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2023 | Book

Venezuela – Dimensions of the Crisis

A Perspective on Democratic Backsliding

Editors: Miguel Angel Latouche, Wolfgang Muno, Alexandra Gericke

Publisher: Springer International Publishing

Book Series : Contributions to Political Science


About this book

The book is devoted to the subject of Venezuela's politics and the different dimensions of its longstanding crisis, with various researchers exchanging ideas on the current problems affecting the country. It is the first comprehensive overview on the dimensions of Venezuela’s current crisis written in English, thus filling an important research gap. Especially the participation of international, well-known scholars make it a global enterprise.

The book covers historical and theoretical facts surrounding the case of Venezuela and also focuses on the parties and actors that play decisive roles in the conflict. Subjects include the military, public administration, ideology, the opposition, the party landscape along with its crisis and Venezuela's oil policy. Furthermore the book touches upon international and regional aspects: Venezuela's diplomatic relations with the EU, the USA, Cuba and Colombia, respectively.

The volume addresses a wider audience, such as scholars on Latin American and especially Venezuelan Politics, International Relations, as well as an interested public, including journalists and politicians.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Venezuela—Dimensions of the Crisis
The word crisis gives us the idea of a process of transformation and change of a structural nature. It is, if you will, a transition from one initial state to the next, a process in which something ceases to exist as such and transforms its nature to become something else. In general, these are processes of adjustment to reality, which are full of uncertainty. During a crisis, it becomes difficult to make long-term forecasts. Crises are complex situations that tend to be unstable while reality becomes blurred.
Miguel Angel Latouche, Alexandra Gericke

History and Theory

Can an Evolutionary Order Be Schizophrenic? Reading Venezuelan Politics from an Institutionalist Perspective
Chavismo has created an institutional dynamic that favors the reproduction of authoritarianism. Under this regime, social equilibrium does not depend on the possibility to build coherent social agreements based on consensus, but instead, on a dynamic of permanent political confrontation and power accumulation. In this sense, Chavismo has advanced a profound process of institutional transformation that seeks to guarantee its permanence in power, the undermining of any opposition to the regime and the control of society. Further, social order has evolved as predatory where the distribution of costs and benefits favors the political project while reducing dissidence and imposing costs on the society and limiting social cooperation. This authoritarian model is based on strong ideological control and a controlled use of force and economic incentives to break the will of the opposition. Overall, Chavismo has not been able to stabilize the system and has created a situation where many people play to survive in the context of high levels of uncertainty and reduced information or predictability. We define this situation as social schizophrenia.
Miguel Angel Latouche
Ideological Aspects of Venezuela’s Current Divide
In this chapter, we argue that the current Venezuelan divide has a longstanding and deepening ideological basis. While it can convincingly be argued that ideology alone does not give a thorough explanation of Venezuela’s conflicts, like the salient effects of oil wealth on historically poor nations, the context of a centuries-long authoritarian culture, and the consequences of deeply embedded social and sometimes racial divisions, might provide clearer explanations. Nonetheless, these underlying structural and cultural factors are in turn steeped in legitimizing explanations and rationalizations that provide a narrative for them around contrasting ideas and worldviews, consequently creating significant elite rifts. Moreover, this chapter does not deal either with the phenomena of political or social polarization on the popular level (For a comprehensive discussion on political and social polarisation under Chavismo up to the beginnings of the first Maduro government, see Mallén and García Guadilla in Venezuela's polarized politics: The paradox of direct democracy under chávez, FirstForumPress a division of Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2017) nor does it deal with how public opinion perceives its polity, institutions, or leaders, nor even how they assume themselves vis-à-vis any particular faction. Rather, we focus on the said factions, galvanized around contesting elite groups, and how they see the society they rule or intend to rule. It is from the description of these different ideological starting points that we aim to weigh in on whether it would be possible to have a functioning pluralistic polity in the future.
Guillermo T. Aveledo
The Quest for Democracy: Venezuela in the Twentieth and Twentyfirst Centuries
In this chapter, we analyze the historical context of the crisis in Venezuela. The country was formerly regarded as a stable democracy and as an exception in a mostly autocratic region. By now, the situation is the opposite: Venezuela is in a state of crisis and autocratic rule, while the rest of Latin America is mostly democratic. The dramatic decline of the country is the result of populist misrule during the presidency of Hugo Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro. However, the roots of the present crisis run deeper. After the end of the military dictatorship in 1958, the main political actors agreed on a transitional pact, which, over time, turned into an increasingly unrepresentative arrangement of power sharing. With the oil boom of the 1970s, corruption became endemic and disaffection with the political elites increased. When the oil-fueled economic model collapsed in the 1990s, the cracks in the democratic system became apparent. After the election of Hugo Chávez, Venezuelans hoped for a fresh start and for a renewal of the constitutional order. Instead, the country entered a path of economic decline and democratic regression.
Wolfgang Muno, Thomas Kestler

Domestic Dimensions of The Crisis: Actors, Parties and Problems

Multiple Crises of the Venezuelan Party System
This paper analyzes the trajectories of the Venezuelan Party System after its collapse in 1998, guided by the hypothesis that: The Crisis of the Party System, since the rise to power of Chavismo in 1999, has external roots not intrinsic to the parties. In this sense, it is argued that the Crisis is a mechanism intentionally induced through State institutions, with the purpose of hindering the political representation of sectors not identified with the ruling party and its allies. Based on this hypothesis, the article describes the main tools used by Chavismo to promote political disaffection toward the opposition parties.
Héctor Briceño
Discretionality and Disarticulation in the Venezuelan Public Administration
This paper, which is the result of an investigation that began in 2003, focuses on public administration in Venezuela from a broader political-administrative perspective. It assumes the actors’ point of view taking into consideration their biases and heuristics. Therefore, the epistemological postures that have been assumed are Phenomenology and Hermeneutics seeking the comprehension of the actors and the situations they are involved in. The theoretical foundation has been developed from Institutionalism and Behavioral Economics; the political, administrative, and organizational theories used throughout the analysis have been approached from the epistemology of History of Ideas developed by Cambridge University. The construction of the arguments in this chapter has three steps. First, it takes into consideration the law that regulates Venezuelan public administration, the functioning of the public sector, as well as the analysis that has been developed from political economy and democratic development. Second, it describes some experiences in the public sector and what they mean regarding the Venezuelan public culture. Third, the paper summarizes some political-administrative reflections as guiding ideas to configure a realizable agenda for institutional change. The main foundation of the investigation and argumentations praise the active presence of all political-administrative actors from a cooperative and emancipatory perspective.
Julia Alcibiades
Venezuela: The Military Factor
In the process of institutional transformation advanced by Chavismo in Venezuela, there has been a profound change in both the military doctrine and the structure of the Armed Forces. The military has become a political actor with a strong influence in the distribution of power and resources. In this process Venezuela has become a Garrison State in which the “military factor” determines the scope and characteristics of social interaction. The militarization of society is a characteristic of the current political process in Venezuela, especially regarding the obvious belligerence of the Armed Forces. The country is on the verge of turning into a “military barrack” where the rights of the citizens are glaringly restricted.
Miguel Angel Latouche

International and Regional Dimensions of the Crisis

The Role of the EU in the Venezuelan Conflict: Why Did Democracy Promotion Fail?
Besides the United States, China and Russia, the EU has been an important external actor in the Venezuelan conflict. Brussels’ clear political position against the Maduro regime and the imposition of smart sanctions against government officials follows, with nuances, the path of US policy toward Venezuela. This chapter explores the reasons behind this decision, the evolution of EU-Venezuelan relations in the last two decades, and explains, through a qualitative analysis of primary and secondary sources, why the EU’s policy of democracy promotion by coercion has not been successful, but contributed to a stronger role and influence of China and Russia in the Andean country. It concludes with the recommendation to reinforce instruments such as development cooperation or political dialogue as positive incentives for a democratic transition as a formula to increase Brussels’ leverage and linkage in Venezuela.
Susanne Gratius
From Monroe to Bolívar and Back? US-Venezuela Relations
Anti-Americanism has been part of Latin American societies for decades. It has to be understood as anti-hegemonic resistance, most vocally articulated at the popular level. The concept of the “backyard”, in which the US exercises its hegemony found its purest expression in the so-called Monroe Doctrine, while Latin American resistance can be attributed to the ideas established by Simón Bolívar. In this article, we analyze US-Venezuela relations in recent years, drawing on the two historical figures of Monroe and Bolívar symbolizing different understandings of the relationship at hand. In particular, we trace current patterns of antagonism and interdependence characterizing the relationship in view of governmental changes on both sides.
Alexander Brand, Wolfgang Muno
Venezuela, Cuba and United States: Power and Geopolitics in the Great Caribbean
The complex processes unfolding in Venezuela since the later years of the twentieth century have been the subject of much discussion. From a wide variety of perspectives, the reality of the Latin American country can be perceived and has been presented under different lights, sometimes astonishingly different from each other. The role played by Venezuela in the imagination of millions in the region and the world is similar to that played by Cuba, albeit the latter has been in that place for over sixty years. Both countries, their leaderships and their policies have been connected in many senses for over two decades. Their governments supported each other at international fora, and they both were the targets of hostilities and sanctions from the same sources, mainly the United States (US). This paper aims to contribute to the interpretation of the role played by the US and its policies in the recent historical evolution of Venezuela and Cuba, as well as its influence on the bilateral relations between the two countries. It is not intended as an alternative explanation, nor as a comprehensive explanation: it explores a dimension that adds to the wider analysis of such realities.
Ernesto Domínguez López
Difficult but Necessary: Venezuela-Colombia Relations Throughout Time—A Historical Depiction of Two Specially Connected Neighbors
The two South American neighbors Venezuela and Colombia are connected through a common history. They share cultural values, geographical similarities, and a large land border. The present paper is set out to show the dimensions of the two countries’ binational bonds since their very beginning. It focuses on recurring issues treated differently during changing presidencies and seeks to analyze the reasons behind these issues that lead to seemingly insurmountable tensions. The article furthermore seeks to analyze why bilateral relations have been rather conflictive than cooperative in the past three decades and what have been the decisive factors, taking into consideration the main actors, namely the Colombian and Venezuelan presidents.
Alexandra Gericke
Conclusions: Dimensions of the Crisis and Future Prospects
It is not easy to make sense of the current situation in Venezuela. Sometimes reality appears like a puzzle with pieces that do not seem to match. Venezuela can be considered a special case in Latin American politics—not because of its exceptionality, but due to the intensity of the political process, multiple contradictions regarding phenomena and actors, and its impact on the recent development of Latin American politics in general.
Miguel Angel Latouche, Alexandra Gericke
Venezuela – Dimensions of the Crisis
Miguel Angel Latouche
Wolfgang Muno
Alexandra Gericke
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