NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE
Prospects for Political Stabilityn Venezuela
byOF CENTRALSa by thm
UNITED^ STATES INTELLIGENCE BOARD
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NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE
'rospecrs for Political Stability in Venezuela
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. INTRODUCTION: THE IMPORTANCE OF VENEZUELA
II. LEONI'S INHERITANCE: BET AN COURT'S PROBLEMS
Political and Social Heritage
Communist and Castroist
Tn. THE OUTLOOK FOR THE LEONT ADMINISTRATION
Political Prospects ..
Lineup of Parties In the New
Social and Economic
Leonl and the Military
PROSPECTS FOR POLITICAL STABILITY IN VENEZUELA
To estimate the outlook for political stability in Venezuela over the next two years.
President-elect Leoni will almost certainly take office without serious challenge, and will probably enjoy an initial period of relative political calm. Nonetheless, the problems of creating andiable administration and of coping with underlying social and economicwith theof further terroristalmost certainlya series of political crises during the period of this estimate. The Leoni government probably will survive these crises.
is an experienced, generally capable politicalhis ability to supply vital national leadership during aas yet untested.
relations with Congress are likely to start outpeacefully. His political opposition will almostmore belligerent over time, but we believe he will be ablecontrol of Congress on key issues
Communist and Castroist insurgents almostbe unable to force their way to power during the periodestimate, although they willigh capability forrun terrorism, including attacks against US personnelLeoni probably will have to resort at times to extraor-
dinary measures such as suspension of constitutional guarantees to contain the insurgency threat within tolerable limits (by Venezuelannd his timing In Initiating thesemay Involve him in difficulties with either Congress or the military. )
D. The armed forces, the ultimate arbiters of political power in Venezuela, are generally disposed to support constitutionalfor as long as it proves reasonably effective in dealing with national problems. In any event, the military is anxious to avoid an arbitrary move against the government which mightarge segment of the population.ilitary coup is not likely unless Leoni becomes generally discredited with the population. Under suchilitary coup would probablyelatively moderate course and offer the leftist insurgents little opportunity for substantial gains.)
THE IMPORTANCE OF VENEZUELA
Leoni is scheduled to succeed Romulo Betancourt asVenezuela ineoni's success or failure in office will beImportance to the US. Venezuela is of strategic importance aslargest exporter of oU. US capital investment inaboutillion, exceeded only by our Investments in Canadathe UK. Venezuela, moreover, holds great symbolic value forin Latin Americaountry attempting rapid social andprogress through constitutional democracy. Venezuelapriority target in Communist efforts to promote violent revolutionAmerica, primarily because Fidel Castro cannot afford toan important democratic reformist regime to succeed.also the only Latin American country in which leftist extremists,and material support from Cuba, have been able to sustainlevel of Insurgency.
INHERITANCE: BETANCOURT'S PROBLEMS AND
Betancourt's political legacy to his successor is aOn the one hand, Betancourt has moved constitutionalimportant step forward by the very fact of surviving his legalsuccessfully holding free elections. He also initiated anof social and economic reform. Finally, the last fewbeen markedubsiding of political tensions, leading to aauspicious environment for the transfer of power. On the otherLeoni will inherit, to one degree or another, the problemscreated recurrent crises for Betancourt9 to thesocial tensions, limited national experience withCommunist and Castrolst insurgency, and the threat oftakeover.
Political and Social Heritage
addition to the direct assaults of leftist extremists andthe Betancourt government has had to withstandby opposition parties, obstruction of its program in Congress,popular indifference to the fate of constitutionallatter problems are rooted ln Venezuela's lack of experienceIn representative government and In the acute socialprevailing Ln urban areas.
Venezuela has traditionally been ruled by military dictators; its only previous experience with democratic reformistas'terminatedilitary coup which led to the repressive dictatorship of General Marcos Perez. Following his election inetancourt was able totrong multi-party coalition, because of widespread concern over the threat ot another military intervention.owever, this coalition had splintered, and the opposition parties had gained control of the lower house of Congress. Various opposition parties Joined with Communists and Castroistsystematic obstruction of government programs, particularly of measures to control terrorism. The primary objective was to discredit Betancourt's Democratic Action partyheopposition apparently had come to fear AD's domination of3 elections as much as it did the consequencesilitary coup. From time to time the opposition parties threatened to boycott the elections.
Thanks largely to its petroleum, Venezuela has the highest per capita income in Latin America, and Its government is assured of substantial revenues, much of which the Betancourthas directed into programs to promote the welfare of theclasses. Nonetheless, one-half of the country's eight million people lives under severely depressed conditions. Moreover, becauseural-to-urban migration ln recent years, much of the country'sdepressed population now lives pressed together ln urban slums, without steady employment or other conventional social ties, and without much concern for Venezuela and the maintenance of orderly government. Particularly in Caracas, where lawlessness is prevalent amonglum dwellers, much of the population has regarded the government and thetheits main
has had to contend with rightist militarymuch of his term. Moreover, of the fivehe last two, Carupano and Puerto Cabello,military officers collaborating with leftist extremisthas survived these plots and assaults largely becausemilitary commanders, and through them the bulk of thehave remained loyal to the government. Betancourt.the military to be the ultimate arbiters of political power inassiduously cultivated this loyalty. He maintainedigh level, flattered the military with frequentand praise, and courted the personal friendship of key officers
'The Venezuelan armed forces consist of tour separate services with the following numbers of officers and men:National Guard (aNavy (IncludingAir
and garrisons. Most importantly, he maintained exceptionally good channels of communication between his office and all sectors of the armed forceseans of explaining his policies and of monitoring the moods and anticipating the demands of the military. His efforts were favoredrowing political moderation among the military, stemming In part from an increasing professionalism among top officers and their fear that another military dictatorship would encounter stiff civilian opposition. At the same lime, the military, keenly aware of Castro's extermination of the prerevolulimuuy military establishment in Cuba, regarded nervously Betancourt's politically motivatedto crack down on leftist subversive agitation and violence- At timesonsiderable restiveness spread throughout theestablishment.
Communist and Caitroiil Insurgency
extremists, led by the Venezuelan Communist Partythe major disruptive force during the final years of theThe PCV participated ln8 election,votes and nine seats in Congress. The party waa propelled"armed struggle" against the government by Its Impatiencelimited opportunities to make gains through "political struggle,"example of Castro's success ln Cuba, and by the opportunitiesaction existing in Venezuela. The Communists foundfor insurgency ln other extremist groups, most notably theof the Revolutionary Leftro-Castro faction whichfrom the AD party. They also found allies of conveniencemilitary dissidents.
leftist extremists work through an organization calledForces of National Liberationhe PCVFALN affairs, but undisciplined activists sometimesactivities on their own. The FALN Is well organizedaggressive and resourceful, but limited Ln numbers.PCV and MJK combined probably can countoliticalthe tens of thousands, we estimate that the FALN hasctive trained members, including those deployed Inguerrilla bands. Most members are recruited from amongtraditionally defiant of authority and extremist in politics.
S. The FALN has been able to obtain most of Its funds, small arms, and explosives in Venezuela, primarily through robberies. Almost certainly, however, lt has received material and financial assistance from Cuba. Most notably, government forces last Novemberache of small and medium weapons on the Paraguana Peninsula.2 In addition,
'Located tn northweat Venezuela, the major arcsuerrilla acUvlty (see map).
moreundred FALN members have received paramilitaryin Cuba and elsewhere in the Communist Bloc. Cuban broadcasts to Venezuela endorsing the FALN cause and heralding its exploits have been an important boost to the Insurgents' morale. Castro's moral and material assistance was an important factor in the early stages of the development of the FALN. Although Castro probably can call upon some elements In Venezuela to step up terrorism whenever it suits his purposes, at least over the past year the FALN has become an aggressive and effective terrorist organization that does not appear to need outside prodding.
The leftist extremists haveariety of tactics ln attaching the Betancourt government.hey tried to force their way to power directly, first by meanseries of urban riots and thenombination of guerrilla warfare in rural areas and the two garrison rebellions. These attempts only proved that they lacked sufficientand military support for the purpose. Byherefore, they turned to terrorism and sabotage as operations which couldelatively few dedicated mihtants, but which would serve to discredit and weaken the Betancourt government while building up their own image and strength. Inheyajor terrorist offensive to disrupt the December elections and provoke acoup, hoping to profit from the resultant disorder and discord.
During most3 the FALN was able to strikeide variety of targets,ood chance of success, and very little risk of casualties or losses through capture. Theandicapped by poorinadequate training, low morale, and legal restrictions established or enforced ln reaction to the Perez Jimenez dictatorship, were no match for the terrorists. The political leaders of the FALN were protected from arrest by congressional immunity; rank and Sle members were able to take advantage of the legal sanctuaries provided by the autonomous universities and the de facto asylums of the slum districts. Moreover, even when arrested, terrorists often were able to regain their freedom through legal technicalities, bribery, or escapes.
FALN efforts to disrupt the election through terrorism were thwarted, however, by the combinationell-timed governmenta notable improvement in police performance,how ofby the population not to be intimidated by the terrorists. Betancourt, using some measures of doubtful constitutionality, moved to reduce FALN's disruptive capability, before military restiveness got out of hand, and after five anti-government candidates hadthemselves to the presidential race. Oneptember thewas called upon to assistoundup of known extremists and
'Civilian police forces In Venezuela number0 men. In the Caracal area, there are Ave separate civilian forcesotal of0 menational Guard contingenten engaged ln police duties
suspected terrorists, including those hiding out in slum districts. In all.ere Jailed, including several PCV and MIRin October, In response to pressure from the government, school officials closed Caracas' Central University, which further reduced the maneuverability of the terrorists. Starting in October, moreover, the police in Caracas, political nerve center of the country, proved toetter match for the terrorists, inflicting more casualties and taking more prisoners thanhe FALN still was able toarge number of hit-and-run raids, especially outside of Caracas. But because of accumulated losses in manpower and morale, It was eitheror unwilling to mount an impressive last-minute attack. Itsthreats against the voters probably proved counterproductive. On election dayecember) the population went to the polls lnnumbers; FALN attacks were few and ineffectual. Since the election, the terrorists have been relatively inactive, which is in large part responsible for the political calm of the final Betancourt months.
HE OUTLOOK FOR THE LEONI ADMINISTRATION
Leoni will almost certainly take office withoutchallenge, and probably under conditions which promisecontinuation of the relative political calm of the post-electionthe problems of creating andiableand of coping with underlying social and economicwith the likelihood of furthereries of political crises during the period of The Leoni government probably will survive these crises.
view of the mandateonstitutional succession Implicitdramatic voter turnout for last December's election and of theof the vote, an attempt by either the military or theparties to prevent Leoni from taking office is highlythe AD candidate, receivedercent of the vote in aandote margin over his nearest competitor.second place fell to Rafael Caldcra of the Social ChristianAD's coalition partner throughout Betancourt's term.and COPEI candidates together commandedercent of theanti-government candidate received as much asercent.probably are not ready toerious attacktaking office, although they may attempt some acts ofdiscredit the inauguration.
'US advice and assistance contributed ln large part to the Improvedof the police, Among other things, we were primarily responsible for the Introduction of training in marksmanship and other practical subjects and the establishment of improved coordination among Caracas' many and often competing police agencies.
uch of the burden for the survival of constitutional democracy in Venezuela now rests personally with Raul Leoni whose abilityrisis Is as yet untested. Leonl has been engaged In politics for somef bisears: he suffered imprisonment and exile for revolutionary activities against dictatorships,ounder along with Betancourt of the AD party, and has long been the leader of the party's labor sector. During Be tan court's term, Leoni served as president both of the Senate and of the AD party. He is intelligent, diligent, tenacious, and Isa good administrator. On the other hand, he lacks some of Betancourt's outstanding political assets, particularly his personalimpressive public manner, and skill at cultivating closewith the leaders of other parties, the military, and the business community. Leoni's opening moves to win the support, or at least the tolerance, of these groups have gone well. In this he has benefited from the good wiU of Betancourt, who, for example, accompanied himost-election tour of military installations. Leonl, probably for as long as he solicits it, can continue to count on the support of Betancourt. Moreover, some of Betancourt's most experienced ministers and advisers are ready to serve Leoni. Nonetheless, Leoni's ability to supply national leadership and command the respect of key groupsustained basis is yet to be proven.
eoni probably will be able toovernment coalition with effective control of Congress, and presidential relations with Congress in general will at least start out much less abrasively than was the case during Betancourt's final years, when almost no legislation was passed. For as long as these conditions persist, they greatly increase the odds ln favor of Leoni's survival in office, as well as improve the prospects for national progress In political maturity, economic development, and social reform.
he new Congress meetsarch, and negotiations for anow are underway. Leoni's AD party will holdercent of the seats in the Senate, but onlyercent of the total in the Chamber ofhereetter than even chance that COPEI willoalition under Leonl, which would giveajority in both houses; he would also be able to control Congress byoalition with moderates and moderate leftists elected under various other partySome of the latter groups may be invited to Join AD-COPEIulti-party coalition. In any case, the formationoalition Is dependent on the negotiationorking arrangement involvingconcessions on the part of AD in terms of positions of prestige and
1 For the lineup of parties ln the new Congress, see pnge 9.
Influence and the control of expenditures. It remains to be seen whether COPEI or any of the other parties will demand more for solid support than AD is willing to concede.
LINEUP OF PARTIES IN THE NEW CONGRESS
Sbkati and Brioot Dxponis
DEMOCRATIC ACTION (AD)
Comparable In policy to European Socialparties and to tho APRA party ln Peru.
SOCIAL CHRISTIANS (COPEI)
Similar In policy to Christian Socialist parties elsewhere in Latin America and ln Europe.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLICAN UNION <TJRD)
Largely moderate leftists, but contains extreme leftist members.
Members elected on tickets supportingcandidate Arturo Uslar Pletrl; mostly moderates but Includes some far rightists.
Members elected on tteketa supportingcandidate Wolfgang Larrasabal;both moderates and erstwhile extreme leftists.
enatoreputies of the ao-called ARS party which defected from the AD party)
We believe that Leoni's best guarantee against political isolation in the midstrisis would be to reforge the alliance between AD and COPEI, In the past the two stoutest defenders of representativeAD and COPEI alone could provide Leoni with formidablebacking, especially among labor and peasant groups, as well as with Arm control over Congress. There are no major policy differencesthe two parties, and the top leadership of each apparently Is anxious to renew the coalition. Coalition relations almost certainly would prove more complicated and strained than In the past, however, because of COPETs surprisingly strong showing in the election, and AD's relatively disappointing one. COPEI foimerly accepted the position of junior partner, but now isajor voice in the shaping of government strategy.
On the otherariety of factors is likely to encourage more peaceful congressional relations, at least initially, no matter what the composition of the government coalition. For one thing, the election campaign, which exacerbated party relations, Is
over; the next election Is five years away. For another, both AD and COPEI increased their representation in Congress, whereas the parties which led the harassment of Betancourt suffered sharp losses. The PCV and MIR, which together held up toeats in the old Congress, were barred from participation in the election. The ARS faction of AD, whose defection threw control of the old Congress to the opposition, has been largely eliminatedolitical force. The DemocraticUnionhe leading opposition party in the old Congress, has been chastened by its poor electoral showing, Is moving to purge its extremist elements, and may be ready toess obstreperousFinally, moderates and conservatives will be better represented in the new Congress: several of the members elected on ticketspresidential candidates Arturo Uslar Pletri and Wolfgang Larrazabal will be primarily interested in promoting conditions favorable for business.
political opposition to Leoni almost certainly willbelligerent as his term wears on. The ARS congressmen,elected on the URD ticket, some former members ofon Larrazabal's coattails, and some rightist extremistsUslar's banner could provide the makingsmall, butopposition from the start. Apparently there Is littlethe part of AD to conciliate URD with government posts as athis party's cooperation. If excluded from participation in theURD would probably become progressively more critical ofand might eventually join with the extremists.conservatives and moderates included, retaintoward constitutionalism, and thereanger thatpolitical groupings ln time might joinystematicof the government. Some groups are sure to regardolitical crisisignal for taking soundings onilitary coup. However, even if COPEI does notcoalition lt would probably come to Leoni's support against aconstitutional order.
Social and Economic Issues
Leoni government will probably continue the basic socialpolicies ot the Betancourt government. Thewillositive thrust to the newThere are strong indications that the economy isreboundecessionnd the period of thelikely to be one of considerable growth. Business confidence isan expansion of private capital investment will complementsocial welfare and development programs to createjobs. In these circumstances, however, popular expectationsof Leoni not only that he continue Betancourt's social and eco-
nomlc pro grama, but that he substantially improve upon their content and the efficiency with which they are implemented. It Is ln meeting popular expectations for substantial Improvement and progress Inprograms that Leonl may encounter difficulties. Rapidgrowth, housing deficiencies, inherent problems in tbe execution of an agrarian reform program, and urban tensions aggravated byare problems that can only be alleviated slowly under the best of conditions.
Leonl probably will lake advantage of his Initial control ofto press for legislation to Improve the Legal framework for dealing with terrorism. Laws tightening the criminal codes generally andpenalties for specific acts of terrorismood chance of earlyaw defining the obligations of political parlies andfor the outlawing of parties espousing terrorism also may pass, but only after considerable delay because of the sensitivity of all parties to the general Issue, ln remembrance of the Peres Jimenez dictatorship. Leonl almost certainly will lend the full weight of bis office to promoting further improvements in the police. Finally, the extremist political leaders and terrorists arrested since last September probably will be detained in prison, at least for extended pre-trial periods.
The relative Inactivity of the terrorists since the election ln large part reflects their awareness of growing public resentment of extremist tactics and the preoccupation of the PCV with regrouping its forces and reassessing its policies. There is some sentiment within the partyemporary renunciation of terrorism. We believe, however, tbat any retreat from "armed struggle" which does materialize will prove short-lived. The party would have little to. gain through "political struggle" until8 elections; it is largely blocked from Influence In trade unions, peasant organizations, and other mass groups with the exception of students, by the prevailing Influence of AD and otherleft parties. Moreover, the PCV leadership almost certainly would be unable to restrainrolonged period the undisciplined groups within the FALN, or even the violence-prone youth within Its own party. Should these elements take to the offensive on their own, the PCVwould lose whatever politicalenunciation of violence might afford and, more important, would be In danger of losing control of the FALN. It Is likely, therefore, that the FALN, supported by the PCV, will return to the systematic use of violence during ihe first year of Leoni's term.
The Communist and Castro 1st Insurgents almost certainly will be unable to force their way to power during the period of this estimate. As In the past, we expect them toariety of means of attack not only to exploit Issues which have weakened the government, but
also to create them. If conditions are favorable, they may attempt toilitary coup, in hopes of finding Improved opportunities for gains through insurgency or political action in the post-coup period. The Leonl government probably will be able to contain the insurgency threat within tolerable limits (by Venezuelanlthough to do so it probably will have to resort at times to such extraordinary measures as mass arrests and suspension of constitutional guarantees. If In these instances Leonl were to crack down too soon or too harshly, his executive decrees might not be backed up by Congress, and acrisis might result; on the other hand, if he were to move too slowly or ineffectively, the military might intervene to do the job. Ii, however, the Leonl regime achieves success in managing the economy andpartisan struggles, there will probablyationalagainst terrorism. In this case Leonl could move with the support of both Congress and the military, and the insurgents probably would suffer losses which would become mcreasingly difficult for them to repair.
The FALN willigh capability for Individual hit-and-run assaults, including attacks against US personnel and property. The police in Caracas still are relatively Inefficient, and ln most other cities, elemental Improvements in police operations have not yet takenven against Increasingly proficient police, moreover, the terrorists still would enjoy the advantage of choice of target and time. Judging by past reactions, the Venezuelan economy, population, and militarywill be able to tolerate sporadic violence. If, however, the FALN launches an intensive terrorist offensive, or concentrates its attacks on sensitive targets such as military personnel, the Leoni government sooner or later would be forced torackdown. When it does, the police and military would probably perform at least as well as they did during the crisis of
The extremists have had difficulty recently in rousing the Caracas slum dwellers to demonstrate; even among students, the vanguard of past riots, thererowing tendency to avoid actions which might cause the closing of schools. Nonetheless, should tho extremists seizeopular cause, they probably couldizeable riot. The police and military forces, calling upon past experience and recentin capabilities, probably would be able to gain control of any riot, but possibly not before many casualties had been suffered on all sides.
The leftist extremists may from time to time concentrate more of their efforts on guerrilla warfare. We estimate that the FALN hasew hundred rural guerrillas, operating in Eastern and Western Venezuela. The military and police, generally with the support of the rural population, have been able to keep the guerrillas on the defensive much of the time, although campaigns to root out Individual bands
have so far been unsuccessful. The FALN probably could Increase the number of guerrillas by transferring urban terrorists. On the other hand, government anUguerrilla capabilities are likely to Increase over time, with further training and field experience. We believe, therefore, that for the period of this estimate the guerrillas will be restricted largely to their current capabilities of sporadic hit-and-run attacks on outlying communities.
he FALN may attempt desperate measures, such as theof Leoni, to disrupt the government. Venezuela has no viceoffice. In the event of Leonl's death, the President of Congress would serve as Interim President of tho Republic. Congress would then be charged withuccessor withinays, to serve theof Leoni's term. Should the transition go smoothly, theprobably would not intervene, and the cost to the terrorists for such an act, both in terms of public disfavor and government reprisals, probably would be great. The FALN also mightirectattackey city (there is evidence that the weapons in the Para guana arms cache were to be used forarring defection to the Insurgentsizeable part of the armed forces, which Is unlikely, government troops would almost certainly quickly disposeirect attack.
Leoni and the Military
The military will continue to be the ultimate arbiter of political power in Venezuela, and the only force capable of unseating theWe believe that tlie chief military commanders and tbe bulk of the armed forcea are Disposed toonstitutional government for as long as It proves reasonably effective in protecting their interests and those of the nation. Rightist military plotting probablyhronic condition. The rightists within the military-lack respected leaders, however; and Leoni probably will enjoy success with Betancourt's tactic of dispersing the chief malcontents through "golden exile" to diplomatic posts. We believe that extreme leftist officers are few ln number and limited in influence; at most, they would be capable of inciting to rebellion individual garrisons.
Leoni almost certainly will continue Betancourt's policy ofcourting the loyalty of the military. Although lie probably will be unable to duplicate Betancourt's skilled personal touch, Leoni can be counted upon to use many of his predecessor'srequent strategy meetings with key officers and visits to barracks. Thein the military probably haveait-and-see attitude toward Leoni personally. Although the success of the elections may have boosted temporarily their genera! confidence In representativethey will reserve Judgment until Leon) proves that the system can work with him at the helm. Thus, the failure of Leoni to gain
and retain workable control over Congress, or his manifest inability to deal with national problems, particularly with leftist insurgency, would be certain to produce sentimentoup among the moderates.
ilitary Coup. The course and consequencesilitary coup would depend on tho particular circumstances. We believe that the military Is anxious to avoid an arbitrary move against the government which mightarge segment of the population. Thus, eveneriod of rising military discontent with civilian government, the chief military commanders probably would use their influence tooup unless Leonl and the AD party became generally discredited and most of the population appeared ready to support or at leastilitary Intervention. Under such circumstances, an Intervention probably would meet with little organised resistance, prove relatively moderate in policy, and provide for new electionseasonably short period. The leftist extremists would probably find littlefor substantial gains. On the other hand, If an Intervention took place under circumstances Ln which AD and possibly othor civilian groups were determined to resist, and the country was facedivil war, the Communists and Castroists might he able toore favorable position.
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