This chapter outlines the probable causes of the impeachment of Venezuelan president Carlos Andrés Pérez (CAP) in 1993 by examining the role of the political actors involved in the process. Particular emphasis has been placed on the collapse of the dominant two-party system, the AD-COPEI partyarchic model. Partyarchy once guaranteed the Venezuelan political system relative stability, but it also provoked its own demise. It hindered the institutionalization of political accountability between the electorate and political leaders. There was no really effective opposition and the two dominant parties efficiently obstructed access to political society for alternative actors, which resulted in a loss of legitimacy for the system and of credibility for traditional political leaders.
It is important to look for the deeper causes of presidential breakdowns, impeachments and even political scandals. The presidential breakdown in Venezuela was the result of complex causes. After the oil bonanza years in the 1970s, the economic situation worsened throughout the 1980s, with negative social and political repercussions. From the late 1980s onwards, the hegemonic bipartisan system was undermined and challenged by new political actors, some emerging from the decentralization after 1989. The Caracazo riots of 1989, the two military coup attempts of 1992 and the popular sympathy elicited by the rebels or coup leaders provide evidence of widespread social and political discontent.
In a continental comparison, the case of Venezuela is not that typical, since the impeachment was not the direct result of a scandal. Corruption charges against CAP in 1993 (the scandal) functioned rather as an emergency exit from the acute regime crisis. The scandal helped the actors who wished to remove CAP and was an excuse to proceed with impeachment, probably much more so than in the cases of presidential breakdowns in Brazil and Paraguay. Further, officially Pérez had strong parliamentary representation, but AD chose not to support the president’s reform policies. President Pérez thus lacked party and grassroots support and suffered from the hostile relationship between the executive power and the ruling party that facilitated the judicial process. The impeachment procedures are reviewed, as some of the political consequences of presidential breakdown.
New York: Palgrave Macmillan , 2010. 129-146 p.