Monday, July 17, 2006


1953 -- Opposition parties force elections, but the leadership arranges for a plebiscite that can only have the reelection of Pérez Jiménez as the outcome. A military uprising against him is put down. Jails become filled with political prisoners, schools are closed and the student movement is repressed. Nevertheless, the popular movement gains strength. Intellectuals, doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers, all denounce the régime. A general strike is called and Pérez Jiménez, with no longer any support, flees to Santo Domingo.
1958. The Larrazábal government includes members of the oligarchy who are to play a decisive role in the future of the country. The first unemployment insurance is instituted. Political parties are again legalized, and their members in exile are allowed to return. Thousands of citizens begin to agitate politically, to the consternation of the oligarchy. In the Pacto de Punto Fijo, the Democratic Forces propose a government that includes all parties.
1964. Rómulo Betancourt wins the elections with 1,284,000 votes. According to the Pacto de Punto Fijo, the government is made up of several parties; AD, URD and COPEI. However, the communist Party is excluded, due to the anti-communism of Betancourt, who courts the favor of the imperialists, the bourgeoisie and the conservative military.
As a reaction to this government, a new party is formed, called the movement of the revolutionary left (MIR) which declares itself anti-imperialist, anti-feudal and for a national revolution and socialism.
Under the obligation of the US government, Betacourt implements sanctions against Cuba and attempts to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro. The URD joins the PCV and the MIR as opposition forces and the student movement gains strength. There is also greater repression by the government. It suspends the Constitution, intervenes in the universities, shuts down opposition newspapers and closes down political headquarters. This forces the left parties underground and armed guerrillas begin to appear. General Castro León in exile declares his intent to bring down the Betancourt government.
Petroleum extraction remains in foreign hands, which takes 50% of the profits out of country. Venezuela joins OPEC, along with Irak, Iran, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Under Betancourt the price for a barrel of oil reaches a new low of $1.95.
CEPAL of the United Nations recommends the following measures for the developed countries: agrarian reform, administrative reform, tax reform, diversification of exports, educational reform, import-export duty protection, credits, a greater role of the government in social and economic developments and greater integration of Latin America.
A bomb is set off as Betancourt's car goes down the street, killing the Minister of Defense, his wife, another military and a passerby on the street. This act is planned by Pérez Jiménez and Leonidas Trujillo from the Dominican Republic, and denounced before the Organization of American States. Pérez Jiménez is extradited and put in jail at San Juan de los Morros.
Revolutionary nationalist sectors of the military form the Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN). the guerrillas are made up of students and professors who take to the mountains. The third infantry Marine Battalion rebels and occupies the city of Carúpano.
In an attempt to recover civil liberties. militaries of the Naval Base at Puerto Cabello take over several areas and supply arms to 100 guerrillas. The rebellion is put down by the National Guard and costs hundreds of dead and wounded.
1960-- The law of agrarian reform. Of 22,000,000 hectares, 80% is in the hands of less than 9,000 landowners. 350,000 families, 97% of landowners, occupy barely 2 1/2 million hectares, that is 12% of arable lands. Illiteracy, exploitation and poverty continue to be the lot of the peasants. 100,000 families are given a token per cent of the land but this does not keep up with an increase in population. Moreover, there are no ecological studies, traditions are ignored, technology is imported,, and the natural resources remain in peril.
1963 -- Seven political parties participate in the new elections, which declare Raúl Leoni president. The communist Party abandons armed struggle, and, newly legalized, returns to mass politics and a broad united front. There is a schism within the left, with the PCV working within the political system, while the MIR continues to fight in the guerrilla movement.
1969 -- Rafael Caldera is elected president, a member of the social Christian party of COPEI. Caldera supports ideological pluralism, renews diplomatic relations with Cuba, establishes relations with President Allende of Chile, and with the Soviet Union.
A new schism on the left the results in the formation of the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) as a party of a new type that to this day acts within the political party system.
The petroleum industry is nationalized without indemnization. Venezuela has the technical and administrative capacity to run the oilfields. This measure is considered necessary for the development of the country. There are moves toward the integration of South América which result in the signing of the Andean Pact. Signatories are: Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Perú .
In spite of nationalization, corruption allows foreign companies to continue skimming off the top, with the help of Venezuelan nationals, who get their cut. By 1978 the foreign companies have recouped their losses. Venezuela remains technologically dependent, unable to diversify thanks to contracts with foreign companies.
1970- Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías enters the military Academy at the age of 17. The Carrillo wars are over and the country appears to enter into relative democracy and stability. Chávez studies military theory and is inspired by Mao-Tse-Tung. His brother joins him in Venezuelan Revolutionary party. Chávez believes that there must be a close relationship between the people and the Army. Other writers he reads are; Klaus Heller, Bolívar, Páez, Napoleon and Hannibal. He grows to see democracy as the government of the people, of human rights and civil rights. Bolívar identifies democracy as "the greatest happiness for the people." He sees his fellow soldiers as the people; peasant boys from the neighborhood. He begins to think of how to increase their self-esteem, their unity, their loyalty to the homeland. At this time at the military academy he becomes friends with a son of Omar Torrijos, who was murdered by the CIA. Chávez becomes a toriijista.
Algeria nationalizes its petroleum, followed by Lybia, Syria and Iraq. These countries immediately become demonized by the United States. The rise in oil prices results in hostility from the oil buying countries.
1971 Chávez is influenced by the coup against Allende. In the military academy he becomes friends with José Vicente Rangel, later his vice-president.
1974 -- Carlos Andrés Pérez becomes president. A rise in oil prices (from 1.92 dollars a barrel to 14.35 dollars a barrel) gives him enormous resources but chronic unemployment continues. The oil industry does not take into account the needs of other sectors of the society. Inflation (68%) makes the poor more and more miserable. Public spending sharply increases; everything is imported and bought at dollar prices, from luxury airplanes to the most advanced industrial plants. Machinery, materials, technicians, administrators, are all paid for without any limits. Andrés Pérez begins to spend more than he has in the treasury and the national debt rises to 100 billion bolívares. In spite of the original nationalization, foreign companies are indemnified and continue to receive local assistance. Attempts are made to develop alternative forms of energy.
1975 -- Hugo Chávez graduates from the military academy. He is ordered to torture peasants and refuses.
1978 -- Chávez has a meeting with Maeiro and Pablo Medina. Luís Herrera Campíns of the COPEI is elected president, inheriting a debt of 80 billion bolívares and a bureaucracy that has grown from 300,000 to 700,000.
1982 Chávez forms of the revolutionary bolivarian movement.
1983–Jaime Lusinchi is elected president.
1988 – Andrés Pérez of the AD is elected president once again. He follows the neoliberal program and the recommendations of the international monetary fund which include; raising prices on public services, such as water, public sanitation, and the gradual elimination of subsidies in education, transportation and health. This has the result of raising prices, where merchants hoard goods to sell them at a markup later.
1989. El Caracazo. The population takes to the streets protesting the economic policies of Andrés Pérez, and is brutally repressed. The revolutionary bolivarian movement with Chávez decides to take up arms. The draconian measures of the international monetary fund give rise to street protests, violent demonstrations and looting. After two days of disturbances the army is called in to put down the rebellion. Hundreds are left dead and wounded.
Corruption in the Pérez government reaches new heights. Billions of bolívares are exchanged below the official rate, at the black market prices, defrauding public monies. Government cars wind up in private ownership. Andrés Pérez is accused of misuse of 250 million bolívares. Many of his deputies were also involved in corruption. The president is put on trial.
1992 Chávez instigates a rebellion against the government with 6,000 men, but fails from lack of popular support, on one hand, and sabotage by ultra left groups on the other. Chávez surrenders and is jailed.
1993. Caldera, supported by COPEI, becomes president. Chávez is freed and he continues his organizing activities. He transforms the movement into a popular movement by going throughout the country talking to people in the village is in the towns.
1999 — Chávez Frías is elected president. He calls for a nationwide constitutional Congress. Chávez inherits the country in a state of economic recession. He enlists the army in a civilian and military alliance to take care of the most urgent social problems. This alliance participates in the construction of new housing and repairing the infrastructure, recovering schools, hospitals, etc.
Chávez promulgates the Constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela, which is ratified in a nation-wide referendum. The Constitution deals with the geography, sovereignty and divisions of Venezuela, human and civil rights and duties, the rights of political, social, family, cultural, educational, economic, indigenous and environmental groups and activities. It also deals with the uses of public power and international relations, state and municipal rights, the legislative power, the national assembly (congress), the executive, the judicial, the rights of citizens, the electoral powers, the socio-economic system and the role of the state, fiscal policies, national security, and other guarantees and reforms.
2000 -- The Chávez Government enters a new phase of consolidation, reducing poverty and bringing about important social and economic reforms. 49 laws are introduced having to do with agricultural and other land development, hydrocarbons, fishing, micro finances and social security, which grant pensions to everyone in the country at the age of 65. Free medical care is instituted throughout the country, as is a free school lunch program. Attention is given to the indigenous communities. Scholarships are given. The government invests in education, health, housing organization, sports and culture. Spending on education rises from 3% to 7%, and health spending reaches 6% of the GNP.
A growing resistance on the part of corporations and communications consortiums manifests itself. The government calculates that $100 billion in hard-currency have fled the country, five times the national debt.
2002 -- This is most difficult phase of the Chávez government. Opposition corporations invoke general strikes and there is an attempt at a coup d'etat. The petroleum industry is paralyzed for several months, causing great losses, making it very difficult to go forward with the social programs. The agrarian reform starts to pick up support. 1,500,000 hectares are turned over to 130,000 families, with a benefit to 650,000 inhabitants. Cooperatives (from 800 to 50,000) in the countryside are established, with easy credits. There is a distribution of property in the cities, giving title to families in poor neighborhoods. The titles can be used as collateral for small loans, and allow the inhabitants to obtain water and electricity and improving the infrastructure of the streets etc. Special banks are established; a women's bank, a bank of social and economic development and a people's bank which supplies micro-credits.
In view of the fierce objections by the opposition, the government is obliged to institute parallel structures that are more efficient and that include people's participation. This gives birth to the Missions, geared toward the poorest sectors of the country.
Misión Robinson is geared toward overcoming illiteracy. 1,270,000 people learn to read in six months. Misión Ribas is geared toward helping high school dropouts finish their education. 629,000 people join the program. Most of the money for this mission is financed by the petroleum industry (PDVSA).
Misión Sucre allows people to go college. 470,000 high school graduates are able to continue their education. 140,000 scholarships are given, and the Bolivarian university is created.
Misión Zamora turns land over to the peasants.
Misión Mercal sells food and medicines at extremely low-cost, distributing them throughout 2,000 outlets in the country. 7 million people are benefitted. Free restaurants are administrated by this program.
Misión Miranda deals with ex-soldiers who are unemployed. They receive the minimum salary and are trained to enter the job market.
Misión Piar creates cooperatives in the mining areas to facilitate the construction of housing and recuperation of a degraded environment.
Misión Vuelvan Caras trains 1,200,000 unemployed in the poorest areas who are given scholarships to go to school and into the job market. They study between six months to two years and are trained by others who have gone to the program.
Barrio Adentro is a cooperative effort with Cuba, whereupon health committees and clinics with 10,000 doctors permanently in attendance are instituted where previously there had been no health care. They develop a program of health education, training local people to take over the clinics, make house calls etc.
Other missions are Misión Negra Hipólita, which takes care of street children the homeless and other indigents, and Misión Guaicaipuro, which is geared to reinstate the original rights of 540,000 indigenous people.


In fact, the central government is weak, and it has to allow federalism, which favors the countryside. The constitutions of this time are a combination of centralism and federalism to try to reconcile the different sectors. The cities want a centralized government, while the landowners want federalism. The lack of communication favors the ruling class in the country, who is more interested in its region that in the nation itself. This isolation presents an obstacle to a national market, which is favored by the rising bourgeoisie and foreign economic interests. These conflicts lead to a series of wars.
The ruling class in the countryside, who has come to power as a result of the independence struggle by taking over Spanish land holdings, needs the popular sectors from whom they extract loyalty by various means. Thus the figure of the Caudillo Nacional Autocrático appears as a model of national unity for the next several decades. The autonomous attitudes of the provinces give origin to rivalry between leaders, so that one is supreme at one time only to be thrown out and replaced by another at a later date, and so on. Under these conditions the political process can only be resolved through civil wars.

1898. Andrade. Cipriano Castro.
The border dispute with English Guyana is submitted to arbitration in Paris. Venezuela loses more than 100,000 square km of its territory as a result.
Cipriano Castro uses as his slogan "New men, new ideals, new procedures." He attempts to unify all the warring factions in the government. He asks the bankers for loan in order to pay huge debts that have been incurred, and when the bankers refuse he puts them in jail. The bankers relent, but at the cost of becoming Castro’s enemies to the point of supporting armed uprising against him. Some other companies that are affected are: New York & Bermúdez company, which has the monopoly on asphalt, the Orinoco steamship Co. which controls navigation on the river, a German company that controls railroads, and a French company that controls communications. All of them engage in intrigues against the government, but Castro is able to defeat all these uprisings. Warships from Germany, France, Italy , Holland and the US begin to appear off the coast of Venezuela. Castro meets them with six thousand men at La Victoria and defeats their armies after 22 days. One of his lieutenants, Juan Vicente Gómez, bides his time until he can take over the government and institute one of the bloodiest dictatorships in the history of the country.
1900- The external debt is 190 million bolívares, to which are added countless claims from foreign companies, some of them ridiculous and exaggerated, that total 160 million additional bolívares. This is also the beginning of US imperialism in Latin America. William McKinley declares: the Monroe doctrine has not been founded to defend the American republics in their evil deeds nor in their violations of international rights. His successor Theodore Roosevelt proclaimes "speak softly but carry a big stick," referring to the countries south of the US border. It was at this time the United States takes over the building of the Panamá Canal.
A wave of indignation at European encroachment sweeps over the Venezuelan people. The German and English embassies are stoned, their flags are burned. Castro frees political prisoners and jails those who support Germany and England. Volunteers are formed to fight against the aggressors. Castro issues the rallying cry; "The insolent foot of the foreigner has profaned the sacred soil of the motherland." The aggressors bomb and land at Puerto Cabello and loot the place. Eventually they are repulsed. Public opinion in the United States, Germany, France, and England denounces the aggression.
Germany and England demand immediate payment of the debt, a debt that has been imposed by force, and which is of little interest to the European powers but rather a means of permanently taking over Venezuelan territory.
Castro modernizes the Army, and this is the decisive factor in maintaining control of the government. Castro becomes enthroned in the seat of power. The price the Venezuelan people pay for unity and the repulsion all foreign aggression is a tyrannical, dissolute and decadent government.
1908. Castro becomes ill, and goes to Europe for treatment. Gómez takes advantage of this situation and usurps power, becoming president for 27 years until 1935, when he dies at the age of 78. The Gómez government is marked by greed and illicit enrichment of all his friends that has never before seen in the country. Gómez becomes the largest landowner of all, much of it fallow land. He controls 60% of the cattle industry. Gaming is legalized and becomes the property of the Gómez family. He takes control of river and coastal navigation, electric companies of various cities, the sugar refineries, coffee and cacao plantations, small industries of clothing, soap, cigarettes, candles, oils, hotels etc.
1911 - Gómez modernizes the military school of Caracas,
making the military a professional career. Cadets, however, in conjunction with intellectuals and students, began to conspire against the dictator.
1914- With a First World War there is a new factor in the Venezuelan economy: petroleum, which is to play a decisive role in the prosperity of the Gómez regime. Gómez returns the concessions to the New York & Bermúdez company and allows for oil exploration in the eastern part of the country.
1920 --- Gómez creates a school of military aviation and buys planes from France and Germany for the purpose. He builds roads to make way for automobile traffic. These have the effect of mobilizing the Army into the interior.
1926 --- Petroleum exports rise from 100,000 bolívares in 1916 to more than 250 million. Gómez gives more and more concessions to the point where Venezuela is systematically sacked by foreign companies, among them British Caribbean Petroleum Co., Standard Oil and Gulf Oil. Venezuelan law is written by lawyers and CEOs of these companies for their own benefit. These companies have an incalculable influence on national life by means of bribes, donations, subsidies, commissions, salaries and other means of administrative corruption. Their clients are; the dictator himself, his ministers, state governors, customs administrators, and others. Racial discrimination appears once more, brought to Venezuela by the petroleum companies. Even Venezuelan women married to North Americans cannot live in the US compound.
1928- 200 protesting students are jailed, but this in turn unleashes a wave of protest and strikes during several days, and the dictatorship has to back off. Even so, the political drama of 27 years unfolds behind the silent walls of the jails, the long sentences, the torture of those who do not agree with the absolute power of Gómez.
Foreign companies begin by exploiting hydrocarbons, then branch out into iron extraction, agriculture, commerce and transportation until they absorb all aspects of the national economy, including social and political life.
Indirect investment is that which is only there to supply interests and dividends. Direct investment is that which transfers capital from one country to the other and installs companies that the investor is going to run. This creates the growing concentration of capital in bigger and bigger companies that absorb or displace smaller ones in the formation of monopolies, raising prices and profits.
Countries in Europe and the United States, with their technological advances, are forced to penetrate other countries and to compete with each other on the world market. In order to be successful, the corporations have to control the raw materials. This is how they gain control of nitrate in Chile, sugar in Cuba, bananas in Central America, and petroleum in México and Venezuela, where the United States gains supremacy over Europe. Petroleum becomes the most important and most lucrative economy in the world, especially after the First World War. The ruling class in Venezuela stands to gain from such largesse and the Gómez government welcomes them with open arms.
Judges and other functionaries are bought to support the foreign companies, who threaten or declare war on anyone who objects. Bethlehem Steel, Royal Dutch Shell and standard oil, owned by John D. Rockefeller, are the leading companies at this time.
All-important decisions are made outside the country.
On the positive side, Venezuelan workers are trained in the extraction of petroleum, peasants become salaried workers forming a national working class. Civil and military bureaucracy increased. This leads to the existence of two Venezuelas, one connected with petroleum (benefitting no more than 3% of the population), and the rest, who are condemned to their traditional backward existence, a backwardness that facilitates their exploitation. The new higher incomes increase the demand for goods. Basic goods are met by the national economy, but the new rich demand imported industrialized and luxury goods, creating further dependency and further benefitting the developed countries. The needs of the rich are not only met, but artificially created for their satisfaction.
Foreign investors in Venezuela justify open intervention to protect their interests. They bring all the material and equipment from abroad as well as all consumer items that their American workers need, thereby setting up enclaves in isolation from the rest of the population. Any Venezuelan who wants to use foreign technology has to pay high quotas for the patents. Their presence forces the rest of the economy to remain underdeveloped.
The Venezuelan economy becomes an assembly industry, that is, parts are imported for assembly inside the country. With one or two factories that produce more than the national market requires, the Corporation keeps part of the productive capacity of the companies idle, and allows for monopolies. This contributes to the high cost of living.
Capitalism grows without being able to absorb all the workers, creating great unemployment and poverty. Foreign companies are forced to keep export duties low and import duties high, which further impoverishes the nation.
The world crisis of 1929 plunges prices to the very bottom ruining the landowners and the peasants who depend on them. The commercial class in Venezuela recovers by integrating itself to the world capitalist system. An educated artisan class is also impoverished and joins the working-class, bringing with it ideas of unionization and struggle.
The insertion of a foreign capitalist class into the social structure of the country becomes a solid political power in politics, supported by the local ruling class who stands to benefit by this.
The local business class is formed by some elements of the landowners and the political bureaucracy tied to imports, real estate, transportation and other local services. As the economy grows the lines between merchant, industrial, and finance capitalism are lost. There is parallel growth in class consciousness in the capacity to organize to defend its own interests. The working-class grows from 70,000 workers to 141,000 in eight years.
1925 -- In spite of the dictatorship there is a strike in Zulia state which wins an increase from five to seven bolívares a day.
1937 -- A group of exiled Venezuelans in México found the first Marxist party called the Revolutionary Venezuela Party (PRV).
1931 --- The first manifesto of the Communist Party of Venezuela is published. It promotes a revolutionary class-based ideology, and is against imperialist exploitation.
1935. López Contreras becomes president. During this time the people awake after many years of dictatorship and begin to participate more actively in politics. Gomecistas from the dictatorship are afraid they will lose their privileges. López Contreras breaks with them and forms a moderate government. He frees political prisoners and authorizes those who have been exiled to return. He allows freedom of the press, and demonstrations, while at the same time allowing the members of the dictatorship to leave and take their fortunes with them. At this time the struggle against the cuadillos is reduced to the struggle between political parties and the beginnings of a democratic system. In spite of the reforms, the government remains anti-communist and opposition members have to work underground. The government also objects to unions and peasant's leagues that begin to spring up around the country.
The president is elected only by the national assembly (Congress) while the population can only vote for local and national representatives if they are 21 years old and can read and write, in a country that is 75% illiterate. People begin to object to these measures and demonstrations are put down violently. Eventually the government allows members of the democratic opposition to enter the government.
1936 -- Working-class movements engage in battles against foreign companies, such as during the petroleum strike of the period. The collective contract establishes the 8- hour day and benefits, forcing the owners to build housing, schools, and hospitals for the workers. In spite of this, the petroleum companies turn over only a token percentage of their earnings, and the agreement is not honored in practice. Landowners continue to steadily encroach upon peasant lands.
The first working law is approved allowing for unions. A national strike is put down by López Contreras, defending the petroleum companies. The unionized working class continues to grow and reaches 1,789,429, numbering 60% of the working population. Domestic servants, public administrators, other professionals, students and small property owners all continue to grow in numbers. In spite of this, 50 per cent of the urban population is in the informal sector, unemployed, all with the lowest-paying temporary jobs. Delinquency rises. Foreign workers crowd the cities.
The national Democratic Party is formed, bringing together different left groups. López Contreras attempts to create greater unity among the Latin American countries.
1941 --- Angarita becomes president. He breaks with the Axis powers, declaring that both petroleum and the war serve to help Venezuela obtain better contracts with foreign companies. Venezuela establishes diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.
Angarita legalizes the Accion Democratica party, which becomes the opposition party. Thanks to a constitutional reform, communists are allowed to become active in the Popular Union.
1943 — The petroleum reform. Angarita declares that the petroleum refineries should belong to the Venezuelan people and serve as a source of work for Venezuelans. Foreign companies have been taking the super profits out of the country and are only interested in continuing production in the fight against fascism. The reform charges them import taxes and eliminates the exorbitant customs duties and tariffs that are charged to Venezuela. This results in a substantial increase for the public treasury.
1945 --- Militaries y civilians. The political system that has been in place for 100 years is that the representatives nominate senators, following orders from the executive. Municipalities designate congresspersons. Senators and representatives in the congress in turn name the president of the Republic.
Now, political parties start to agitate for direct, universaland secret national elections, something that has been done only in local elections up to now. A constitutional reform is proposed. Angarita rejects the proposal, with the result that he is overthrown by a military coup, which promises to bring about general elections. Four parties run candidates; Acción Democrá
tica, the Communist Party ,COPEI, and the URD. The overwhelming winner is Acción Democrática. with Rómulo Gallegos at the head.
1946. Rómulo Gallegos is the first president to be elected through direct universal suffrage. His regime only lastes nine months. He is overthrown by another military coup.
1948 — The Pérez Jimenez dictatorship. The military junta outlaws all left parties. Efforts are made at this time to unify all national social classes to overthrow the dictatorship. FEDECAMARAS, the main capitalist organization, plunges into neo-liberalism, defending the freedom of corporations, the need to restrict the national governments in economic life, the need to cooperate with foreign capital. They feel that this will guarantee the development of the country led by the corporate class. On the other hand, there is a strong underground protest movement inspired by the Cuban revolution. Two new parties gain power, COPEI (social Christians, who believe society is for the individual), and Acción Democrática (social Democrats, who try to reconcile differences by bringing together all the popular classes). A third-party, Marxist, is primarily interested in overthrowing imperialism.
The government makes other political parties illegal, censors the press, persecutes politicians, suspends constitutional guarantees , closes the universities etc.
1950. The URD wins the elections that the military junta refuses to recognize them. The URD leaders are expelled from the country. The military junta turns power over to Pérez Jiménez, who initiates construction of grandiose works, using funds from a corrupt administration and raiding the public treasury. The Pérez Jiménez dictatorship seeks the support of theforeign industrial bourgeoisie that benefits from juicy contracts in the construction of these public works. He sells off the oilfields to the highest bidder, to the point where Eisenhower presents him with the Legion of Merit. He is instrumental in the planning and execution of the overthrow of the Arbenz government in Guatemala. Eventually his government becomes bankrupt and the military, the communist party and the URD start plotting against him.
1952 — Pérez Jiménez continues race relations with the Soviet Union and with Cuba, while encouraging OPEC. The Andean pact promotes greater culture and commerce between South American countries, collaborating with underdeveloped countries and negotiating with developed ones.


1895 - Conflicts arise once more between landowners and peasants. The struggle for land becomes sharper. Added to this is the impoverishment of landowners without money or credit who are taken over by the money lenders. Money lenders are allowed to charge any amount of interest that they want (sometimes 50%) and they are allowed to take over the land holdings as collateral for loans. This leads to perpetual debt. The agricultural sector finds itself in ruins. This gives rise to the Liberal party which opposes the capitalist oligarchy in power.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


During the colonial period, Venezuela is economically geared to supply Spain with taxes and benefits and a large part of the products that are created by the workers. This prevents the national economy from developing. Artisan and industrial production is prevented in order to assure the placement of European products into the national economy. Exports are limited, and this gives rise to a thriving smuggling industry. Independence is the reaction of the criollos (large landowners and merchants) who are interested in consolidating political power for their own interests.
1821 — The battle of Carabobo is led by Simón Bolívar against the Spanish domination of South America, and marks the liberation of Venezuela from Spain.
1822 — La Gran Colombia is comprised of Guyana, Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. The whole region is liberated from Spain and undergoes institutional consolidation. La Gran Colombia signs a pact of mutual help with Perú and under the leadership of Bolívar and Sucre, and defeats the Spaniards in the battles of Junin and Ayacucho, making possible the Republic of Bolivia.
The Industrial Revolution is a technological economic and social revolution that has manufacturing (production without machines), and capitalist factory production based on salaries. This leads to an increase in production which demands an increase in volume of raw materials, which can only be acquired outside the country. The abandonment of the countryside by peasants who crowd into the cities looking for work leads to a greater demand for food that is not produced and has to be imported. Lastly, production requires a market where products can be placed.
1826 — Venezuela is under the control of Columbia and conspires to break away under the leadership of José Antonio Páez.. Bolívar creates a general amnesty and guarantees the personal welfare all those involved in the conspiracy. There is a national convention in which he tries to reconcile federalists and centralists, without success , and is forced to assume a dictatorship in order to maintain unity. Páez rejects Bolivar’s leadership and convokes a Venezuelan Congress to separate the country from Columbia.
1830-1835 — Presidents Páez, Vargas, CarreZo
The Constitution is promulgated as a mixture of federalism and centralism. Local elections are held and those chosen in turn elect the higher members of the executive, the congress and the legislative assembly. Political rights are given to freemen of property. Women, slaves and those without property are excluded. Racial inequality is abolished, but not inequality based on wealth. It guarantees civil liberties, individual security, equality before the law, inviolability of the home and of correspondence, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom to travel. Torture is forbidden, as is confiscation of property. The death penalty is established.
At this time classes are formed by:
These come from the system based on the old landed oligarchy of the colony. During the colony those in power were white, and they excluded the indians, blacks and others. The war of independence changes this by declaring that only landowners can vote or be elected. The landowning class is increased by the ranks of militaries and local leaders that have fought in the independence, some of them people of color, who have taken over lands of their enemies. There are many fighters for independence who start out without land or property and wind up as owners of lands and haciendas. Out of of this sector come subsequent leaders of Venezuela.
Even though some groups are called free peasants, the latifundae system does not allow for true freedom. Paid farm workers and sharecroppers continue to be exploited. Farm workers earn miserable salaries that can only be spent in the company store. Debts are hereditary. Sharecroppers are obliged to give half of their crop to the landowner. Even though independence supposedly liberates the slaves these still occupy the lowest wrung on the ladder.
La Gran Colombia is divided into three new republics, Venezuela, Nueva Granada, and Ecuador. This results in centralism for each country which is an obstacle for smaller regional oligarchies, given the economic and social backwardness of the time, a situation exacerbated by the isolation of the different regions.
After independence, agriculture and cattle raising, which are a main sources of commerce, are in complete ruin. It makes it difficult to organize and administer the new Republic, in addition to which Venezuela has a large debt to pay to La Gran Colombia.
Society is a mixture of feudal relations with slavery and incipient forms of capitalism. After the war, most of the soldiers return to the places of origin only to find themselves homeless and without work. Many of these ex soldiers form armed bands who rustle cattle on the plains in order to have something to eat and to sell. This gives the government the excuse for repression. The Páez government does not exercise real control throughout the country. The local ruling classes are in control of provinces and isolated regions to the point that there is a separatist movement. Páez and his ruling élite convoke a Congress to repudiate Bolívar and put Páez as head of the government. This in turn inspires armed movements against them. Monagas’s plan is to overthrow Páez and return to La Gran Colombia to form an independent federation.
People who back Vargas propose an alternative, and this unleashes an opposition, headed by MariZo, who feel that they have the right to lead the country because they have fought for the independence on the battlefield. Followers of Vargas believe that civilians have the right to be in power, arguing that the military should return to their barracks, guarantee the Constitution and defend sovereignty, which should be their role in the new Republic.
1835 — José María Vargas is elected president and after five months there is a military coup against him. Vargas names Páez head of the Army to checkmate MariZo, and goes into exile.
1836 — Vargas returns as president but leaves government service for good, naming vice president Narvarte as head of the government. The result of all these maneuvers is to strengthen Páez as caudillo , who distances himself from his military rivals as well as ex-president Vargas.
1843 — General Carlos Soublette, backed by Páez, is elected president.
The difficult economic situation gives birth to a government opposition party which coalesces around the Liberal party. Its paper is El Venezolano, whose slogan is "I prefer a dangerous freedom to safe slavery". The Liberal party is made up of ruined landowners, military leaders who have been cast aside by the government, and intellectuals and politicians who are also out of favor. They fight against the money lenders and usurers, against the national bank and the speculators. They support long-term low interest government loans to be given to the farmers. This project is approved in the Congress but is vetoed by President Soublette. They agitate for the de facto abolishment of slavery and against the death penalty, for a direct universal suffrage, and a federal system of government. In spite of their best efforts, they can not resolve the great problems because the program is purely administrative and legislative, and because they do not address the poverty of the people and the great political and economic power that is in the hands of the landowners.
The right-wing oligarchy is not resigned to losing power and Soublette unleashes a persecution to stop the liberals. They terrorize the countryside. Some liberals fight against the government while others, such as Guzmán, continue in elections in the opposition. Guzmán is arrested as a conspirator and sentenced to death.
The program of the conservatives in power, on the other hand, is to maintain intact the economic and social conditions of the colonial period for their own use under the new Republic ,which conveniently gives political power only to property owners . Their social base is formed by usurers, money lenders and commercial monopolies. The bureaucracy is made up of public employees and those who are working in the government through friendship or parentage. Powerful military strongmen and large landowners who are backers of Páez make their mistake by establishing an unpopular oligarchy that prolongs slavery, the death penalty and centralism.
1847 — Páez backs José Tadeo Monagas as president, whom he wants to fight the liberals with, while at the same time getting the backing of the military and expecting him (Monagas) to submit to his will. Páez makes a mistake that costs the conservatives their seats in the government. While Monagas apparently continues the conservative agenda, it is not long before he has freed the liberals, and commuted Guzman’s sentence. This prompts the resignation of many of the conservatives in the Congress who regroup to confront him, while at the same time the liberals mobilize in support of the president.
1848 — The conservatives accuse Monagas of abusing power illegally, and of using the army without the consent of congress. The Liberals mobilize the population and form militias. Páez leads an uprising against Monagas, is defeated and has to seek refuge in Nueva Granada. Eventually he is caught and jailed. Congress ceases its opposition and Monagas is allowed to bring about liberal reforms unopposed. Nevertheless, the Monagas administration is marred by nepotism, misuse of public funds, speculation, administrative corruption, and lack of adherence to stated principles.
1849 — Gold is discovered in El Callao. The amount of export surpasses that of cacao in value and half of the value of coffee, whereupon it comes under the control of foreign companies, in violation of the Constitution that declares mines to be the property of the nation and their exploitation granted only by the executive.
1854 — Work in the countryside is done by slaves and by peasants working on someone else’s land. The pay rent by working, and by exchange of goods and money. Other social groups are the indians, artisans, small merchants and bureaucrats. Workers own only their instruments of work (such as machetes) while their places of work belong to the owner. The exception is the indigenous population that is organized in collective communities. Merchants make their profits by selling products at higher rates and also by usury in lending money to the landowners.
Capitalist production functions in two main areas: consumption and investment, which must increase the productive apparatus for future needs in order to perpetuate itself. These fall under two other categories, one social and the other one technical. The factors of production are; the land, labor and the means and instruments of production. In a capitalist society each factor of production is the property of a social class: the land owners have the land, the capitalist have the means of production, and the workers their labor force that they sell for salary.
Primarily, human labor acts directly on nature. Secondarily, human labor acts over nature and transforms materials into finished products, which are then placed before the consumer by means of transportation and commerce. In order to maintain the system, a political superstructure is required, one which expresses the interests of the ruling class, although it is also true that the class that is being ruled can form its own independent organizations such as unions and political parties, which act as pressure groups and to provide certain limits to the dominant group.
At this time, Venezuela is in a relative state of backwardness. It depends on other countries for its survival. It does not have a diversified production, which makes it relatively mono-productive and a mono-exporter. It can only produce what other countries want to buy, and this prevents it from developing independently. Added to these difficulties is a low level of communication. This economic isolation allows for the traditional forms of paternalism and local caudillos, inherited from Spanish domination, to flourish. The internal market has little interest for the ruling class which derives most of its money from exports, as does the state which collects taxes on those transactions.
Slavery is definitely abolished, but this does not affect the interests of the slave owners because slavery has become uneconomical and it is cheaper for them to buy the labor force that they use on the haciendas. Landowners are paid for the slave’s freedom, which turns it into a good business for them. This has the effect of making the landowners more powerful.
1857 — A new Constitution abolishes the death penalty and ratifies the abolition of slavery, allowing for universal suffrage. It establishes the presidential term for six years and permits reelection.
After independence, the interests of the land owners and merchants of the Latin American colonies coincides with those of the capitalist class in Europe. This leads to further dependency based on economics, in which Venezuela supplies raw materials in exchange for industrial goods. This strengthens the merchant capitalist class and the large landowners in Venezuela during the whole post-independence period up to modern times. In order to finance the War of Independence and their investments, they have created a public debt which is to prove a heavy load for the population.
1858 — Julián Castro. Corruption in the Monagas administration gave rise to a conservative coup d’etat known as the March revolution , which ushers in the presidency of Castro. A new persecution of Monagas supporters takes place. Some of the former régime’s international treaties are violated, which causes France and Great Britain to blockade Venezuelan seaports. Monagas is declared a traitor, expelled from the country and his property is confiscated. These measures serve to start a Civil War which brings down the Castro régime.
Some of the problems at this time are massive illiteracy, distrust of the rich by the poor and the conflict between conservatives and liberals.
1859 — There follows the short-lived administrations of Pedro Gual and Manuel Felipe Tovar, which culminate in the Páez dictatorship once again. Gual is placed under house arrest. Páez issues a decree that anyone who communicates with the enemy will be summarily shot. This terrible repression, however, is not enough to stop the Federalists and the government from falling eventually. 12 provinces come under the control of the revolutionaries.
This war is characterized by the participation of the popular masses under the direction of the Liberal party against the oligarchy. It is caused by economic and social problems, fundamentally the problem with land; the great masses of peasants who are dispossessed and exploited, and the persistent problems of slavery, which although abolished, had thrown 40,000 slaves without land or jobs to shift for themselves. These are forced to again become servants of their former masters, who fix their salaries and working conditions as they see fit.
Other causes of the war are the international monetary crisis which ruins many of the landowners, who immediately join the rebellion. Intellectuals awaken the aspirations of the people for justice and for land. The Federalists form a patriotic junta which take over the city of Coro, used as a beachhead for a long war. 100,000 lives are lost during a five-year period. 12 million head of cattle are reduced to 5.8 million in the slaughter of war itself. In order to fight the war, the government borrows money overseas and raises taxes. This plunges people further into poverty. The country falls heavily into debt. There is a 90% illiteracy rate. Illnesses caused by malnutrition are endemic. Pitiful salaries were often paid in script, which has the effect of having a population endlessly owing their creditors. The majority population lives in shacks. Forced military conscription is the most feared of all. In spite of the progressive agenda of the Federation, it is unable to bring about real reforms. The Federalists pact with their old rivals and leave the caudillos alone, gathering power only in the urban centers.
1861 — Páez is forced into exile.
1863 — Juan Crisóstomo Falcón becomes a Federalist president. Liberal ideas are betrayed as his government gets rich at the expense of public monies, treaties are manipulated, and deals are made with the landowners. To cover the deficit, Falcón borrows more money, turning over import rights to foreign companies. After all the graft has been paid off, the government receives 2 million pesos on a 20-million peso, 25-year loan. Falcón is in that habit of writing IOUs against the treasury to satisfy his friends and supporters. Parasitism and mendacity at the expense of the state increases.
1867 — The minister of the treasury resigns because there is no money left in the treasury and the Congress is dissolved because there is no money to pay salaries. Fed up with the corruption, revolutionary groups close in on Caracas and force the resignation of Falcón.
1868 — José Ruperto Monagas, son of the former president, becomes president in what is known as the blue government.
1869 — Artisan manufacturers (carpenters, shoemakers, tailors, pottery workers, metal workers, etc.) have difficulty because there is a lot of competition from imported products and not very much demand for local handmade products. This leads to the first trade unions guilds and cooperatives, which in turn see the birth of the first workers demonstrations.
The merchant class comes into being through foreign trade and business carried out in the country by foreign companies, who export fruits and other merchandise. In their hands, international capital becomes concentrated. Little by little this becomes the most powerful class by means of loans to the people in the countryside and by insertion in the official sector by means of loans that it makes to the government. Landowners are forced to acquire loans from local business men on one hand, and to negotiate at a disadvantage with foreign capital, on the other. National sovereignty is compromised.
The merchant class represents a backward economic structure based as it is on the reactionary landowners who profit from the exploitation of the peasants. At the same time it is part of the commercial apparatus of developed capitalism, which makes it party to the development of the internal market and to the defense of a centralized government. This creates a conflict with landowners who are interested in isolating the countryside in order to hold onto their power.
The state of Zulia raises a 6,ooo man army in an attempt to keep import taxes for itself, threatening to secede from the Venezuelan union. The conservative holdovers from the former regime organize shock brigades to attack the liberals. Genral Guzmán Blanco, head of the liberals, is forced to hide in a foreign embassy and later escapes to Curaçao. Two years later he returns triumphantly to Caracas to take over the presidency.
1870 — Antonio Guzmán Blanco is president, on and off, for 22 years. He exercises a dictatorship where human rights are not respected. There are political prisoners, raids of private houses, confiscations, forced taxes, tortures and executions.
It is a period of corruption and speculation.
At the same time Guzmán Blanco does away with a feudal regional system and contributes to national unity. He improves communications: roads, railroads, navigation lines, post and telegraph offices. He initiates cartography, census taking, and inventories of the nation. He establishes a stable economy, and restores public credit. He is allied with the rising merchant class who has control of international commerce, and initiates many public works. In 15 years of his term cattle and agricultural production increase greatly.
The United States demands payment for damages of a million and a half pesos. The damages incurred are actually no greater than 5000 pesos, and Guzmán Blanco refuses to pay, whereupon the United States negotiates a more favorable treaty. He breaks relations with Holland and suspends payment on the debt. He alleges that Holland from Curaçao is giving aid and comfort to his political enemies, and he raises the import tax to 30%. He ratifies Venezuela’s rights over the Western region of the Orinoco. He breaks relations with great Britain when they encroach on Venezuelan territory from Guyana. Unresolved vestiges of this conflict remain to this day.
The Catholic Church had been closely allied with Spanish absolutism and was a primary influence in all aspects of Colonial life. Guzmán Blanco declares the state sovereign vis-B-vis the church and forbids religious people to interfere in civil and political matters. He suppresses the seminaries. He prohibits baptisms, marriages or burials without a civil registry. He closes convents, and secularizes the cemeteries. He prohibits the church from owning property and expels the Archbishop of Caracas and the Bishop of Mérida.
Guzmán Blanco declares public education to be free and obligatory. Subjects taught, among others, are morality, reading and writing, arithmetic, the metric system and the federal Constitution. He regulates the functions all of private colleges.
1889 — Juan Pablo Rojas Paúl becomes president upon Guzmán’s resignation. He immediately sets about removing all traces of the Guzmán government from public life.
A new political party is formed, the Democratic Union Society, which promotes; a secret and direct vote for anyone over 18, freedom of speech and press, university autonomy and is against monopolies.
1890 — Andueta Palacio assumes power for two years. He is considered weak, sensual and cynical, more given to gratifying his pleasures than to assuming responsibilities of government. The post is taken over by Joaquín Crespo, who declares a general amnesty of political prisoners. He declares freedom of the press, freedom assembly, freedom of industry, and the inviolability of the home, although he violates these precepts whenever he chooses. England intensifies its encroachment onto Venezuelan territory, unleashing street demonstrations and boycotts of English businesses in response.