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Venezuela, exclusionary democracy and resistance, 1958–1998

Gregory Wilpert and Dario Azzellini


Venezuela's democratic era can be divided into three distinct periods. The first represents its economic glory days, from the end of its last dictatorship in 1958 to the height of its oil boom years in 1978. The second period, which lasted from 1979 to 1998, was marked by decline and by popular reactions in the form of constant protests, an uprising, and two military rebellions, as well as state repression of these popular reactions. The third period is the era of the Hugo Chávez presidency, which began with his assuming office in 1999. Between 1958 and 1978 there was a self-reinforcing dynamic between Venezuela's oil-based economy and a political culture that favored rentierism. On the one hand, oil income tended to drown out all other economic activity, and on the other, the dominance of the oil economy produced rentierism, whereby all the main political and economic actors were focused on obtaining a piece of the country's oil revenues. Until 1989 Venezuela was generally considered an exemplary democracy in Latin America. The criteria generally considered by liberal analysts as indicators for stable democracies – regular elections, possible alternation of the parties in power, respect of certain civil rights – were all seen as present. In reality, however, it was more a repressive democracy in which two parties – the formally social democratic Democratic Action (Acción Democrática, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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