Before Chavez there was Bolivar, before Bolivar there was Miranda, who is now known as El Precursor. Interestingly, the link is to the entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica, not Wikipedia (it is both jarringly strange and wonderful to me that Wikipedia has made the Encyclopedia Britannica irrelevant to me). This selection is from the excellent A Way In The World, a selection of autobiographical personal narrative by the Nobel Laureate V. S. Naipaul:
…Venezuela is a colony in the New World, with slave plantations, and it has all the divisions of that kind of place: Spaniards from Spain, who are the officials; a creole Spanish aristocracy; creole Spaniards who are not aristocracy; mulattos; the Negros of the plantations; the aboriginal Indians. This kind of place is held together only by a strong external authority. When that external authority goes, people can begin to feel they are sinking. Freedom for one group can mean slavery or oppression for another group.
So the Venezuelan revolution, as it progresses, deepens every racial and caste division in the country, encourages every kind of fear and jealousy; and the revolution begins to fail. The ordinary people of the country begin to go over to the other side, the side of old authority, and the reverences and law and religion they know.
Miranda appeals to the slaves to join him. They don’t listen; in fact, the slaves of Barlovento rebel, and there is a moment when it seems they might capture the capital, Caracas. And now, to buy peace, or at any rate to buy time, some of the very men who had called Miranda out from London, to lead their revolution, decide to hand him to the Spaniards. They wake him up one night and march him to the dungeon of a coastal fort.
There is some very interesting material here and many things to note. One is the sheer impact of Spanish colonialism, which as part of its economic and territorial imperialism has reshaped the human map of Venezuela in very vicious ways. I am curious about the evolutionary path of these kinds of coalitions and the strategic games they play and why particularly these coalitions aren’t able to mutually coordinate a revolution or (later stable non-authoritarian government).
The line of thought also plays out some interesting questions. It seems to me that bad governance is path-dependent and part of the story is that turmoil itself retards the formation and optimal evolution of institutions that make civil governance possible. If you have any thoughts of readings to point me further along this path please post them in the comments.