Democracy in Latin America: Colombia and Venezuela

By Donald L. Herman | Go to book overview

What you earn and where you live have independent and combined causal effects on potential support for military coups. It is not simply whether your family makes a lot or not enough money but also whether you live around others who share your circumstances.

One final clarification is in order. A battery of questions comparing democracy and dictatorship was administered in the VENEDEMO survey. Respondents overwhelmingly chose democracy over dictatorship (82 percent), considered that it could resolve problems better (67 percent), that it can produce more wellbeing (69 percent), and that it would be better for Venezuela (76 percent). The only unfavorable comparison involved democracy being considered more corrupt than dictatorship (by 47 to 23 percent). 61 All of these items correlate with evaluation of the democratic regime, but not with one item inviting the more critical respondents to identify the kind of regime that they would prefer (only 86 of 1,789 respondents mentioned a military dictatorship). 62 In other words, there is a disconnection between dissatisfaction and alternatives.

A similar disconnection may be at work between many people considering that conditions under President Herrera justified a coup, that is, that President Herrera deserved a coup, and these people not being supportive of a military dictatorship. This would imply that coups remain in the mind of the Venezuelan public because they are efficient instruments of government change, not because they are associated with a kind of regime considered better than democracy. In essence, most Venezuelans believe that circumstances could arise that may justify the extreme remedy of a military coup. That they do not seem to associate this with a return to dictatorship is some consolation, but the fact that they continue to entertain the option is disturbing.


NOTES

I am indebted to John Martz, Frederick Turner, John Booth, Mitchel Seligson, Peter McDonough, Gene Bigler, and Juan del Aguila for their comments and criticisms.

1
Gene E. Bigler, "Professional Soldiers and Restrained Politics in Venezuela", in The New Military Politics in Latin America, ed. Robert Wesson ( New York: Praeger, 1982), p. 175.
2
This was a multistage national probability sample of 1,521 adult Venezuelans that I took during October and November 1973. These data will be cited as VENEVOTE.
3
The 1983 data were gathered from a questionnaire that I administered to a multistage national probability sample of 1,789 adult Venezuelans interviewed during October and November of that year. Data from these interviews will be called VENEDEMO.
4
For details see Ali Brett Martinez, ElPorteñazo, Historia de una Rebelión ( Caracas: Adora, 1973), pp. 24-26; Ramón J. Velásquez, "Aspectos de la evolución política en Venezuela en el último medio siglo", in Ramón J. Velásquez (ed.), Venezuela Moderna ( Caracas: Fundación Eugenio Mendoza, 1976), pp. 222-32.
5
Gene E. Bigler, "The Armed Forces and Patterns of Civil-Military Relations", in Venezuela, The Democratic Experience, eds. John D. Martz and David J. Myers ( New York and London: Praeger, 1977), p. 127; John D. Martz, Acción Democrática: Evolutionof a Modern Political Party in Venezuela

-214-

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