Crafting Civilian Control of the Military in Venezuela

Crafting Civilian Control of the Military in Venezuela: A Comparative Perspective

Harold A. Trinkunas
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 312
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    Crafting Civilian Control of the Military in Venezuela
    Book Description:

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

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0364-3
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. 1-26)

    The failed 1992 coup attempt by Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chávez Frias came as a surprise to many observers of Venezuela who had long considered it a consolidated democracy. Although the coup attempts were beaten back by forces loyal to the regime, Venezuela’s democracy began to unravel. President Carlos Andrés Pérez was impeached in 1993, and presidential elections to select his successor were highly contested. President Rafael Caldera was elected with the support of less than a third of the votes cast; and despite attempts to restabilize the democratic system, he presided over a period characterized by banking crises, economic decay,...

  6. CHAPTER 2 A LOST OPPORTUNITY: The Failure of Democratization in Venezuela, 1945–1948
    (pp. 27-61)

    Following weeks of tension between the armed forces and Venezuela’s fledgling democratic government, President Rómulo Gallegos was detained by army officers at his home in Caracas on 24 November 1948. Other officers quickly arrested the leadership of the ruling party, Acción Democrática (AD), along with labor activists, journalists, and prominent civilian supporters of the Gallegos government. Despite having received an impressive mandate in elections nine months earlier, President Gallegos was deposed practically without a struggle. Moreover, the coup was carried out by the minister of defense and chief of the General Staff, the very same officers who had brought Acción...

  7. CHAPTER 3 THE 1958 TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY IN VENEZUELA: Strategizing Civilian Control
    (pp. 62-109)

    In 1958 Venezuela experienced a second opportunity to democratize. Unlike the first attempt in 1945–48, in this case Venezuelan democracy survived and became consolidated, enjoying an unusual degree of political stability by South American standards, at least until 1992. Certainly, the political and economic conditions in Venezuela had not changed sufficiently during the decade of authoritarian rule to lead most observers of the new democracy to expect this radical success. In 1957 Venezuela’s population remained nearly 50 percent rural, with a large number of landless, mostly illiterate peasants. Even though the economy had grown during the 1950–57 period...

    (pp. 110-155)

    On 26 December 1958 Rómulo Betancourt addressed a closed-door assembly of 1,200 military officers in Caracas to explain his administration’s future policies and to listen to their concerns. It was the high point of his tour as president-elect of the country’s major garrisons. As Venezuela’s first democratically elected president following the 1958 transition, Betancourt was acutely aware of his need to focus on military policy. He also planned to devote a great deal of his personal time to administering the armed forces and garnering their support, in spite of other urgent demands on his time created by a severe economic...

  9. CHAPTER 5 CIVILIAN CONTROL UNDER FIRE: Resisting Challenges from the Military in Venezuela, 1992
    (pp. 156-205)

    On the evening of 3 February 1992, army troops led by members of an elite parachute regiment attempted to take control of the government of Venezuela. In Caracas, soldiers under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chávez Frias attacked the presidential residence of La Casona, the seat of government at Miraflores palace, the Generalísimo Francisco Miranda air base, and the military headquarters at the Fuerte Tiuna army barracks. Army troops in Venezuela’s four other major cities took complete or partial control of vital government and economic installations. Despite achieving most of their operational goals, these rebellious officers failed to overthrow...

  10. CHAPTER 6 REVOLUTIONIZING CIVIL-MILITARY RELATIONS? Hugo Chávez and the Fifth Republic in Venezuela, 1998–2004
    (pp. 206-233)

    On the evening of 11 April 2002, the third day of a general strike, elements of the Venezuelan armed forces rebelled against their commander in chief, President Hugo Chávez Frias. Reacting to the bloody outcome of clashes between pro-and antigovernment demonstrators near the presidential palace, the commander of the army, General Efraín Vásquez Velasco, announced in a nationally televised address that he would no longer obey presidential orders. General Vásquez accused Hugo Chávez of preparing widespread repression of antigovernment strikers and demonstrators, and he ordered military units under his command to disregard further government orders and remain confined to base....

    (pp. 234-264)

    The key to establishing civilian control is the use by democratizers of regime leverage to define narrow boundaries for military authority and to institutionalize supervision of the armed forces. After all, regime leverage over the military is what allows civilians to resist conditions placed by outgoing authoritarian elites on the institutions of a new democracy, and it is what allows governments to compel the armed forces to accept institutions of civilian control. These institutions, when put into place at a time in which the domestic “balance of power” favors democratizers, perpetuate civilian authority over the military long after a regime...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 265-268)
    (pp. 269-288)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 289-297)