Democracy in Latin America: Colombia and Venezuela

By Donald L. Herman | Go to book overview

nonloyal opposition was defined as any person or group who opposed the Conservative -- Liberal domination. The intent of the Venezuelan leadership was very different. Not only was the government and economic-political structure more broadly based among the various elites, but the distinction between the two principal parties was more clearly expressed. The social democratic AD and the social Christian COPEI joined the Betancourt coalition government but continued to maintain their separate political-ideological identities. Furthermore, for AD, the majority party, COPEI was the loyal opposition. These political choices, rather than petroleum revenue per se, proved to be the major factor in the establishment of Venezuelan liberal democracy. In both Colombia and Venezuela, however, other political forces felt excluded and turned to violent means to express their differences. The guerrilla movements indicated that the elites of the democratic regimes would subsequently have to respond to the demands of several left-wing groups.


Dual Model

In his provocative study Professor Wiarda offers a perspective of Latin American democracy that I believe is applicable, in varying degrees, to Colombia and Venezuela. 35 It represents a blend of both the corporatist, organist, patrimonial features with the liberal, republican, representative ones based on Anglo -- American practices. We observe two models that may exist side by side within a given country, sometimes wholly separate and sometimes overlapping, but constantly evolving. In terms of the democratic tradition, this evolution may result in further democratization by increasing electoral participation. Within the authoritarian tradition evolution may take the form of additional power contenders, leading to an expanded corporate framework. (In most Latin American countries the corporate power contenders, rather than Congress or the judiciary, "check" the power of the executive. The Venezuelan Congress, however, and to a lesser degree the Colombian, have frequently asserted their power vis-à-vis the executive branch.)

Although this analysis contends that the National Front placed Colombia closer to the authoritarian, corporatist model and the Punto Fijo agreement placed Venezuela closer to the pluralist, democratic tradition of liberal democracy, further research is required. We must turn to the post-National Front and post Punto Fijoperiods. An in-depth treatment of the topics analyzed in this book will not only allow us to reassess and perhaps modify the dual-model hypothesis, but it will compel us to raise serious questions about the very nature of the democratic regime and its future in Colombia and Venezuela.


NOTES
1
Howard J. Wirada, ed., The Continuing Struggle for Democracy in Latin America ( Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1980), p. 204. Professor Wiarda discusses extensively both the democratic and authoritarian traditions.

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