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History of Venezuela (1983: Doomsday)

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This article documents the history of Venezuela.

History

The birth of National Unity

25 September, 1983.
See Also Guayana Esequiba War
13campins 190

President Luis Herrera Campins.

Oil rich Venezuela was emerged in an economic meltdown by the time of Doomsday. Although constitutionally banned from reelection President Luis Herrera Campins had been a regular sight in the campaign trail in favor of Rafael Caldera, who had attained the presidency two terms before. President Herrera, however, had no illusions about the december contest: with the economy in a growing bad state, and the people remembering fondly the days of the economic boom of the seventies, the President privately acknowledged to his friends and family that winning in december would be "a stretch."

Then, it happened. All international media just went off the grid. No television, no radio communications, no cables from the embassies and no phone calls from abroad. Sometimes not even static, just eerie silence. Fearing the worst, President Campins and a high level delegation were almost immediately evacuated from Miraflores Palace, to the Presidential Retreat, where the head of the Presidential Guard believed it would be safest for the upper echelons of government. It was on a high level meeting of the cabinet, when the head of the army, Major General Olavarría harshly entered the room with ten other soldiers and diplomatic cypher machine. A low level diplomatic delegation had survived the attacks in Switzerland, and had been reporting almost constantly of the situation in the ground. The Warsaw pact was mostly gone. The United States, were too. Panicked, President Herrera Campins ordered the military to gather as much information as possible and relay it to his Caracas office as soon as possible.

AvilaBurns400

Avila Mountain after a radiological storm.

Shortly after Doomsday, Venezuela invaded Guyana to enforce its old claim over Guayana Esequiba, the part of Guyana west of the Essequibo river. Nationwide the structures crumbled and chaos spread. In a desperate attempt to fend of the invasion, Guyanan authorities sought help from Suriname. Military dictator Desi Bouterse of Suriname, though not formally speaking in charge surely the 'strong man' of the country at the time, sent his military to the east bank of the Essequibo river. Since the Venezuelans were not interested in conquering the east bank and did not bother crossing it, the Surinamese troops met little, if any, resistance. Bouterse exploited the situation by claiming this to be a 'tremendous military victory'.

The atmosphere created after the invasion brought the two countries together, paving the way towards the union between them. They saw that by uniting they could guarantee a better and more secure future. A tense but peaceful stalemate between the GC and Venezuela has more or less lasted over the years. Finally Venezuela has annexed Guyana Esequiba.

Understanding that there was no "first world" now, President Herrera Campins returned to Caracas, where the rumor mill had already started to flow. Almost immediately he addressed the nation about the situation in the United States and Europe, and announced a temporary suspension of constitutional rights. This managed to keep most of the panicking population indoors and avoided major looting and disturbances for the fist few days. As information kept coming in, the government kept relaying it to a horrified public, who realized that life would be forever altered. Scientists now frequently interviewed on television, warned of a nuclear winter and of catastrophic disasters coming on Venezuela's way on the next few weeks. The government, paralyzed by fear could not react easily to these news, and took almost a whole week to develop a meager plan to defend its citizens from the nuclear fallout. Borrowing a page from WWII, Venezuela began evacuating people to the still in construction "Metro" tunnels underneath Caracas. Thousands in the interior however, suffered when they disregarded the instructions from civil defense, and a nationwide rise in cancer and mutations was seen all over the country.

It was during one of these radiological storms, that President Campins decided not to suspend the December election. He called all the major political players and asked them to sign a binding pact: No matter who would win the election in December, he would be committed to form a unity government that would look over the interests of the most affected. Everyone present on that meeting was on board, and signed without understanding very well what they had gotten into. Venezuela's main source of income, The United States was now absolutely devastated, and although oil production was enough to keep local and regional demands flowing, it was still never enough to keep the economy afloat. Additionally, Venezuela imported a large amount of food from abroad, although the local reserves were well stocked, food would start depleting out early next year. This would call for a major mobilization of people back to the tainted fields and its repercussions would just have to be assumed.

One month after the attacks, the constitutional guarantees were restored. President Campins announced that the election would proceed as scheduled, and a major initiative that would send as much as 100,000 volunteers to work on the fields. At first, many were skeptic of this move by the government, calling it an exaggeration, but as many started to find their favorite groceries missing on the markets, reality started to sink in: If Venezuela did not send people to work, Venezuela would starve. Within days, a massive camping to drive people into fertile land, with the help of miss universes, celebrities and politicians was launched, and by the time of the election, more than 300,000 Venezuelans from all social strata heeded on the call for unity. The government also announced a retroactive incentive to those who had left to farm for the people, and by the time the first crops began to sprout, a new landed aristocracy had risen.

The Lusinchi Administration

Venezuela weathered the storm almost completely intact. The huge international debt that had plagued Venezuela for decades was now gone, and although the major source of income was gone, Venezuela's natural resources were still rich enough to not create a major meltdown. On December 4th 1983, The election took place with an astounding sense of normalcy. Jaime Lusinchi, a pediatrician, was elected to the presidency. His first item in the agenda was to secure the food chain across the country. With that end, he announced a major initiative to expand the highway system in Venezuela, and a deepening of the plan, to now send 300,000 more people back to the countryside. With the incentives that were being presented it was only a brief month before all the seats on the ubiquitous green busses were filled. It seemed for once that something was actually going right.

Foto bio

President Jaime Lusinchi.

Months after his election, immigrants started to arrive. In scenes resembling the days after the world wars, thousands of ships flood all the ports of Venezuela with terrible tales about anarchy, diseases and chaos. La Guaira quickly becomes a refugee camp, and other port towns like Puerto Ordaz and Juan Griego are soon to follow on this trend. The immigrants soon swamp the local societies, depleting them of food, healthcare and this creates strong anti-immigrant sentiment that begin manifesting themselves with riots. The government quickly intervenes with the National Guard to restore order, realizing soon that the situation can't be contained for much longer.

President Lusinchi announces soon to the nation yet another massive program to relocate the majority healthy immigrants to "los llanos" or the plainland of the country. Most will be used in agriculture, cattle ranching and other industries designed to improve and secure the national food supply. Others who are more intellectually inclined are put to work directly for the government in several of the ministries, or the scientific advisory boards created to deal with the fallout. At this point the immigrants are estimated to have swelled up the population by almost a million people, and at the ports the navy reports five to seven days of waiting in order to dock. When all is said and done, nearly six million people arrive in the country by the end of the year.

By then, the effects of fallout and "nuclear summer" begin to be felt throughout the country. That summer, temperatures on average rise by several degrees. Cancers and Mutations resulting from the nuclear fallout increase drastically finally collapsing the already swamped healthcare system. Hundreds of thousands die within the first few days and the problems only become compounded when the food supply fails and shortages of nearly everything begin to present themselves throughout the country. Although the government expects massive riots, the population reacts with calm. It appears that the sense of national unity still persists, and still remains strong.

Once 1984 rolls on, the government although pessimistic about the direness of the situation emerges stronger. President Lusinchi's economic policy seems to work effectively and once crops begin sprouting, trucks carrying them become instant commodities requiring armed guard. Their arrival on the famished cities is, however, a welcome sight and although rationing is still very much present, food is becoming more and more available as more and more people begin tilling the ground again, creating the rebirth of agricultural Venezuela.

In July of 1984, the heads of Venezuela and Colombia meet in Ciudad Bolívar. A treaty named after the city results in immediate cooperation, where the direly needed food is traded by the wasted oil production of Venezuela. Effects are quickly seen in both sides of the border, and in Venezuela the food supply is quickly restored with the imports from Colombia, restoring a sense of normalcy and reactivating the construction industry which begins to receive heavy subsidies by the government in order to create an infrastructure for the new century.

However, Lusinchi was not successful at crucial goals for the development of the country. The oil market was too unstable due to price fluctuations, destroyed countries, and thus unpredictable, the oil prices were low, and the Venezuelan economy was too oil-dependent. This led to a dismal situation due to an excessively high government fiscal budget, depleting financial reserves for the payment of debt, an important pledge made during Lusinchi's presidential campaign.

His relationship with his secretary and long-time lover Blanca Ibáñez caused great controversy among public opinion during his administration, particularly when Ibañez assumed the role of first lady, and participated in the decision-making process of the Lusinchi's government. Lusinchi divorced his first wife Gladys Castillo in 1991 and married his lover Blanca Ibáñez.

Today

Perez Period

Elcaracazo imagen3

El Caracazo.

In the 1988 presidential elections the winner was none other than Carlos Andres Pérez, for his second term (In the Venezuelan constitution you could be re-elected as many times as you wanted as long as it wasn’t in successive elections). The question was: how could a country whose descent into insolvency began with Pérez, who had botched so badly his first term, when corruption flourished as never before, have re-elected him with a majority that was barely less than the one Lusinchi got? This enigma has various explanations. That native were still from AD political party is an obvious one. The opposition to bipolarity did not have a leader. But especially, Venezuelans of all hues simply remembered that during Pérez’s first term there had been a lot of money in circulation, things over-all had not been so dismal, and somehow they figured that Pérez could perform the miracle of making Venezuela “prosperous” again.

But Pérez was not the hand-out king he had been before. Despite being elected after a populist, anti-neoliberal campaign during which he described the IMF as "a neutron bomb that killed people, but left buildings standing" and said that World Bank economists were "genocide workers in the pay of economic totalitarianism", he had become a closet liberalizer and globalizer. His economic adviser was Moisés Naím, he defined the presidential economic agenda, which included no price controls, privatizations, and laws, or their elimination, to attract foreign investment.

Naím began at the lowest rung of economic liberalization, which was freeing controls on prices and a ten percent increase in that of gasoline, which in Venezuela is sacrosant very low. The increase in petrol price fed into a 30 percent increase in fares for public transport. In February 1989, barely into his second term, Pérez faced a popular uprising, which he had the army crush with a death toll of 276, according to government officials. It is known as the “Caracazo” (from “Caracas”), where the rioting and looting was on an unforeseen scale.

The Venezuelan economy started picking up, but only slightly and Venezuelans, who are not very keen on capitalist globalization, were resentful. Rightly or wrongly, Pérez, who after his first presidency was a rich man, was singled out as Mr. Corruption himself. The MBR officers started plotting seriously and on 4 February 1992 they struck. Chávez was a lieutenant-colonel, but generals were involved in the coup attempt. Its immediate objective was to capture Pérez, who had recently returned from a junket. They almost had him cornered in the presidential palace, but he managed to escape to the presidential residence and from there he got loyal troops to corner Chávez in turn and arrest him. In exchange for prompting his co-conspirators to lay down their arms, Chávez, fully uniformed and unbowed, was allowed to speak on television to the entire nation. A Venezuelan anti-corruption hero, and as pardo as they come, had been born.

On 27 November 1992, officers of higher rank than Chávez tried to overthrow Pérez but this time around the conspiracy was easily put down. Pérez’s downfall came when a legal process was begun to force to him reveal how he had used a secret but legal presidential fund, which he resolutely resisted. With the supreme court and congress ranged against him, Pérez was imprisoned, for a while in a detention center, and then under house arrest. He handed the presidency in 1993 to Ramón J. Velásquez, an adeco politician/historian who had been his presidential secretary. Though nobody has charged Velásquez with corruption, his son was involved in an illegal pardon for drug-traffickers, but was not charged. Velázquez oversaw the elections of that year, and these were at once familiar and unique.

Caldera

Caldera, who had been candidate for the presidency six times and won once, wanted to have another go, but COPEI this time resisted, led by Herrera Campins, and Caldera founded his own brand-new political movement, called Convergencia. COPEI chose a mediocrity from within its ranks. The adecos chose the pardo Claudio Fermín. Petkoff had seen the futility of trying again and backed Caldera. Even Velázquez got into the act. When the returns were in, Caldera won and in the process shattered the strict bipolarity thesis. Abstentions reached a record of 40%. The main reason Caldera, who was 86 years old, won was in essence the same as for Pérez’s victory in 1973: everybody knew him and the middle classes, probably decisive for the only time in Venezuela’s history, thought that he could do the miracle that had been expected of Pérez, that is, in some manner to get the country back on track to the “good old times”.

Once back in the presidential palace, Caldera re-imposed exchange controls, which had been lifted under Pérez, and started ruling as if re-living his undistinguished presidency of 1979-1983. The economy plummeted and then Caldera decided to backtrack, and chose Petkoff to do the job. The steel corporation Sidor was privatized, and the economy continued to plummet. He released Chávez and pardoned all the military and civilian conspirators during the Pérez regime. He didn’t know it but this generosity, which was part of a long Venezuelan tradition, would backfire.

Salas, Rosales and Machado

800px-Marcha apoyo rosales

Rally in support of Rosales.

Later, in 1998, Chávez began to campaign for the presidency. But Henrique Salas won the elections because Chavez party and allied parties were leftist, on of the allies was the Communist Party of Venezuela. Romer start creating some projects and order start again, almost any reform happened at his period. In the 2003 presidential elections Manuel Rosales was elected president. In the early 2000s, the nations of South America began earnestly discussing the creation of the South American Confederation, which became a reality in 2004. During these years, Guyana saw the advantages that the SAC would offer and attempted to join both the preliminary talks and the Confederation itself. However, because of the circumstances of its foundation, Venezuela claimed that the country was not legitimate and blocked every initiative admitting it to the SAC. Still, Brazil, Guyane, and other states maintain friendly relations with the GC.

The backbone of Rosales' government program the social arena, a sound and well defined program, including a fair allocation of oil revenues by means of two axes– minimum wage for all unemployed and direct contribution to the underprivileged". The latter being promoted as Mi Negra which is a debit card handed out to the poor with monthly deposits from 20% of oil industry profits.

He distributed land to the peasants, but he buy it in such a way as to respect the principle of private property, just as his government respects those of human rights and social justice." Venezuela is entering a new time without poverty and crime.

The 2010 Siberia-SAC summit was held in Caracas. there were high hopes that this conference of two of the world's great powers would ease global tensions. The agenda of the summit covered everything from the economy to the Panama Canal, Pakistan and the Socialist Union's continued influence in the Caribbean.

After two days of debating, talks end without any firm consensus on global affairs. "I had hoped that the talks would end on a better note", said Tuleyev, stating that SAC members were firm in their support for Pakistani actions in Afghanistan. Tuleyev said that he wishes that Pakistan will show more resolve in finding a solution to the Afghani question. The SAC however agreed to uphold its promise to keep the Panama Canal open to any nation, including the USSR.

In December 19 2010, Maria Corina Machado was chosen president of Venezuela, being the first women president of Venezuela.

WRCB Newshour news about the Siberia-SAC summit:
  • February 13, 2010:Siberia-SAC talks ned on a disappointing note:

Flag of SAC (DD) Flag of the Soviet Union CARACAS, Venezuela- after two days of debating, talks end without any firm consensus on global affairs. "I had hoped that the talks would end on a better note", said Tuleyev, stating that SAC members were firm in their support for Pakistani actions in Afghanistan. Tuleyev said that he wishes that Pakistan will show more resolve in finding a solution to the Afghani question. The SAC however agreed to uphold its promise to keep the Panama Canal open to any nation, including the USSR. The Siberian declaration flew to the People's Republic of Angola last night, were they will meet with Fernando Santos.

  • February 11, 2010: Siberian-SAC summit begins:

Flag of SAC (DD) Flag of the Soviet Union CARACAS, Venezuela - The Siberian-SAC summit officially started today at noon and there are high hopes that this conference of two of the world's great powers would ease global tensions. The agenda of the summit will cover everything from the economy to the Panama Canal, Pakistan and the Socialist Union's continued influence in the Caribbean. the summit will end on February 13.

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