BOARD OF NATIONAL ESTIMATES
the ad split and venezuelan democracy
approved1 ONOV IM7
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY OFFICE OF NATIONAL ESTIMATES
SUBJECT; The AD Split and Venezuelan Democracy*
Late last year, Luis Beltran Prleto, one of the most popular leaders of the Deoocratic Action (ad) Party, bolted the narty, apparently carrying withrge part of the forcer adand launched hie candidacy for the presidential election of This split In the AD Party threatens the end of its domination of Venezuelan politics and raises questions about the future of constitutional democracy. Over the past decade of ad rule, neither leftist insurgenta nor disgruntled rightists in the military have been able to upset the progress of civilian, reformist government. Presidents Betancourt and Leoni both were able to get their measures through Congress with reasonable ease, at least during the opening years of their administrations. But the forthcoming election now is likely to be contested closely by at least four presidential candidates and seven or so congressional slates, and the next president will face the difficult problem of organizing an effective coalition government. If thes hampered frcm the start by uncertain control of Congress, leftist insurgents and, of potentially graver significance, interventionists in the military would be likely to become more active.
* This meoorandum was produced solely by CIA. It was prepared by the Office of National Estimates and coordinated with the Office of Current Intelligence and the Clandestine Services.
1. To most foreign observers the AD Farty and theof constitutional govercnent Id Venezuela ore almost synonymous. Since their student days ln, itsave been primarily responsible for Venezuela's metamorphosis from what Si non Bortvarbarracks"onstitutional democracy. AC's BccsjIo Bctancourt vas tbe first freely elected president in Venezuelan history to serve out his, and turn his office overreely elected successor; Raul tecol, also an Adeco, is now in the fifth and final year of his tern. Both adainlatrations have not only been successful in placatingmilitary interventionists and combating Qoraunist and Castrolst guerrilLao, but have also used the country's abundant petroleum resources to foster social and economic reforms. In short, AD governments have provided the populationelatively high degree of economic prosperity and political tranquillity, at least by the standards of this generully troubled continent. Yet despite this, as the election of3 approaches, AD faces the possibility of being voted out of office.
2. The AD's fall from favor has notuddenradual process. Over the years it has lost ground with the voters both through tho defection of lsrportant elements from the party and through the emergence of well organized competing parties. It
slipped from anercent majority of the popular vote in the election*ercent pluralitynd from there toercent in Despite its minority status sinceit has been able to govern relatively effectively Inwith one or more of the other parties. Even when formally in the opposition, these parties, fully cognizant of the tender roots of constitutionalism in Venezuela, have generally been morethan opposition groups In most latin Ace rican countries.
3. Reflecting both his personality and the political demands of his situation in Congress, President Leoni hascm-prcoiser ratherrusader like his Illustrious predecessor. t he has guided the country reasonably wellifficult period: when he took office the insurgents wereelatively potent force, and many military officers were not yet reconciled to the concept of civilian rule. His government's resolution in prosecuting theffort has had the effect of sharply reducing the size and effectiveness of the insurgency and gaining the confidence
ben the AD and junior military officers overthrew the remnants of the longlived and notorious Gomez dictatorship, the AD presidential candidate, Romulo Gallegos, faced little in tho way of organized political opposition. In ljWJ, however, he was thrown out of office by Peres Jimenez, whose military dictator-
ship lasted ten years.
of the mil tary to the extent that serious coup plotting has noticeably diminished. He has also continued and augmented social programs begun under Betancourt. To many, however, Leoni personifies the Image of "bueyes cansados" (tired oxen) that the ad has acquired with the passage of time. Despite its strength with organized workers and peasants, the party haa not yet been able to attract much support from two elements which play key roles in elections: the slumdwellers of Caraeas and the new voters of agend over.
k. Concern within the party gradually led to the emergenceaction seeking to return the ad to its old militancy. Over the past two years, the conflict between these Adecos and the party wheelhorses grow more bitter. arty split became inevitable in7 when the leading challenger, Luis Beltran Prleto, demonstrated his popularity by winning aneries of party "primaries" for presidential aspirants. When the AD's executive committee remained unyielding in its efforts to sidetrack Prieto's candidacy, he bolted the party, established his own political vehicle, the People's Electoral Movementnd at least Initially won the allegiancearge number of the former ad faithful.
the man most responsible for AD'sthis sequence of eventsromoter not of partyof the movement to blocs Prieto's candidacy at all costs. other political leaders after their terms of office,sought to minimize his Influence on his successor byin self-imposed exile. Hi3 influence was furtherthe law that disqualifies former presidents for two termsoffice. Nonetheless, he has not lost interest inpolitics. Possibly because he is looking toward the election
3 and wanted party control to center around his old cronies, or more probably because of his distaste for the nen around Prieto, Betancourt returned to Venezuela to stop the Prieto surge, andthe AD nomination for his friend, Conzalo Barrios.
the AD split appears to represent enschismather doctrinaire socialist wingby Prieto) and mere practical Ben like Barrios endin order to facilitate economic development, haveattitudes toward private domestic and foreignVenezuelan commentators are inclined, however, to secaseflection of conflicting personal ambitions
and old personal grudgea; according to this view, Prieto and Barrios
administrations would not differ appreciably ic policy. More than anything else. It seems to be their political Images that set them apart. In contrast to the suave European-educated Barrios (who nonetheless cuts an awkward figure on theulatto, ls more the oan of tbe people. Almost Llncolnesque In his homeliness, Priato has portrayed himself as an "old fashioned Adeco" with on overriding concern for social Justice.
7. In any case, the AD split has given new hope to the other parties. Rafael Caldera of the Christian Democratsn his fourth and perhaps final run for the presidency, is hopeful of improving on theercent of the vote he got The leaders of three parties, who together received Uh percent of the presidential vote under separate candidacies in that election, have recently united behind an attractive but relatively unknownMiguel Angel Sure ill. It ia unlikely that the coalition will again takeercentage of the vote, especially since each party plans to run Independent congressional slates.*
The throe are Arturo Uslar Piotri's generally right-of-center National Democratic Front, Admiral Wolfgangleft-of-center Popular Democratic Front, and Jovlto Villalba's centrist Democratic Republic Union.
8. Welosely contested election; prediction of the winner would be hazardous at this time, if only because of the possibility that Venezuela's amoeba-like political aoveracnts say split or readhere io still new combinations. At present, each of
the four candidates has bla own particular strengths- Coldera's COPEI has the strongest youth movement and has recently acquired the backingajor newspaper chain. Burelll'a coalition has access to the financial support of the business conaunlty and to the stump appeal of two former candidates who did very well io
Caracas. KEF's Prieto is reputedly also popular ln the ranchltos
of the capital city and bas carried out of the ADealth
of political talent, if not of actual supporters on election day. Finally, the AD under Barrios probably retains the backing of peasant organizations, and its control of the government and patronage will be advantageous.
9. As things now stand, the winning cacdidete will gainpare plurality of the vote, probably little more thanercent. Ho will have to follow the recent Venezuelan practice of
governing by coalition, but because of the relatively small size of his own following in Congress (again it is unlikely to bo ouch more then one-fourth the totale will probably have a
very difficult time coming to terms with potential partners- the AD inandesser extenthe president will not he actingosition of relative streogth but may have to deal with runnerups who lost onlyew percentage points. The JoatliDg for cabinet positions and other patronage may place enervating strains on any government as well as on the leading party. Similar strains could also exacerbate divisions within the other parties. The partners in the Burelli coalition have little in common save opportunism, while within COPEI aconflict between older, traditional Catholics and youthful radicals has only been papered over for the election. Finally, there probably willharp struggle for leadership within either AD or MEP, depending upon which party does more poorly io the election.
10. There will be some possible saving graces for any future government. Oil revenues will probably remain fairly constant over the next couple of years. All the parties will probably be in essential agreement on most major lines of policy and all, or nearly all, will be anxious to protect the constitutional system from its enemies on the far left and right. Nonetheless, the problem of forging an effective coalition may prove overwhelming,
and political frustration and even total stagnation ofaction may characterize the new government from Its start. Under these circumstances, the next administration would beln its efforts to move forward against the complex social and econaalc problems still outstanding In Venezuela: housing, education. Jobs, improvement in rural conditions. Alao, Intense political bIcierleg could produce blatantly chauvinistic actionumbor of already nagging problems in foreign relations: the border dispute with Guyana and the dispute with the US over Venezuela's share of US imports of petroleum.
11. There looms thus the possibility, and for the present It Isossibility, that the ad split could leaderious weakening of political democracy in what haa been one of its few showcases In Latin America. If civilian constitutional government demonstrates that it cannot cope with Venezuela's problems, leftist extremists would be encouraged to try to step up the insurgency. Of potentially graver significance, intor to tho general political malaloe, sane Bill-tary leader might decide that the civilians ore incapable of running the country after all. Most military officers bave been concentrating on professional rather then political matters In
recent yeai-s. Unfortunately, Venezuela's great wealth, which has facilitated the reforn measures of the constitutionalists, makes control of theempting prizeould-be military caudiUo, Just as It is for Cctanuniots, Caatroists, and other revolutionaries.
FCH ES BOARDA7ICKAL SSCTMATSS:
SMITE Choi manOriginal document.