Since the establishment of a democracy in 1961, Venezuela has dramatically increased its’ role in the international community over the last four decades and has come forth as a regional leader for the Latin American and the Caribbean regions. Venezuela forms one of the most integral parts of Latin America. While its’ being a leader of Latin America as a whole cannot be overlooked, its’ even greater role as part of the Caribbean cannot be ignored. This paper will examine the International and Regional Foreign Policy of Venezuela during the last four decades, in the context of international, regional and domestic events. The final analysis will examine the circumstances leading up to and the election of President Hugo Chavez as well as the present direction of Venezuela in the international and regional context.
I.Venezuela: A Panorama of the 60’s through the 80’s
A. International Political System of the 1960-1980
The Soviet Union (SU) and the United States (US) emerged from World War II as the two world powers. The US promoted democracy and capitalism while the Soviet Union promoted Communism and Marxism. These two powers at extreme opposite ends of the political ideological spectrum, formed as the leaders of the Cold War. This was a war of dualism by way of forming alliances and spreading their ideology with ends to destroy the existence of the other.
The fifties set the stage for what would be an even more turbulent decade; the sixties. The fall of China to communism was a giant blow to the US and its’ democratic ideals. The US formed a policy according to the ‘Domino Theory’ of the spread of communism that would be implemented throughout the Cold War. The Domino Theory stated that communism would be spread from one state to neighbor states, infecting regions throughout the world. To counter and stop the spread of communism the US adopted the policy of: 1) supporting existing weak democracies or democracies threatened by communist regimes 2) supporting existing anti-Communist dictators or military regimes 3) directly implementing or indirectly fostering democratic regimes and anti-Communist movements in communist or procommunist countries. The fist stark example of this policy was implemented during the Korean War. The US sent troops to help South Korea in their civil war against the Communist North Korea. Later, under the same auspices, the US intervened in many other countries, notably Vietnam, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama and Kuwait.
The Soviet policy was aimed at the spread and union of the Communist/Socialist movements throughout the world. The SU aided these movements vis–vis money arms and in some cases invasion (Czechoslovakia 1968) to support Communist/Socialist movements and governments in all parts of the world from greater extents in North Korea and Vietnam to small Communist/Socialist movements in the US and other democratic nations.
After WWII Soviet military forces never retreated from, what would later be termed, the Iron Curtain countries. The SU installed the Iron Curtain over countries such as East Germany, Poland, Austria and Hungry, to name a few. Free European nations and the US formed and signed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This pack would be vital throughout the Cold War and would provide strength and reassurance to European nations against the threat of Soviet expansionism.
The fifties also began an intensified race to become more technologically advanced. The SU successfully launched the first satellite and man into space. These Soviet accomplishments sent fear into the US citizens. Supremacy of one state over the another in any one area, such as the space program, was considered a sign of inferiority. The US launched a profound campaign to ‘catch up’ to the Soviet technology. The US invested millions of dollars in science education for schools and poured money into the NASA program. This was an extreme increase to the already rapid Arms Race that played a large role throughout the Cold War. During the 80’s the SALT II and I was signed by the US and the SU to slow the Arms Race. Even so, technology would play en even bigger part of the well being of economies in the decades to come.
The pinnacle of the Cold War erupted in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crises. In 1961 Castro officially announced that his regime was Marxist/Leninist and began to align Cuba with its ideological partner, the SU. One year later, the US blocked Soviet ships armed with nuclear missiles destined for Cuba. The Cuban Missile Crisis is considered the closest to war reached by the two nations. The SU yielded to the US demands and sent their ships with nuclear missiles back to the SU. Although the situation was diffused for the moment, Castro would continue to antagonize the US throughout the following decades.
During the sixties and seventies, following the Domino Theory, the US entered the Vietnam War. The US began sending military advisors to help the South Vietnamese against the Northern Communist Vietcong. The implementation of military advisors quickly turned into thousands of troops. The US eventually withdrew all US forces from Vietnam and the Vietcong won the region.
The seventies saw the end to the Vietnam War as well as a calming in the tensions between the US and SU. The US President Carter and his administration brought forth to the forefront of US foreign policy issues such as Human Rights and the Environment. These issues hadn’t previously been perceived as important, but would play an even greater in politics in the years to follow.
The eighties had their own conflicts. The US President Reagan put the Carter issues on the back burner with invasions in Grenada and intervention in Nicaragua. Reagan was more focused on dealing with the SU and an end to the Arms Race. The SU and US signed SALT I and II as well as the Non-Proliferation Treaty (CTBT).These treaties were a bit offset by the STAR WARS program set forth by the Reagan administration. In 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and in the first half of the nineties the SU and Communism fell with it. Its’ fall brought forth the American model of Democracy and Capitalism as well as American neo-liberalism. The nineties will be seen as the decade of neo-liberalism.
B. The Regional Politics: Latin America and the Caribbean of the 1960-1980
The regional politics will be understood best by recognizing the countries that defined the atmosphere and relations of the two regions through the context of the Cold War. The US, Mexico, Argentina, Cuba, Brazil and Venezuela are the countries that will be considered the countries that autonomously lead and affected the regions. All other countries will be considered countries that had a lesser affect to the region but will be noted in as much as they played a significant role to historic events in the region.
Latin America and the Caribbean are two of the regions that were most affected by the Cold War. Both of the regions have a close proximity to the dominating hegemony of the region, the US, and thus played an important strategic role for the US and the competing SU. “It is strategically important in four ways: 1) As a potential base from which a hostile power might launch military operations against the US2) As a source of strategic raw materials. Virtually all bauxite, vital to airplane manufacture, comes from the Caribbeanand a quarter of US oil imports and one fifth of iron oregraphite, sulfur, barium, fluorspar and zinc 3) As the location of American territories and military installations. 4) As a major seaborne logistic route, ” that includes the vital control of the Panama Canal.
For these reasons the US has played a giant role in the internal politics of Latin America and the Caribbean. Moreover, the US increased its’ role in the Latin American and Caribbean region during the Cold War. The US has longed viewed the regions as dominated by unstable political systems that could be easily influenced and taken over by Communism which could quickly spread throughout the region. Unstable governments that could become Communist and house Soviet nuclear weapons in the American hemisphere prompted the US to tighten its’ gripe on the regions combating Socialist/Communist movements.
The Cuban Case best exemplifies US fears of what could happen in Latin America and the Caribbean without careful control. In 1958, the US made it clear that it would no longer support the Batista totalitarian regime during the Cuban Revolution by putting a trade embargo on arms exports to Cuba . In January 1, 1959 Batista fled the country and Castro moved into Havana. In 1961 the relationship with Cuba and Castro changed forever when he announced he was Marxist/Leninist. The US cut off all formal relations with Cuba and supported the infamous “Bay of Pigs” invasion by Cuban refugees that failed miserably. In 1962, the US began initiatives to block Cuban relations with other American during the 8th OAS conference in Uruguay . In the ensuing years, many American states would take the lead of the US and break relations with Cuba.
After the loss of Cuba, the US was less tolerant of revolutions and liberal minded political regimes in the region. In 1965, military officers of the Dominican Republic overthrew the government. In April 1965 the US sent thousands of troops in to put down the leftovers of the “communist and castroite” Trujillo military regime.
The beginning of the sixties also marked a change in US policy towards the two regions. In 1961, the Kennedy administration announced the Alliance for Progress to support and strengthen capitalist ventures and development in the regions. The Alliance for Progress passed the US congress and was granted $500 million . The majority of the $500 million was appropriated to the Social Progress Trust Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank, specifically set aside for soft-loan projects that would not normally get funded by that bank or the World Bank . Such projects included; agrarian reform, fair wage and welfare benefits for urban labor, provisions of housing and health and sanitation measures, reduction in literacy, tax reform and price stabilization. This was to provide a way out for many of the poorest of the Latin American and Caribbean countries. “The basic goal of the Alliance for Progress was an annual increase of 2.5% of the combined gross national product of the participating Latin American nations, a goal hard to achieve because of the high population growth rate of several countries.”Regardless, the capital from the Alliance for Progress was used for development, and enterprise that wouldn’t have otherwise existed due to Latin American inflation and financial instability. While the Alliance for Progress tried to replace the American image after the Bay of Pigs, the loans were not as effective as predicted.
After the Bay of Pigs and the Cuba Missile Crisis, Cuba took it’s own route supporting it’s Marxist Revolutions throughout the region and in Africa. The Cubans attempted to help Marxist movements in Venezuela and Bolivia. Guevara and the Marxist Cuban Revolution stopped in Bolivia where Guevara was assassinated in 1967. Every decade after the 60’s, Cuba has played less and less of a role in international and regional politics albeit from some minor skirmishes instigated by Castro. Cuba and Castro have been increasingly attacked for Human Rights violations.
During the 50’s, Argentina under General Peron had taken the “Third Position”, that being an intermediary position between the US and the SU. Peron renewed relations with the SU after decades of silence. “However, as a way of securing a supply of arms from the US, Peron indicated in August, 1946, that in the event of actual war between the US and the SU, Argentina would be on the side of the US.”Then under President Frondizi, Argentina made a move to align itself with Brazil and other South American nations in a pact that would make South America a strategic alliance apart from the Cold War nations. This move would go no further though because Frondizi would be overthrown by a military coup and Brazilian President Quadros resigned from office in 1961. Frondizi also made an attempt to become a mediator between relations with Cuba and the US. He met secretly with Che Guevara and US diplomat Richard Goodwin in 1961 . But the talks went no further as the positions of either country were nonnegotiable. When the military overthrew the government in 1966, it took an extremely anticommunist stance that would favor the US.
Brazilian relations changed after the 1960 election of President Quadros. He made trips to Cuba, Yugoslavia and sent his vice-president to the SU and China demonstrating that close ties to the US would be reevaluated. He began closer relations with Asia, Africa and the SU. Beyond that, he stopped the Brazilian military training in the US. This was an extreme shift from the close relations that the US had enjoyed previously. Quadros resigned in 1961 and was replaced by President Joao Goulart. Goulart furthered relations when in 1963 Brazil entered into a five-year trade agreement with the SU. After the Cuba Missile Crisis, the Goulart administration voted against the OAS blockade of Cuba . Like Frondizi in Argentina, Goulart was taken out of office by a military coup in 1964. The Brazilian Military Coup returned toward a closer relationship with the US than with the SU. This military coup kept fairly close relations with the US until its’ fall in 1985.
Since the 1800’s, Mexico has taken a strict noninterventionist stance to foreign relations because of the US military interventions in Mexico. Although this stance has never been compromised in Mexican foreign policy, it has lead to some ambiguities. For example in 1962, Mexico chastised Castro for being Marxist/Leninist and held to her own law of private property. While at the same time signing an OAS resolution declaring Marxism as being incompatible with OAS ideals, she abstained on the vote to exclude Cuba from the OAS. Mexico was one of the only American states to maintain good relations with Cuba throughout the Cold War. Although Mexico never supported the US directly because of the many interventions in the region, Mexico never strayed very far from the US ideologically. It has always remained a democracy with capitalist markets.
In the seventies and eighties, Mexico began a furious race to catch up the industrialized world. The Mexican government borrowed millions of dollars to create oil and mining industries. During the eighties Mexico went a long way in industrialization. Many scholars and economists were calling it the “Mexican Miracle”. The Miracle would be stopped short with the Pesos’ fall in value that forced many industries and the government to refinance the debt and halt the once fast pace of industrialization.
C. Venezuela 1960-1980: The Coming of a Regional Power
Since the birth of its’ constitution and democracy in 1961, Venezuela quickly rose to be one of the most influential of all the Latin American and Caribbean countries in regional and international politics. Due to large oil reserves, the Venezuelan economy flourished and brought Venezuela forth as the rich democratic leader of the third world. Venezuela also achieved an established democracy that lasted for more than thirty years.
None of the political scientists of the era predicted that Venezuela would be one of the first Latin American countries to become democratic because of its’ long history of military dictators. This all changed December 15, 1957 after the false elections of the military dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez which stated that he won by an incredible 85% . In January 1, 1958, there was a military insurrection led by the junior military officers of the airforce as well as a civilian revolt named the Patriotic Junta. The airforce dropped bombs on the capital. The insurrection was not very well planned or coordinated, but the bombs were enough to scare Perez and his cronies to flee the country with about $250 million of the Venezuelan treasury. All the political parties of the Patriotic Junta could not agree on a political candidate for the upcoming new elections in December of the same year. So in October 31, 1958 the leaders of Accion Democatica, Romulo Betancourt; Copei, Rafael Caldera, and Union Republicana Democratica, Jovito Villalba came together to draw up the Pact of Punto Fijo. Also underwritten were the Fedecamaras, Confederacion de Trabajadores de Venezuela, the Catholic Church and the Fuerzas Armadas. Punto Fijo guaranteed the political stability of the government by compromising between all the countries’ major powers. The biggest points of the pact are “1) Defensa de la constitucionalidad y derecho a gobernar conforme al resultado electoral. 2) Gobierno de Unidad Nacional, dando participacion en el poder a la oposicion. 3) Programa minimo comun, lo que permitiria garantizar la cooperacion partidista durante el proceso electoral”.This pact allowed for fair elections among all the parties.
In December 1958, Romulo Betancourt won the presidential elections with 49% of the vote and also won the majority of seats in both congressional houses . Betancourt realized that he would have to consolidate power and form a coalition of the nations’ most powerful entities to form and establish a sturdy democracy that would last. Most importantly, Betancourt announced that there would be no prosecution of crimes during the dictatorship as well as increased military salaries and housing along with weekly trips he made to visit the military barracks . This formed a coalition with the military forces that had always played a large role in the destruction of ruling governments. Although Betancourt made many other alliances he refused to include the extreme left. This was of growing concern as Cuba had just won its’ revolution against Batista in 1959. Many Communist student movements formed with the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) which later merged with the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional (FALN), both of which were outlawed, that participated in guerrilla warfare in the jungles of Venezuela as well as bombing oil lines and the US embassy . The FALN was supported not only morally by Castro, but also with arms. Three tons of arms were found abandoned on a Venezuelan beach with clear ties to Cuba in 1963.Castro was not the only one that wanted Betancourt out of office and the Communists in. Rafeal Leonidas Trujillo Molina, the dictator of the Dominican Republic was responsible for the June 1960 car bombing that killed a military aid and severely burned Betancourt . These events influenced the Betancourt Doctrine, which stated that Venezuela would not recognize any regime that came to power by way of military intervention . Then Venezuela voted to expel Cuba from OAS membership and later broke diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 . In 1961 after encountering an empty treasury, Betancourt called out to the US for a $300 million dollar loan to combat Castro and the Communist insurgency groups. The US sent $450.6 million dollars between 1962 and 1965 . The US could not afford to let go of a country that supplied so much oil by way of US companies, not to mention that it has been considered the “keystone” country to the Caribbean region. The US had many fears because Cuba had easy access to Venezuela’s neighbor, Guyana, which was already the second most communist country behind Cuba. Guyana sent more students to study in the SU only behind Cuba and in later years Castro would send troops to Angola via Guyana .
Two of the most important actions that highlighted the Betacourt administration are 1) the elections of 1963 that secured a real functioning democracy 2) the creation of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) by his minister of energy, Juan Pablo Perez Alonzo in 1960 . Although it did not have much power during its’ beginning years, it would be seen as a powerful organization in the years to follow.
AD candidate Raul Leoni was elected in 1963 and took office in 1964. Leoni didn’t make any radical changes and followed suit with Betacourts’ reforms. He did still have to face the influence of Castro. The PCV became so out of control that Leoni was forced to search the Universities of Caracas for members that had broken the law. Things came to a head when the military encountered “a small landing party headed by a Cuban army officer Machurucuto in the state of Miranda.”The situation calmed down and Leoni passed some good agrarian reform laws. The economy under Leoni also proved to be one of the more healthy ones averaging a healthy 5.5% annually . Largely, the Leoni administration was a carry over from the Betacourt reforms.
Venezuela demonstrated yet again that it was devoted to democracy in the 1968 elections. The AD was split over candidates, which led to the election of COPEI candidate Rafael Caldera . Venezuela passed the test forming an even stronger democracy when the AD passed over the presidential sash to the opposing party, the COPEI.
Caldera filled the government with strictly COPEI members and did not make any effort at coalitions. Caldera began by reversing many of the reforms already put forth in the previous AD administrations. Caldera reinstated the PCV as a legal political party and then claimed that it lowered the guerrilla violence. Yet the opposition maintained that it was due to the reevaluation of diplomacy by Cuba and the SU as a result of the death of Che Guevara in 1967 and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslavakia in 1968. Moreover, Caldera rejected the Betacourt Doctrine as too restrictive for Venezuelan interests. Caldera also maintained that the Doctrine was just foreign policy that promoted US wellbeing. In effect, Caldera stated that Venezuela would no longer be limited by such doctrines and that it would seek “ideological pluralism” . Caldera then opened relations with the SU, Eastern Europe and many South American nations that had fallen under military regimes. In 1973, Caldera signed the Lima Consensus that entered Venezuela into the Andean Treaty (Ancom) . The entrance was a positive one because Venezuela was allowed to make many adjustments to the agreement so it would not hurt local businessmen forced to compete with cheap Andean goods. Venezuela also joined for fear of the Brazilian expansion in the region, which was under a military dictatorship .
In as much as Caldera strengthened Venezuelas’ Andean identity, it put forth as much, if not more, effort in furthering its’ Caribbean identity. Caldera began to put extra capitol from petroleum into the Caribbean Development Bank. These funds derived from petroleum were used to finance loans for Central American and Caribbean countries to buy oil at cheaper prices. This practice would be expanded in later years. While the Caldera administration strayed away from and even undid, many of the two previous AD administration policies, Caldera produced a healthy economy and expanded its’ relations and identity throughout the region and indeed the world.
The elections of 1973 again gave the power back to Carlos Andres Perez and the AD. Perez and the AD captured 48% of the vote as well as the majority in both houses in congress and the majority of the provinces. In October 1973, the Arab-Israeli War began and quadrupled oil prices. The Venezuelan treasury was suddenly flooded with capitol and inflation began to rise raidly. Perez quickly decided to invest $6 billion of extra annual revenue outside the country in foreign investments by setting up the Venezuelan Investment Fund (FIV) . Some $25 million was also sent to the Caribbean Investment Bank to expand Caribbean development and other loans were made to Central American petroleum importing countries so they could buy oil during the price hike.
The Perez administration began expansion on all levels in all areas. The Perez administration visited Spain, France, Great Britain, Italy, the SU, Asia, Africa, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Japan. They also received diplomats from all over the world. Venezuela under the Perez administration converted to a rich third world country overnight. Perez took this opportunity to expand or reach to other third world nations of the world, depending on how one looks as it. Perez began speaking more and more about third worldism and ventures to unite them together to combat the first world hegemony. Many countries in the Caribbean and Central America began following the initiative by taking loans from Venezuela as a third world leader instead of the US. To such an extent that it was weakening the functionality CARICOM.
Beyond finances, Perez moved into a more diplomatic role with Panama in trying to mediate a negotiation between the Panama and the US for the Canal. Perez also reached out to reunite Cuba with the rest of the OAS, although the attempt failed, Cuba would be incorporated by closer diplomatic relations with Mexico and Venezuela. Mexican President Luis Echeverria Alvarez (1970-76) and Perez joined forces as the two spokesmen for the union of Latin America against the US. Together they formed the Latin American Economic System (SELA) with headquarters in Caracas. This was an organization that was formed to share technologies between the Latin American nations as well as develop and protect the economies of the region (23 Latin American countries promptly joined and the US was excluded) . He supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua against the Samoza Family. Perez even went so far as to send arms to the Sandanistas during the revolution.
Although Perez exuded third world politics and third world organizations such as OPEC, it did not participate in the 1973 Oil Embargo, which weakened the strength of the organization. However, Venezuela did fall in line with the price rise before and during the Embargo, which greatly benefited Venezuela. During the Embargo, Perez increased oil shipment to the US to cover the loss of oil from the Arab nations. However, this favor was not returned when the US excluded all the members of OPEC from the “1974 Trade Act, which created the Generalized System of Trade Preferences to lower tariffs on designated imports from developing nations” . This along with the US intervention in the military coup in Chile really miffed Venezuelans.
Domestically, Perez began spending millions of dollars on state run industries and increased government spending by 200% . Venezuela took over the iron and oil companies that were largely owned by the US. The influx of money into the domestic market due to the excess of petro-dollars led to conspicuous consumption by Venezuelans. This was largely due to Perez’s idea of spreading the wealth of the oil revenues with the public by imposing price controls on commodities and other basic staples. Imported cars and processed foods from the US rose to all time high levels as well as the highest level of importation of Scotch in the world . Perezs’ plan of industrialization in ten years funded by the oil capitol had loopholes. For instance Venezuela while it invested millions in industries, they had no way of transporting the goods without heavy industry trucks to carry the product as well as roads to support the heavy trucks. The lack of infrastructure to support the heavy industries was evident. Thousands of workers were sent abroad to learn new industry technology, but when they returned the industries never quite processed like their competitors abroad. The spending spree of the Perez government became so bad that they had to impose extremely high tariffs on imported goods.
In 1971 Perez coordinated a conference to discuss the up coming conference of the Law of the Sea. Now that Venezuela had become rich over night because of its’ oil wealth, all the Caribbean and Latin American nations became interested in oil developments off the coasts of their countries. Yet it was still unclear exactly where one draws the line of international waters and a countries private waters. Along this same line, many Caribbean and Latin American nations were competing fiercely with industrialized nations for rich fishing industry off their coasts. This was also a concern for Trinidad/Tobago with the coastline that they share with Venezuela. The conference concluded that the “Caribbean Position” was composed to be ” a sovereign territorial limit of twelve miles but “patrimonial waters of up to 200 miles. In the ‘patrimonial waters,’ coastal states would have full sovereignty over natural resources in the sea and seabed, but they would have no jurisdiction over navigational rights beyond the twelve mile limit.”It was of utmost importance to the developing third world Caribbean and Latin American countries because of “an estimated 1,500 billion barrels of oil under the sea floor and endangered fish stock that yields about $18 billion worth of high-protein food annually, an estimated $3 trillion worth of manganese and other minerals” .
The third UN Conference convened in Caracas in 1974 with some 5000 delegates. The Conference turned out to be unmanageable and an agreement was not reached. The US was against the 200 mile limit of mineral rights and was up against hard opposition because of the Oil Embargo in the previous year that sent oil prices through the roof and sent oil companies looking throughout the ocean for oil reserves. The Secretary of State Kissinger stated that the US could no longer afford to wait for an international settlement although