Democracy in Latin America: Colombia and Venezuela

By Donald L. Herman | Go to book overview

10
Public Opinion About Military Coups and Democratic Consolidation in Venezuela

Enrique A. Baloyra


MILITARY COUPS IN VENEZUELA

Gene Bigler recently called our attention to three important facts: (1) between 1811 and 1900 Venezuelan politics turned violent about one third of the time; (2) from 1900 through 1958 military-dominated governments ruled the country for all but one year; and (3) between 1957 and 1963 about a dozen serious barracks revolts resulted in thousands of deaths. 1

Is acceptance of military interventionism a deeply ingrained feature of Venezuelan politics? What does the Venezuelan public really think about military interventionism today? Under what circumstances would Venezuelans support a coup d'etat?

In 1973 about 50 percent of a national sample that I took of Venezuelan voters believed that there are circumstances in which military coups are justified. 2 An additional 10 percent gave a conditional response that may be interpreted as a qualified yes, and only one third of my respondents rejected coups outright. In 1983 about 53 percent of the respondents in a similar national sample said that they could think of circumstances that justified coups, while an additional 5 percent hedged a conditional response. 3 Once again, about only one third opposed interventionism outright (see Table 10.1). Given these findings, one may imagine that a substantial majority of Venezuelans somehow endorse the idea of military

The author gratefully acknowledges the support of the National Science Foundation (grants SOC7517518, GS38050, and SES8313940), which made possible the collection of the data reported in this chapter.

This is a revised and expanded version of a paper delivered at the annual meeting of the Latin American Studies Association, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, April 5-7, 1979.

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