you do need to call things for what they are, and say as it is, as Quico just did. How many times have we heard chavistas excuse their idol’s misdeeds with exactly the same canned phrases?

    • Manicheism has very little to do with hard facts. Quico’s criticism of CAP in this post is based on solid historical evidence, and quite commonsensical, careful conclusions from that evidence.

      Every single political leader in the history of mankind has embarked in both positive and negative courses of action. It is the balance of these that allow you make a big-picture judgement of their leadership though, there’s nothing “dichotomist” about it, as you say.

  14. Vinz,

    Your reply is per usual one sided and dogmatic.Learn history, it is far more nuanced than your comment.

    You cannot compare isolated incidents with a purposeful policy of intimidation and repression as the one carried out by Chavez.Also intentions are the better part of action.When judging any act, the intention must be understood for a full evaluation of the result.

    You cannot compare Obama’s air strikes on selected Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan where innocents are also killed to the purposeful and indiscretion killing of 9/11.

    Failure to understand this is a failure to understand the oft times great significance of nuance.

    Would you like to equate Obama with Osama Bin Laden ?Use your head Vinz.

  15. Quico,
    Your post reads like a learned version of the virulent anti-adeco tirades I used to listen from my parents and my–alas–now chavista aunt during my ‘cuarta-república’ childhood years.

    While I largely agree with your assessment of the deeply flawed economic policies instituted during the two CAP presidencies, and share your impression that, regardless of their intentions, they were eventually damaging for Venezuela (but hey! tell that to Fernando Henrique Cardoso in the 70s), it also happens that during the 2nd presidency of this “CdM”–as you called him–Venezuelans were finally able to elect governors and majors by direct vote, as opposed to Blanca Ibáñez’ ‘dedazo.’ This was a progressive and profoundly democratic reform that (at least in part) we owe CAP. The COPRE program may have had its flaws, there was–as you rightly point out–no ‘consensus’ whatsoever from the start, etc. Fair enough. But CAP instituted reforms that have provided some of the few remaining spaces for democratic and institutional dissent we have today amidst Chávez’ dictatorship.

    What about violations of human rights, as Vinz points out? Yes, unfortunately this was also the case, and not only during the ‘Caracazo’ but also during the adeca ‘Dirty War’ of the Betancourt and Leoni years against the guerrillas. Let’s call a spade a spade and don’t forget or ignore–as Alek Boyd does–that this is also part of the history of Venezuela’s democratic years.

    • Well one thing is certain, CAP’s death seems to have had an involution effect -back to adolescence- on Francisco Toro, while others suddenly feel they can attribute to me comments I have never made, case in point Vinz and Bilis Negra, whoever she/he may be.

      Vamos a ver, Francisco Toro’s notorious admiration for Venezuelans with degrees in Ivy league unis, has become, within the context of CAP’s death, evidence of corruption, ignorance, and fickleness of character (fashion victim). Toro, who is on record singing the praises of a former minister of CAP (Roberto Smith), now thinks that employing graduates from posh universities, to carry out reforms that he has spoken in favour of, is a mistake, and goes further and calls the guy a CdM (one for the ages BTW FT…) As Omar has rightly stated, the post, the subsequent comments, and the tone, says more about Francisco’s lack of objectivity, than about CAP. All in all, truly pathetic and immature.

      Vinz, who otherwise is quite thoughtful in his commentary, comes out swinging, calling douchebags those who have expressed positive comments about one of the most important politicians of Venezuela’s contemporary history, a politician thanks to whom, for instance, pursuance of post graduate and doctoral studies abroad became a possibility, maybe the case of Vinz’ own mother (note the maybe, before shooting…) Vinz then moves onto putting words in other people’s mouth, and irresponsibly implies that I have said things I have never said. To top it all off, he defines one event in which rebel officers and communists tried to oust a democratically elected government, El Porteñazo, as war crimes.

      As per Bilis Negra, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/war. Again, I must have missed that bit of history, when Venezuela was AT WAR, during Betancourt and Leoni.

    • Alek:
      I respect you as a valid interlocutor and therefore see no sense in continuing a conversation where I write “You know you’re a douchebag when people on Twitter go around chanting hails to your enemy”, and you paraphrase (or understand) that the subject of that sentence is people commenting on Twitter, not Chávez.
      We’re not going to rehash the strawman argument and all that, I’d just like to point out that, at this rate, in 2012 Pinochet is going to look like a bona fide democrat after being ousted during his referendum while homeboy clings on to power, and those revisionist discussions I will not participate in.

    • Apologies for double post.

      Vinz, el respeto, como decia, es mutuo. However, al cesar lo que es del cesar. Es enteramente probable que CAP fuese responsable de violaciones de derechos humanos durante el gobierno de Betancourt. Pero las actuaciones de los políticos deben ser juzgadas en contexto, sin obviar elementos, por ello mi comentario sobre el Porteñazo. Repeler alzamientos militares asociados con comunistas está, en mi opinión, tan justificado como hacer lo propio cuando las rebeliones vienen de la derecha, en tanto que sean alzamientos contra el orden constituido y gobiernos legítimamente constituidos.

      Y tienes mucha razón, cuando dices que a este paso Pinochet va a parecer un paladín democrático al lado de Chavez en el 2012.

    • Alek (et. al.):
      I’ve tried to explain my position in my blog (albeit in Spanish):

      http://www.moebius77.com/blog2/2010/12/cap-se-escribe-con-azo-de-portenazo-y-caracazo/

      I’m not saying CAP should’ve just sat back and watched guerrilleros run amok in Venezuela. But his reaction was way out of line and he used brute military force which caused the deaths of many inocent in order to promote himself politically.
      My full argumentation is in my post. I think civil societies should be very harsh on our leaders since we give them carte blanche to command the military. Therefore, there is no room for mistakes, or miopic, pig-headed, “kill ‘em all!” positions, IMHO.
      Feliz año to all.

  16. It was the Venezuela traumatized and weakened by CAP’s serial mishandling of reform that found its institutions too frail to withstand Chávez’s authoritarian onslaught. And in that sense it was CAP – far more than his pardon-wielding Christian Democratic nemesis – who is to blame for Venzueala’s relapse into dictatorship.

    Missing from this pictorial revisionism: Francisco Toro’s disclosure of his allegiance to COPEI, even when he wasn’t old enough to vote, or committed enough to its civic exercise. To excuse a dormant administration, such as Caldera II, on the basis of damages from CAP II, is questionable, at best. After all, several leaders in Latam have managed to build upon far worse “escombros” than what CAP II left. I’m thinking of Alan García II, after Fuji.

    Oh, and btw, don’t erase this comment, just because you don’t like the tone.

    • My disclosure of allegiance to COPEI must have come to you in a Oxycontin induced delirium, dear…the only political party I’ve ever been a member of is Causa R, back in the 90s…

    • Oxycontin induced deliriumAyyy, que bello. Ahora el economista se cree farmaceuta.
      So I was off the mark, as were others, on your presumed political affiliation. But at least now, we all have an inkling of what might have been disclosed an awful lot earlier than now. I say disclosed, by now, because you’re such a busy little beaver, waving that big pen from your political pulpit. (Btw, I don’t roll my eyes when you set your webbed feet on dry earth.) As for your early allegiance to Causa R, I would suspect, based on your later behavior, that you didn’t vote then, either. But then, that’s understood. Weren’t you all of ten years old, back in 1993?

  17. Let’s examine the Caracazo, 1992 coup and 2002 “coup”:

    1) CAP is slow in putting down riots. Riots increase, civilians begin to die, CAP calls the Army which (including lots of Chavez’ buddies) begin shooting all over the place. CAP knew what happened, covered up the size.

    2) Chavez leads buses of innocent soldiers to a bloody coup in which almost the same amount of people are killed, mostly military, but including civilians. He is a hero.

    3) Chavez threatens and threatens the civilian protests against him. He mobilizes a repressive plan, same plan as called by CAP in 1989, Plan Avila, except there was by now a study showing that it should not be activated. He also mobilizes his armed supporters. In the end two dozen people are killed and he leaves, but returns crying “coup, coup”. Hero again.

    1) Guilty 2) Guilty 3) Guilty

    • One thing is clear: when CAP ordered Plan Avila:

      1-There was a genuine public order emergency.
      2-There was no IACHR order telling him the plan needed to be reformed

      I tend to think that the human rights abuses following the Caracazo were the responsibility of the actual military officers who implemented Plan Avila. Chávez was not only warned by his military high command that it would be unconstitutional to apply Plan Avila in the conditions he did, but he actually ran-around his own chain of command to order it activated.

      This is why my obit focuses on his economic record: I think it makes much more sense to judge the man on the central thrust of the government’s actions during the almost 10 years when he was actually head of state than on the mistakes committed by his military in an extraordinary 48 hour period of unprecedented national emergency.

  18. Of course, it would help, and it would be tremendously complicated too, to separate CAP’s own deeds and intentions from those of his fellow AD members. I feel a judgement is made here of the person, when such a judgement is more adequate to Venezuelan society and political parties, intellectuals and economic actors.

    He has been made a scapegoat and a straw man, with a generous help by you-know-who. A man who is so brave that he only duels duel straw men, because they don’t thrust and they don’t parry.

    Like I said, to me 1976 was the year we started unraveling as a nation. CAP had a powerful hand in picking up some loose threads. But the first threads, and the rest of the work after he was gone…

  19. I don’t understand what the fuzz is all about.
    The man was corrupt at the end,but he wasn’t all that bad after all.
    I wouldn’t glorify him but i’m pretty sure we can all(most) agree that at the very end,he was a democrat,he came in democratically and he left democratically.
    now the red gorilla here wanted to come in forcefully,didt succeed.
    then he went in as a democrat,promising and denying his very nature so people would appeal to him and then,after he was in office,he started shedding that skin.
    I would like to think that in 10-20-50 years we will find out that chavez is the worse thing that could have happened to Venezuela,worse than perez jimenez, worse than gomez and worse than CAP.

  20. Ricardo Haussman, ministro de planificación de CAP en sus últimos años, fue el genio a quien Chávez debe el poder, porque al ambicioso y avaricioso Haussman se le ocurrió la brillante idea de subirle el precio a los alimentos básicos, como la harina de maíz, y al transporte público y eso, en la Venezuela saudita, pareció una cachetada brutal y llevó a la gente de los barrios a bajar del cerro. Haussman pensó que la pobre gente podía aguantar que le quitaran la arepa de la boca, acostumbrados a sufrir; su mentalidad de negrero no pudo preveer que el Bravo Pueblo se iba a tirar a la calle y que para controlarlo había que echarle la fuerza armada del Estado y matarlo. The rest is history. Cuando se armó la grande y se levantó Chávez, Haussman escapó, junto a su amigo Moisés Naím, a Washington, a dejar que los venezolanos se las arreglaran como pudieran. A él y a su amigo los recompensaron los gringos con sendos puestos de dinero, en universidades de prestigio y en el Banco Mundial, y con la revista Foreign Policy.

    • Marieu,
      la gente no tiene memoria o desconocen a los verdaderos causantes del Caracazo. Un ejemplo chiquitico: http://www.slideshare.net/Cedeo3800/vanessa-davies-periodista-de-vtv-y-su-prontuario

      Lo dije en otro foro y lo repito a cada rato. Esas masas no eran acéfalas, El que crea que el pueblo venezolano se levantó de manera voluntaria por los aumentos de la gasolina etc. es bien naive y lo demás es cuento.

      Los que hoy nos gobiernan, por supuesto que se aprovecharon de la situación. Cuando dieron el golpe del 92 tenían una década trabajando en el asuntico. Caracazo incluido.

    • Mariaeu,
      You are factually wrong. Ricardo was not a minister in the first CAPII before de Caracazo. I think he was named a vice-minister after the agreements of the mesa de dialogo and only joined the cabinet as a minister in 1992, after the coup and when everything was falling apart. So when are you going to hablar paja de alguien, inform yourself first. That’s what I do

  21. Causa R Quico!!!! Wow buddy I hope your Grandparents didnt know about that ghost in the closet!!!! hehehe

    Nut I do have to agree with Omar, CAP is neither black nor white, he is grey, so people please do not get carried away with a fact here and there because his history is quite long and complicated.

    On the other hand, comparing CAP with Chavez is… well, compare anybody with Chavez and that person will be seen as Chesus bloody Christ!! Yes, both have been presidents of Venezuela but that is where the comparison ends.

    Happy new year everybody, stop the hating!!!

    My new year blog wish is that I could insult HCF here and my comment will not be erased!!!

  22. ” El diario argentino Clarín publicó en 1999 una nota de análisis donde se dice que la victoria del líder de AD contra los rebeldes “no sirvió para afianzar el sistema sino, por el contrario, para profundizar los cuestionamientos”, y concluye que “la combinación de corrupción y ajustes económicos era más de lo que los venezolanos podían tolerar.”

    En cuanto a su segundo período de gobierno, hoy se le reconoce haber colocado en puestos claves de gobierno a calificados técnicos y especialistas en el área económica (entre sus principales figuras estuvieron los Economistas Moisés Naím, Gerver Torres, Miguel Rodríguez Fandeo y Ricardo Haussmann, que a pesar de sus medidas o como consecuencia de las mismas se llegó a una inflación anual de hasta 81%, la quiebra de empresas como Viasa. El diario argentino Clarín describió las medidas económicas como “medidas de ajuste dictadas por el Fondo Monetario Internacional.”

    • El 81% fue el agno del ajuste, Lusincho habia contenido el cambio mucho tiempo. La quiebra de Viasa fue la politica de no salvar a las empresas ineficientes que no se auto mantenian.

  23. Any politician (or person, for that matter) should be judged in the context of the standards and morals of their times. Even the most benevolent figures from history, when examined by the standards of our current day modern world, will fail.

    One of my personal heroes of the American Revolution was Thomas Jefferson. By the standards of his day, he was an extraordinary man: Statesman, Philosopher, Author, Businessman. However, in modern times, he has been excoriated for owning slaves and for having a relationship with one them. The first was not only common, but (for his position) obligatory in his day. The second was also common, but not discussed in polite company. Had anyone of his day spoken ill of him for these things, they would have been laughed at.

    For those of you over 50 or so, years old, consider if your statements and actions as a youngster in your 20’s would hold up to the standards of today’s world… Be honest. I know that some of mine wouldn’t.

    Carlos Andres Perez, whatever his merits and failings, deserves to be judged in the context of his times. He was the president and the head of state of one of the largest countries in South America. That alone merits some respect. Furthermore, when the voters said, “No.” to him, he left office and no one had to pry him out with weapons and bloodshed… twice! That warrants even more respect, especially when we consider that there was not a huge precedent for such democratic behavior.

    We should be gentle with the memories of our former leaders. They are no longer able to defend themselves and these memories make up the narrative of our history. This narrative makes up the plate of history that we feed to our children and use to nourish their fledgling patriotism. We should not sprinkle that narrative with too much hate and discord, lest the dish be a bitter one.

    • Well said, Roy. And your comment on the need for retrospective bears repeating. Like yourself, I’m relieved that my statements and actions as a 20-something, long ago, are not judged in today’s context. But how many twenty- and thirty-somethings, in this very moment, will have the courage to admit to their immature optics when they look back, twenty or thirty years from now?

      I only have one concern, and that is your admonishment to be gentle with the memories of our former leaders.

      I would like to see “be gentle” replaced with “be balanced,” with weights placed according to the atrocities committed.

    • Syd,

      Thanks for your comments. I tried to wax a bit poetic at the end there, and poetry is not my forté. As for my use of the “gentle”, I meant that we should be more than just “balanced”. Brutal honesty is for the serious historians. I was discussing the legacy of CAP that we allow to be woven into the fabric of the culture.

      I suppose it is too late, in any case. Chavismo is, no doubt, crowing over the demise of one more “Oligarca”. And many in the Opposition are assisting in the destruction of CAPs legacy. What I am trying to say is that if a country teaches it citizens that its past was a noble and honorable one, they are more likely to act with nobility and honor themselves. All successful countries create heroic and noble myths about their past and origins. These myths are not necessarily falsehoods, but are often extreme exaggerations. The country that deliberately destroys any positive self-image about its past must create new positive myths or suffer a complete breakdown of societal cohesion. The ex-USSR understood that and created a mythology that sustained them through WWII, which, in turn, created even more heroic stories and mythology. Note that in Russia, WWII was called “The Great Patriotic War”. This mythology (or as I used in my previous post “historical narrative”) then carried and served the Soviet Union, which was by most other standards, a disaster, for another fifty years.

      Just as when the death of a family member is an opportunity to reconcile our relationship with that person and make our own peace with their memory,
      The death of an ex-president is an opportunity for a country to do the same. How “gentle” and generous a people are with the memories of their ex-leaders is a reflection of how that society sees themselves. Any society which is ready to turn on their ex elected leaders, like a pack of hyenas, has serious self-image problems.

    • Roy, based on your all-encompassing recommendation to be kind, I guess you could view the Volkswagen and the Autobahn as worthwhile legacies of a former dictator, never mind recounting the atrocities, for, well, only historians have a monopoly on the fact and construct of the past.

    • “That alone merits some respect. Furthermore, when the voters said, “No.” to him, he left office and no one had to pry him out with weapons and bloodshed… twice!”

      Minor quibble. The voters had nothing to with him leaving. As per the ’61 constitution you can’t be a presidential candidate for re-election. As far as I know the two times he was a presidential candidate he won. So in effect, the voters never said no to him.

    • “Had anyone of his day spoken ill of [Jefferson] for these things, they would have been laughed at.”

      Jefferson’s alleged relationship with Sally Hemings was extensively publicized in his life, by his political enemies. It was said that “he brought his own children to the hammer, and made money of his debaucheries”.

      And earlier on, when Dr. Samuel Johnson said “How is it that the loudest yelps for liberty come from the drivers of slaves?” he was including Jefferson.

  24. Roy, as a person who voted for CAP, despite the objections of my copeyano family, I agree with your comments because of your argumentation. It is not easy for me to agree with them, as I am both a Catholic and a Socialist in the general sense of the word Chilean/Argentinian/Brasilian/Ecuatorian/German sense of the word… for now

  25. VIASA era una empresa vital para Venezuela y un orgullo nacional; habría que haberla limpiado, pero a la vez subvencionado, en vez de seguir a los Chicago Boys a Milton Friedman y a las polícias neoliberales cuyo fin ha sido el bail-out (talk about subvenciones, o socialismo para ricos, private profit public loss) de los banqueros ladrones y especuladores frenéticos. Hasta el Papa Juan Pablo II, que admitía como ni malo ni bueno al capitalismo, habló de un capitalismo salvaje, y no creo que se le pueda tildar de revolucionario chavista. Lo mismo hizo mi admirada canciller Angela Merkel, cuyo partido cristiano y socialista, representa la mejor opción hoy en día, a mi entender. A veces es necesario subvencionar y, de hecho, se da no solamente con empresas sino con PAISES, como hace USA con alguno que no sobreviviría sin ayuda.

    • Viasa era una empresa vital para Venezuela!?!?!?!?!?!?

      An airline vital to a country?!?!?!?!?

      Just 2 examples Swissair and PanAm went down and I did not see neither country in peril because of it. Let me put it in a simple way, an airline is not vital to any country

    • Someone already adressed the airline issue. I’ll add one more example: LAN Chile has been a private firm for the past 20 years if I’m not mistaken.

      One more thing, Angela Merkel is not a socialist, not even a social-democrat, she leads a centre-right party coalition. Germany’s previous chancellor (Gerhard Schröder) was a social-democrat.

      Cheers

  26. Gee Vinz said to me:

    “I wish I was cold and calculating like you ”

    Woah!

    This is incorrect English.It should be ” I wish I were”.

  27. En términos “simples”, sobre lo de “ninguna línea aérea es vital para ningún país”, pues depende de cuántas líneas aéreas tenga el país y de cuánto control quiera sobre su espacio aéreo, entre otras consideracioncillas. EL-AL es vital para Israel, dice Israel

  28. Merkel is a Christian Democrat CDU indeed but she operates within a Germany that is heavily “socialized”, its moderation being considered leftist by the USA republicans. It has been a long time that both the Social Democrats & the Christian Democrats have merged in praxis though not in theory, whatever is left of it. Not to depart from the present assessment of CAP, my point is that many countries in the world, from China to Chile and Germany to Brazil, have adopted mixed systems that combine the traits of capitalism with those of socialism, by supervising both (or by paying for the lack of supervision, as in the case of current China, or in the case of the USA when the New Deal social net of security was undermined by Reagan/Gingrich/W Bush. May this opportunity, the physical death of Carlos Andrés Pérez, r.i.p., allow the Venezuelans to implement a more balanced and mixed system, without the need of foreign intervention and its correlative reaction, the latter being undesirable although necessary at times.

  29. OK, Mariaeu fromo copeyano roots, she voted for CAP, but still sounds like a chavista, declares herself a socialist, admires Merkel and is fan of the German DCU and pope JPII, she mistakenly blames Ricardo H for El Caracazo, says VIASA was vital for Venezuela, and hints she is a catholist (cothilic + socialist) a la Ecuatorian (sic) way…..
    It’s just me, or somebody else lost track?

  30. & Omar, don’t worry, you are not alone buddy, it’s not “just you”, the people in the MUD are with you today, in their apology of the dead CAP they helped overthrow when the bankers told them he had become cumbersome, medio fastidiosón pakeme tiendas

  31. Omar, te voy entendiendo en lo “mixed feelings” al releer algunos de tus comentarios, tan loados por tus amigos: “comments are way behind you … a laudatory piece of crap is not a derogatory piece of crap …chavista de uña en el rabo”

  32. Quico:

    Just a quick comment. Back in October you said “Regardless of how disgusting we may find them, chavistas are human beings, and as such they are deserving of dignity and respect” in reference to Izarra’s wife miscarrying their twins and some comments that were being tweeted.

    I just read that “Hace días, al conocer la noticia del fallecimiento de Carlos Andrés Pérez, el ministro Izarra escribió varios tweeds contra el ex Presidente y resumió que a Miami van a morir los corruptos, narcotraficantes, paracos….”

    Fred

    • Ugh what can I say it’s a chavista, yes, what chavista has manners? Maybe one or two I can debate that point with any chavistas any time of the day they know it’s true, they can say whatever they want but oh they get sooo ofended when somebody say something harsh to them.

      I think the worst anybody can do is level themselves to a chavista hater mode. That’s one reason Venezuela is in part the mess it is right now.

  33. I go away for a few days and I come back to see a sampablera, brother against brother, everybody at each other’s throats, worshipping a golden calf. WTF?!

    For the record, I’m on team Quico-Vinz on this one.

  34. Guys,

    Please read “La Rebelión de los Náufragos” and then come back for debate. I disliked CAP a lot, but with the years and after my experience doing the PhD in the UK (thanks to a scholarship from Fonacit, which derives from Fundayacucho, one of the most creative and visionary programs ever created in Venezuela, and guess what, CAP was the guy who put the “reales” to create fundayacucho), I have reflected on what I would do with the messy venezuela and surprise!! I agree with many things that CAP and his team did. I learned all this thing paying attention to how the UK system has created a strong economy, low inflation, top industries, and a world class higher education system.

    Just imagine if you were the president of Venezuela, the rational thing to do would be: I am going to appoint the best guys in the key positions (independently if they belong to my political party or even if they did not vote for me), because I will need the best minds to solve this mess. That was what CAP did, he managed to have the best ministerial team that a president could have in Venezuela: Moises Naím (PhD MIT) in Fomento, Miguel Rodríguez (PhD Yale) and then Ricardo Haussman (PhD Cornell) in Cordiplan, Roberto Smith (PhD Harvard) in Comunicaciones, Gabriela Febres Cordero (cum laude from San Francisco) in Exports, José Antonio Abreu (the founder of “El Sistema”) in Cultura, and so on… Those guys were the best professionals in their area at that time in Venezuela, they knew their business. The problems were that they were bad teachers when informing the country about what they were doing, and the resentment and selfishness of the political “élites” that wanted CAP´s head.

    This book is a masterpiece that confirmed my assumptions of what happened, please read it and may be … we won´t be so harsh with CAP, he had many mistakes , but he was brave politician with vision, that combination is not a common flower in our garden. Mirtha Rivero gave us an extraordinary insight about the coup d`etat against CAP and the philosophy of his goverment, and I must say, I wish that he was succesful.

    Moises Naím said something brilliant in the book: “They (venezuelan élites) were fighting for cake crumbs, but at the end they lost the whole cake”

    Looking forward to hearing from you (after you read the book)

  35. Peralta, I replied to you in your blog; I agree with some of the things you say, and appreciate your stand on education, given yours at the U.K. I tend to disagree on your validation of these FMI-sponsored “experts” and geniuses, whose prescriptions gave way to the “medidas de austeridad”, ergo to the caracazo and eventually… Chávez

  36. @Furth, I beg to difer & yes I’m playing the devil’s abogada. CAP did envision a macro Venezuelan project and he tried to carry it out. Whether he succeeded or not, he did leave a craterous impact on our Venezuelan consciousness, rooted perhaps in the Bolivarian delirious dream at the Chimborazo peak. Starting with the nationalization of the oil industry & the Guayana undertakings, following with Fundayacucho, and with his PanLatinoamerican initiatives in the Caribbean, Andean & Amazonic regions (Operación Poncho Verde), our first Miss Universe, and on and on. As a man so close to Romulo Betancourt, the democratic antidote to Castro, as per historian Hugh Thomas, who dedicated to RB his History of the [20th cent.] World, CAP was supposed to go with the flow, but instead became an alarming bunion on the main toe of the US’s right foot. His Second Coming, pun intended, was an attempt at proving himself worthy of FMI help, much needed in the “mortgaged Venezuela” of “high” (ditto) hopes he helped create, albeit semiconsciously (as in “high”, not as in the Andean Chimborazo). I say these things about Carlos Andrés Pérez, with mixed feelings, as I was indeed one of the youthful-1st voters who voted for him (and for Pedro Tinoco, imagine quel melange!). Upon finding out about my 1st voter incursion, I remember my poor father, a loyal copeyano & UCV professor of Mathematics and Physics, saying with a smirk: “¡Ay María Eugenia!, jamás hubiera creído que llegaría el día en que te dijera ‘te acabas de convertir en la prueba ambulante de que fue mala idea el voto femenino'”. ¡Ja! le dije yo: “ese hombre sí caminaaa, va de frente y da la caaara”. Venezuela iba de frente, caminando a la velocidad de los años 70, derechita al despeñadero. Pero yo no me daba cuenta de ello ni podía dármela tampoco. En ese momento, como estudiante de historia en la UCV y profesora de Berlitz, donde enseñaba español a los ingenieros de Alcasa que iban a encargarse de Venalum, yo sólo escuchaba a los que me querían hablar de las grandezas de Venezuela, mi belleza, sus posibilidades y capacidad extraordinaria. La Caracas nocturna en la que yo salía a visitar artistas, escritores o políticos, en compañía de mi novio du jour, más joven que yo, el periodista Juan Carlos Palenzuela miembro del MAS por ese entonces, era una ciudad que no admitía miedos, ni siquiera cuando un malandro me acercó a la sien una mano temblorosa de cocaína. Al día siguiente, yo como si no hubiera pasado nada. Y Juan Carlos también: ese día publicó algo en El Universal y no fue sobre Ida Gramko o Luis Luksik o José Vicente; fue sobre “un sueño que tuvo mi amiga sobre una pintura de Alirio Rodríguez que salía de ella y era nuestro hijo”. Para dar una idea de la parranda mental que nos traímos en la Venezuela vertiginosa de CAP.

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