In the last few years, democratic recession has been particularly troubling in the Andes as populist parties/leaders have emerged in response to the public’s frustration and discontent with weak democratic institutions and performance and increasing dissatisfaction with corrupt and incompetent government. In Peru, for example, there have been five presidents in the last 3 years with the last six presidents accused of corruption. Populism became the answer to the failings of the previous democratic governments, as in Bolivia and Venezuela. As with all populist movements and leaders, the rise to power through free and fair elections but once in power politicize and dismantle democratic institutions and process that impeded the populist from consolidating authoritarian rule on behalf “of the will of the people.” Answer the following questions:
1. What are the particular challenges of democratic governance and how do they open opportunities for populist “political entrepreneurs”?
2. Colombia’s political and economic development is seen to be different than the rest of the Andes – take, for example the long-standing conflict/violence in Colombia. What are the similarities/differences between Colombia and the rest of the Andes?
3. Finally, what explains authoritarian survival in Venezuela?
400 – 500 words
You must cite (on the text) the sources used/consulted
MUST use BOTH attached files as sources as well as BOTH websites below

Five Challenges Facing Iván Duque at His Presidency’s Halfway Point

Peru’s Problem Is Bigger Than Not Having a President

Latin America’s Shifting Politics: The Peace Process and
Colombia’s Elections
Laura Gamboa
Journal of Democracy, Volume 29, Number 4, October 2018, pp. 54-64 (Article)
Published by Johns Hopkins University Press
For additional information about this article
[ Access provided for user ‘samijo1’ at 20 Feb 2021 14:59 GMT from Florida International University ]
The Peace Process
and colombia’s elecTions
Laura Gamboa
Laura Gamboa is assistant professor of political science at Utah State
University. She is currently working on a book that examines opposition
strategies against democratically elected presidents who try to under-
mine checks and balances and stay in office, effectively eroding democ-
racy. Her work has been published in Political Research Quarterly and
Comparative Politics.
As his two terms in the presidency neared their end in 2018, Juan
Manuel Santos might have expected that he would be enjoying high
standing among his fellow Colombians. Having won the 2016 Nobel
Peace Prize for his role as leader of a peace deal with the long-running
leftist insurgency known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Co-
lombia (FARC), Santos could fairly claim to be leaving his country of
fifty-million people a better democracy than it had been when he first
took office in 2010. The peace agreement is Colombia’s most important
achievement in recent decades. Signed in November 2016, the accord
ended an armed conflict that had gone on for more than five decades.
Thousands of former combatants have demobilized, and Colombia has
become a less violent place.
Despite the international accolades that he received, however, little
credit seemed to reflect on Santos at home. In April 2018, his ap-
proval rating was an abysmal 23 percent.1 In the March congressio-
nal elections, his Social Party of National Unity had come in fourth
in lower-house races and fifth in Senate races. But worse was yet to
come. In the June runoff for the presidency, Santos would watch voters
give the office to a 42-year-old one-term conservative senator named
Iván Duque, the handpicked candidate of Santos�s greatest rival, for-
mer president Alvaro Uribe (2002–10). Duque, whose main campaign
promise was a vow to take apart the peace accord, led a seven-candi-
date field in the May 27 first round with 39 percent of the vote. Then
he defeated Gustavo Petro, the left-wing former mayor of Bogotá, in
Journal of Democracy Volume 29, Number 4 October 2018
© 2018 National Endowment for Democracy and Johns Hopkins University Press
Latin America’s Shifting Politics
55Laura Gamboa
the June 17 runoff with 54 percent. How did this inexperienced can-
didate who railed against one of Colombia’s greatest achievements
become president?
Duque’s victory was the outcome of a perfect storm. During the
first round of voting to fill the presidency, party-system deinstitution-
alization, the peace process, and the end of the FARC’s career as a
violent guerrilla movement all worked against moderate candidates.
Veteran centrist politicians who counted on traditional political elites
to lift them to victory found themselves reduced to also-rans. A coali-
tion farther to their right led by Uribe pushed them aside in terms of
voter appeal and elevated Uribe’s protégé Duque. At the same time,
something similar was unfolding on the left, as a more extreme candi-
date (Petro) outflanked and outbid more moderate (though still left-of-
center) options. The “flight from the center” continued as Duque and
Petro moved to the runoff, the latter with a quarter of the first-round
vote as compared to Duque’s nearly two-fifths of it (in order to claim
the presidency in the first round, a candidate’s vote share must exceed
50 percent).
During the runoff campaign, the dire situation in neighboring Ven-
ezuela became a more salient topic, to the leftist candidate’s detriment.
Both Duque and Petro ran radical-populist campaigns with authoritarian
undertones and disturbing implications for democracy. Yet once they
entered the runoff, it was Petro who was effectively depicted as a “Hugo
Chávez in the making.” Politicians, business leaders, and news outlets
with a record of having opposed Uribe found Petro so threatening that
they endorsed Duque. They presented the uribista candidate as the lesser
of two evils, rallying non-uribista voters of the center and center-right
to cast their ballots against Petro.
Since the 1990s, Colombia has seen its party system deinstitutional-
ize. Demographic shifts, institutional reforms, decentralization, changes
in clientelistic structures, and the security crisis of the 2000s withered
party brands. The once-dominant Liberal and Conservative parties be-
came shells of their former selves. The political-party scene in Colom-
bia is now volatile and ideologically fluid.2 In 2018, three of the five ma-
jor contenders for the presidency were independents who had gathered
enough signatures to get on the ballot.3 No one ran as the candidate of
President Santos’s Social Party of National Unity.
On the right-hand side of the political spectrum, former presi-
dents Uribe and Andrés Pastrana (1998–2002) used backroom deals
to organize a multiparty primary—an electoral contest among dif-
ferent parties’ or movements’ presidential nominees, with the goal
of choosing a single coalition candidate. The contenders were Marta
Lucía Ramírez (who had Pastrana’s endorsement), Iván Duque (who
had Uribe’s), and Alejandro Ordó~nez (a socially conservative former
inspector-general). Although Colombia has had intraparty primaries
56 Journal of Democracy
since 1988, this marked the first use of this mechanism in order to
make a selection from among presidential nominees of different par-
ties and movements.
The Primary
The primary was held on 11 March 2018, the same day as the con-
gressional elections. Duque, running as the candidate of Uribe’s Demo-
cratic Center (CD) party, emerged as the overwhelming winner of the
three-way race, garnering more than two-thirds of the votes cast. The
primary drew a turnout equaling 17 percent of the country’s entire reg-
istered electorate, a record.
Duque was not a well-known figure. Prior to 2014, he had held ju-
nior posts at the Development Bank of Latin America, the Colombian
Treasury Department, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the
UN. Elected to the Senate on the CD ticket in 2014, he remained large-
ly invisible until 2016. That year, he joined Uribe in leading the “no”
side in the campaign preceding the October 2 referendum on the peace
deal. Voters were asked simply, “Do you support the final accord for
the termination of the conflict and the construction of a stable and last-
ing peace?” Arguing against the deal on the grounds that it gave FARC
leaders immunity from punishment and guaranteed the organization ten
seats in Congress, the rejectionists carried the day by the narrowest of
margins: 50.2 to 49.8 percent with a 37.4 percent turnout (somewhat low
by recent Colombian standards).
Duque campaigned almost entirely on his uribista credentials. Claim-
ing that things had become worse in Colombia over the past eight years,
he called for strengthening the armed forces to fight factions within
FARC (as well as other leftist guerrillas) who would not lay down their
arms. He also said that he wanted to reduce and streamline taxes in
order to improve the climate for entrepreneurship and investment; fight
impunity by reforming the peace deal’s transitional-justice provisions;
uphold family values by opposing same-sex marriage; and end the cor-
ruption that he associated with the Santos administration. While Duque
presented himself as a conservative, free-market, technocratic candi-
date, his mentor Uribe was openly populist, calling Duque’s foes “unpa-
triotic” agents of castrochavismo.4
As the 2018 campaign began, former Antioquia governor Sergio Fa-
jardo was positioned as an outsider candidate on the center-left. A math-
ematician by training who had served from 2012 to 2016 as chief execu-
tive of Colombia’s second-largest province and before that as mayor of
Medellín, Fajardo was without ties to traditional parties or politicians.
Although supportive of the peace process, he spoke mostly of the need
to fight corruption and clientelism.
To Fajardo’s left, Petro used signatures to get on the left-wing multi-
57Laura Gamboa
party primary ballot. He too backed the peace process, but his main con-
cern was reducing socioeconomic inequality. With the armed conflict
receding into the nation’s rear-view mirror, issues such as corruption
and poverty—27 percent of the populace still lives below the national
poverty line of US$85 per month—have become more salient.5 Petro
addressed these concerns. He promoted tax reform, land redistribution,
free college, single-payer healthcare, environmental protection, a move
away from extractive industries, and the renegotiation of trade deals. On
paper, his platform resembled those on which moderate left-wing presi-
dents in the region such as Chile’s Michelle Bachelet or Brazil’s Luiz
Inácio Lula da Silva had successfully run.
Yet Petro resembled Uribe, his ideological opposite, in his populist,
polarizing, and even authoritarian style. Until 2017, he had publicly de-
fended Nicolás Maduro’s regime in Venezuela.6 As Bogotá’s mayor,
he had been given to going around the city council, implementing poli-
cies that it had rejected. In 2012, he appointed as director of the city’s
television channel a political ally who was later accused of interfering
with programming in order to silence Petro’s critics.7 As a presidential
candidate, Petro framed his program as a fight between “the people” and
sinister “mafias” of which, he claimed, he was a victim. Following the
trend of potential autocrats of both the right and the left, he also pro-
posed to convene an assembly to change the 1991 Constitution.8
The first round also featured a center-right politician (Germán Var-
gas Lleras) who resembled Santos and a veteran centrist figure (Hum-
berto De la Calle). Both had roots in the old Liberal Party, which used
to join the Conservative Party in defining Colombian politics. Vargas
Lleras positioned himself as the candidate of non-uribista conserva-
tives, a competent figure with an appreciation for free markets, a wary
but respectful attitude toward the peace process, and moderate stances
on sensitive social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. De la
Calle was the winner of the Liberals’ primary. He wooed centrist voters
by mixing a fairly conservative economic agenda with liberal positions
on social issues, but the real pivot of his campaign was his support for
the peace deal. A former vice-president, interior minister, and Supreme
Court justice, the 72-year-old De la Calle had been Santos’s handpicked
chief negotiator in dealings with the FARC. The accord was the culmi-
nation of a lifetime of public service, and De la Calle was determined
to defend it.
Throughout 2017, it seemed as if Vargas Lleras was on a glide path to
the runoff. He was leading in the polls, and was the choice of traditional
politicians at both the national and subnational levels. His endorsements
were impressive, spanning 55 Conservative, Liberal, Radical Change,
and Social Party of National Unity leaders spread across thirteen of the
country’s 32 departments.9 This had been the winning formula for San-
tos four years earlier. Colombia’s party system has undergone deinsti-
58 Journal of Democracy
tutionalization, but not to the extent seen in Peru or Venezuela. During
the 2000s, the Liberals and (to a lesser extent) the Conservatives still
won regional elections, and local party leaders remained important to
anyone who wanted to win nationwide. In 2014, Santos finished second
in the first round, but rescued his candidacy by making promises to local
elites, who then got out the vote for him.10 Turnout went up 8 percent-
age points in the runoff, and Santos won reelection with 51 percent of
the vote.
The expectation was that such methods would work for Vargas Lle-
ras and (to a lesser extent) De la Calle in 2018, but they did not. The
deepening process of party-system deinstitutionalization and the over-
all “antipolitics” environment in Colombia had weakened party elites’
ability to move votes. De la Calle’s campaign never took off. Hindered
by divisions among Liberals and the baggage of his role in forging the
peace agreement, he received 2 percent of valid votes. Vargas Lleras
started stronger, but he polled only 7 percent on election day. The re-
gional and local leaders whom he knew so well proved unable to help
him sway voters.
The Peace Process
While the unraveling of the party system mattered, the dispute over
the peace process mattered even more. After close to five years of talks
that began in 2012, the guerrillas had agreed to demobilize and disarm,
cut their ties with the drug trade, and assist efforts to promote substi-
tutes for illicit crops. In return, the government agreed to boost rural
investment, formalize land ownership for smallholders, restore land
stolen during the armed conflict, and lower entry barriers for political
participation. The bargaining teams also agreed to a transitional-justice
framework that would offer reduced or alternative sentences (working in
crop-substitution efforts, for instance) to any offenders—whether com-
batants, agents of the state, or civilians—who confessed their crimes
and told the full truth about them.
Their imperfections and implementation challenges notwithstanding,
the 2016 agreements were an unprecedented achievement, and marked
an important step forward for Colombia’s democracy. The peace ac-
cords demobilized more than seven-thousand combatants.11 Homicides,
kidnappings, and terror attacks fell to historic lows. In 2018, for the first
time ever, FARC took part in an election solely as a political party.
According to Freedom House, Colombia’s democracy has improved
six points since 2010 (from 59 to 65 on a 0–100 scale). For the first time,
it scores (slightly) above the Latin American mean (64.5). According to
V-Dem’s democracy indices (0–1 scale), Colombia’s electoral (0.69),
liberal (0.53), participatory (0.49), deliberative (0.57), and egalitarian
democracy (0.39) scores reached their highest levels ever in 2016. This
59Laura Gamboa
trend is even more impressive if we keep in mind that, according to the
same indicators, democracy in Latin America as a whole has stagnated
and even declined since the years from 2003 to 2007.
Despite these achievements, the peace negotiations had uneven sup-
port. The talks met with a warm international response: The UN, the Or-
ganization of American States (OAS), the EU, and the United States all
endorsed the deal. At home, however, the country was split. To back the
accord, President Santos built a loose coalition of the center and center-
left. His own Social Party of National Unity joined Radical Change,
the Liberals, the Greens, the leftist Alternative Democratic Pole, and
even some Conservatives and former Uribe supporters in the effort. To
fight the deal, Alvaro Uribe built a much tighter coalition that brought
together Social Party of National Unity dissidents, most Conservatives
(including Andrés Pastrana), and several new right-wing politicians
such as Iván Duque. Based on Uribe’s charisma and continuing ability
to appeal to voters, his own CD party became the face of opposition to
Santos and the peace process.
Peace deals often require making concessions that the public will find
unpalatable. Uribe�s campaign skillfully exploited some of these conces-
sions. His coalition charged that the government was negotiating “behind
people’s backs.” He criticized the decision to sit down at the table before
the FARC had agreed to a unilateral ceasefire, and labeled the administra-
tion “unpatriotic” for treating equally FARC ex-combatants and members
of the armed forces accused of committing human-rights abuses. Uribe’s
coalition also denounced the proposed transitional-justice arrangements,
charging that they would leave FARC crimes unpunished while the ex-
guerrillas went into electoral politics with plans to bring the ideas of Fidel
Castro and Hugo Chávez to Colombia.12
Most of these criticisms of the prospective peace deal were mislead-
ing, untrue, or unfair, but the former president’s strategy paid off. In the
2014 elections, Uribe’s coalition became the second-largest in the 102-
seat Senate and in Congress as whole. The CD itself held 19 Senate seats
(including a seat for Uribe himself) plus 19 seats in the 172-member
House of Representatives. The CD’s 2014 presidential nominee, for-
mer senator and finance minister Oscar Zuluaga, beat Santos in the first
round 29 to 26 percent, and lost the runoff to him by less than a million
votes out of 14.7 million cast.
The Uribe coalition’s most stunning triumph was yet to come, how-
ever. On 2 October 2016, it won its narrow victory in the popular vote
on the peace agreement. The “no” camp waged an emotional campaign,
turning the ballot into a referendum on the Santos administration and
touching on topics—traditional family values and pension reform—that
had nothing to do with the accords, but which moved voters.13
The peace deal nonetheless survived after additional revisions and a
fresh signing ceremony, winning the approval of a congressional major-
60 Journal of Democracy
ity in November. Yet the referendum defeat undercut the accord’s legiti-
macy and created serious obstacles to its implementation. A key revision
put Congress in charge of implementing the deal through legislation—a
move that has made the peace process subject to the vagaries of politics,
fueled uncertainty about the government’s ability to keep its promises
to ex-combatants and victims, and raised the stakes of future elections.
Santos and his bloc came out of 2016 weakened, while Uribe’s coali-
tion got a boost. For populists such as Uribe, polarization works well.
Not only does it increase cohesion, but it makes voters less likely to pun-
ish or even notice misleading statements or antidemocratic behavior.14
The polarization surrounding the peace process, as well as the uncer-
tainty regarding the implementation of the agreements moving forward,
became potent electoral tools for Uribe. They allowed the ex-president
to undercut more moderate conservatives, who mostly supported the
peace deal even as they tried to avoid becoming too closely associated
with it. Uribe was able to build a cohesive and disciplined coalition with
strong electoral machinery behind it.
Between 2014 and 2016, Uribe became the undisputable leader of the
Colombian right. His strength could be read in the relative newcomer
Duque’s 2018 primary defeat of Marta Lucía Ramírez, a right-wing pol-
itician with a long resumé and the backing of former president Pastrana.
Duque had only been in the Senate since 2014, and had never held elec-
tive office before that. His only meaningful credential in the presidential
race was the unreserved endorsement of Alvaro Uribe—but that was all
he needed. Once it was clear that Duque was going to represent them,
the uribistas rallied behind him. Fully 96 percent of the municipalities
that Zuluaga had carried in 2014 voted for Duque, as did 95 percent of
those that had voted against the peace deal in 2016.
The Rise of the “Farther” Left
If Duque’s triumph over Ramírez on the right was surprising, so was
Petro’s over Fajardo on the left. In principle, Fajardo as the more cen-
trist of two left-wing contenders had the better chance to defeat Duque.
Yet in order to win the first round while remaining viable in the run-
off, Fajardo had to cater to two very different audiences. The end of
the FARC as an armed group allowed Petro to move left on social and
economic issues without being associated with armed struggle. Petro’s
program energized left-wing voters, but in doing so it presented Fajardo
with a dilemma. If he put himself forward as a moderate, he would im-
prove his chances in a possible runoff against Duque, but at the risk of
losing left-wing support in the first round as leftist voters flocked to
Petro. Conversely, if Fajardo endorsed more radical leftist proposals to
improve his chances against Petro, such stances would hurt him in the
runoff against Duque.
61Laura Gamboa
In the end, Fajardo chose to run as a moderate independent without
strong leftist or rightist overtones. The consequences were severe. The
11 March 2018 left-wing multiparty primary between Carlos Caicedo
(Citizen Force) and Petro (Humane Colombia) raised the latter’s pro-
file, costing Fajardo crucial left-wing support. Officially, the Alterna-
tive Democratic Pole had endorsed Fajardo, but in practice many party
members instead backed Petro.15 A former M-19 guerrilla who had led
that movement to disarmament talks in 1990, the 57-year-old Petro had
served a total of fifteen years in Congress and the Senate before becom-
ing the capital city’s mayor in 2012. In short, he was a credible left-wing
leader with a long track record in politics. In the May 27 first round, he
won 70 percent of the municipalities that the Pole’s presidential candi-
date had carried in the 2014 first round. Fajardo won only 21 percent of
these districts.
The May 27 first round made Petro the first left-wing politician to
reach a presidential runoff since Colombia adopted the two-round sys-
tem in its Constitution of 1991. His success reconfigured the contest. On
the right, the peace process took a back seat. Worried by Petro’s left-
wing agenda and authoritarian tendencies, the Social Party of National
Unity, Radical Change, and the Liberal Party—theretofore unfriendly
to Uribe and backers of the peace deal—threw their full weight behind
Duque. Business leaders and some major newspapers that had supported
Santos rallied to Duque as well.
At this point, the worsening of the Venezuelan crisis played an essen-
tial role. In 2016 and 2017, President Nicolás Maduro deepened authori-
tarianism in Venezuela. In the latter year, there were 2,902 arbitrary
detentions and 397 deaths at the hands of state agents.16 At the same
time, according to IMF figures, Venezuela was experiencing 13,860 per-
cent inflation. The Venezuelan human-rights group PROVEA reported
that 90 percent of Venezuelans could not afford their daily food. The
humanitarian and political crisis unfolding in a neighbor hit home hard:
Colombia shares a border of more than 2,200 kilometers with Venezu-
ela, and as of June 2018, in excess of 800,000 Venezuelans had crossed
into Colombian territory.17
Uribe and his followers have long drawn parallels between their
country and Venezuela. They have claimed that Santos and his allies are
castrochavistas, have painted themselves as victims of state repression
akin to the Venezuelan opposition, and have warned that Colombia is on
the brink of suffering a fate similar to the one that the self-proclaimed
“Bolivarian socialist” Hugo Chávez and his heirs visited on their own
country. There is no evidence to support these uribista charges. Yet with
the situation across the border in Venezuela spiraling downward and
Petro reaching the runoff at home, the rhetoric of the uribistas gained
traction. Politicians and voters who had backed Vargas Lleras or De la
Calle in the first round as alternatives to uribismo now rallied behind
62 Journal of Democracy
Uribe’s man Duque in the runoff. A divided left was powerless to coun-
ter this alliance as Fajardo refused to back Petro, and instead joined De
la Calle in calling for voters to cast null ballots.
Voters shifted rightward, giving Duque a 54 to 42 percent runoff
victory. He claimed 74 percent of the municipalities that Vargas Lle-
ras had taken in the first round. Meanwhile, Petro won 60 percent of
the municipalities that Fajardo had taken in the first round. In the end,
Duque’s share of Vargas Lleras’s voters was larger than Petro’s share
of Fajardo’s.
What to Expect Moving Forward
Over the past eight years, Colombia’s democracy has moved for-
ward. The peace process significantly improved the quality of Co-
lombian democracy. Violence became rarer, and the political arena
became open to new movements and ideas. Petro garnered the largest
vote share of any left-of-center candidate in Colombian history.
Now there is uncertainty, however, and backward movement is pos-
sible. Duque is, to put it bluntly, a lightweight entirely reliant on Alvaro
Uribe for his support. It is unlikely that Duque will imitate Juan Manual
Santos by distancing himself from his political godfather. It is also un-
likely that the uribistas will carry out their vow to dismantle the peace
accord, but they can be expected to stall and weaken its implementa-
tion. Uribe’s disregard for democratic institutions, human rights, and
civil liberties remains a concern, as do his ties to large landowners and
paramilitary groups. The continuing influence wielded by these forces
threatens to hinder the peace process and promote antidemocratic insti-
tutional changes.
Their influence could also thwart the fight against security threats that
are becoming increasingly lethal. Since 2017, human-rights organizations
have been trying to sound the alarm regarding the assassinations of hu-
man-rights advocates, social leaders, and former FARC members. In 2017
alone, there were 167 such homicides.18 These killings are the work of
criminal groups that exploit the absence of strong state institutions in the
poorest regions of the country. In order to enhance democracy and truly
end violence, Colombians need to address the economic, political, and
institutional inequalities that foster such violent illicit organizations.19 The
chances of anything like that happening under an uribista administration
are vanishingly small.
As for the left, its future is cloudy. On the one hand, Petro’s suc-
cess in reaching the runoff might be seen as having laid the groundwork
for a united opposition front. The FARC’s disarmament has given par-
ties of the left and center-left space to approach the voters with ideas
about social and economic policy that have heretofore been little heard
in Colombian electoral politics. On the other hand, Petro is a highly
63Laura Gamboa
polarizing figure, and center-left and leftist politicians may not wish to
follow his lead. Some have already suggested that they do not wish to
join a possible multiparty pro–peace accord coalition in Congress with
him at the helm. While willing to strike deals on specific bills, they have
stated they wish to strengthen their own respective party labels while
maintaining a more centrist position regarding political developments.
Perhaps we will witness developments similar to those in Brazil a de-
cade and more ago. There, Lula made two runs for the presidency from
the left only to fall short, then moderated his rhetoric and agenda. In par-
ticular, he vowed that he would honor Brazil’s debts and refused even to
flirt with policies pointing toward default. Moderation turned out to be
Lula’s ticket to the Planalto Palace: He won a massive 61 percent runoff
victory in 2002 and repeated the performance four years later.20 Were
Petro to follow a similar course—move away from populist proposals
that threaten democratic institutions, unambiguously condemn left-wing
dictatorships in the region, and rebuild ties with other leaders on the left
and center-left—he might gain a better shot at reaching the Colombian
presidency and opening up more and better avenues for change.
1. “Gallup Poll 2018,” April 2018,
2. Juan Albarracín, Laura Gamboa, and Scott Mainwaring, “Deinstitutionalization
Without Collapse: Colombia’s Party System,” in Scott Mainwaring, ed., Party Systems in
Latin America: Institutionalization, Decay, and Collapse (New York: Cambridge Univer-
sity Press, 2018), 227–54.
3. A candidate who lacks (or does not want) a party endorsement can get on the ballot
by gathering a number of signatures equal to 3 percent of the valid votes cast for that same
office in the most recent election.
4. Juan Esteban Lewin, “¿Qué dice de Uribe que su candidato sea Duque?” La Silla
Vacía, 13 December 2017,
5. Juan Carlos …
Authoritarian Survival: Why Maduro Hasn’t Fallen
Javier Corrales
Journal of Democracy, Volume 31, Number 3, July 2020, pp. 39-53 (Article)
Published by Johns Hopkins University Press
For additional information about this article
[ Access provided for user ‘samijo1’ at 20 Feb 2021 14:58 GMT from Florida International University ]
Why Maduro hasn�t Fallen
Javier Corrales
Javier Corrales is Dwight W. Morrow 1895 Professor of Political Sci-
ence at Amherst College. His books include Fixing Democracy: Why
Constitutional Change Often Fails to Enhance Democracy in Latin
America (2018) and (with Michael Penfold) Dragon in the Tropics:
Venezuela and the Legacy of Hugo Chávez (second edition, 2015).
The autocratic regime that began forming in Venezuela under the late
President Hugo Chávez two decades ago, and which has hardened under
his successor Nicolás Maduro, has been by world standards both a typical
and an unusual case of democratic backsliding. It has been typical in that
the erosion of democracy has been led by the executive branch, and has
happened via an incremental process that was ambiguous at first and has
been polarizing all the way. It has been atypical, however, by dint of the
sheer extent of the democratic backsliding that has taken place.1 The drop
in level of “democratic-ness” from where Venezuela was a quarter-century
ago to where it is now has been profound. It is hard to find recent cases of
democratic decline anywhere in the world that can match Venezuela’s fall,
though perhaps Nicaragua under Daniel Ortega might bear comparison.
The process of democratic backsliding has not been without opposi-
tion. Maduro, who took office as designated successor when Chávez
died of cancer in March 2013, has faced political resistance from oppo-
sition parties, the media, civil society, elements of the military, and in-
ternational actors. He came to office not through a primary, but because
Chávez had handpicked him to be the next leader of what Chávez called
“Bolivarian socialism.” Maduro won the April 2013 presidential elec-
tion by a slim margin amid conditions of questionable electoral integ-
rity, suggesting a weak mandate. He has presided over one of the most
devastating national economic crises seen anywhere in modern times.
His approval ratings have sagged consistently, while the opposition’s
electoral fortunes have surged, as exemplified by its victory in the 2015
National Assembly balloting. Massive street protests broke out in 2014
Journal of Democracy Volume 31, Number 3 July 2020
© 2020 National Endowment for Democracy and Johns Hopkins University Press
Authoritarian Survival
40 Journal of Democracy
and 2017. Since 2019, Maduro’s regime has had to cope with heightened
financial sanctions levied by the United States, the European Union,
and most countries of the Americas. These pressures, indeed, have been
such that one could argue Maduro
should have fallen by now.
The regime could still unravel
at some point, but its seven-year
survival is impressive. How has
it managed to hang on? The most
obvious answer is that Maduro has
survived because he has turned
more authoritarian. He inherited a
semi-authoritarian regime, and he
has hardened it. But to make this
point analytically useful, we need
to specify the authoritarian prac-
tices that have allowed Maduro to
survive as long as he has.
Here we might take a step back and look at the global context. Over
the past decade, more democracies have been acquiring features of au-
tocracies, and more autocracies have been hardening their authoritarian
practices.2 As they attempt to autocratize, these regimes, like Madu-
ro’s, often confront political resistance. Some autocratizing presidents
manage to survive and neutralize this resistance, thus becoming more
authoritarian. Others, by contrast, lose the battle, which can interrupt,
slow down, or even reverse the process of democratic backsliding. What
explains the survival of autocratic practices in the face of resistance?
Part of the answer is that new autocratic-survival tools are appearing.
These need more study. One that is particularly noteworthy in connec-
tion with Venezuela is what I call “function fusion.” This particular
authoritarian tactic consists of granting existing institutions the ability
to perform a variety of functions traditionally reserved for other institu-
tions. Function fusion gives autocratizing presidents an added means of
surviving and possibly overcoming resistance.
We have long known that autocracies commonly try to ride out eco-
nomic and political shocks with such time-tested survival tactics as
reinforcing control of institutions, turning more repressive, attacking
civil society, intensifying surveillance, harassing opposition leaders,
channeling resources to regime cronies, and deepening ties with other
autocratic states.3 All these means remain available to autocrats today.
Function fusion is a new arrow in the autocratic quiver, however.
In essence, this maneuver consists of taking existing institutions and
assigning them roles typically associated with other institutions. Thus it
“fuses functions” in novel ways, as when groups in civil society are turned
into paramilitaries, and armed forces into economic actors. Function fusion
“Function fusion”—granting
existing institutions
the ability to perform
a variety of functions
traditionally reserved for
other institutions—gives
autocratizing presidents an
added means of surviving
and possibly overcoming
41Javier Corrales
appeals to autocratizing states because it allows them to lean less on tradi-
tional methods—especially naked military repression—that are now seen
as likely to bring too many negative consequences down on the regime.
Because function fusion allows more sparing use of traditional autocratic
methods, it has rising appeal as a survival tool.
Function fusion has been the hallmark of Venezuela’s transition from
semidemocracy under Chávez to full-fledged authoritarianism under
Maduro. Chávez was famous for turning PDVSA, the country’s state-
owned oil company, into a multitask organization dedicated to financing
the ruling party, rewarding loyalists, funding welfare programs, acting
as an employer of last resort, and securing trade deals with foreign al-
lies. Maduro has continued this tactic, but has taken function fusion to
new heights, applying it to the military, which has been allowed to di-
versify its portfolio of activities; organized civilian groups, which have
been given the function of conducting quasi-military operations as well
as criminal activities; a constituent assembly, which has acquired the
function of legislature and ruling party combined; and foreign armed
forces, to which Maduro has given a share of Venezuela’s sovereignty.
Traditional Autocratic Practices
From the start of his administration, Maduro has faced a number of se-
vere crises. While none on its own seems lethal, in combination they have
added up to more than most democratically elected governments could
likely handle. One way in which Maduro has responded to the multiple
crises has been to adopt or reinforce conventional autocratic practices.
The first crisis was Maduro’s declining electoral competitiveness. He
barely won the 2013 presidential election, and then went on to a stun-
ning defeat in the 2015 legislative election. His popularity dove. Maduro
dealt with the problem by expanding the number of electoral irregulari-
ties. He blocked a call for a recall referendum, and held fraudulent elec-
tions for a constituent assembly. In 2019, his government manipulated
the presidential-election timetable and voting centers, used government
handouts to coopt voters, banned candidates and parties, and refused to
do real audits in response to vote-fraud charges.
Another crisis was triggered by loss of control over the legislature in the
2015 election. Maduro responded with two classic authoritarian moves: He
illegally packed the courts before the newly chosen lawmakers could sit,
and then relied on these courts to back him when he refused to recognize
any of the legislature’s acts. He raised blizzards of technicalities, fabrica-
tions, and court rulings, backed by his friendly judges at every turn.
Then there was the crisis inside the military. Chávez had been briefly
unseated by an April 2002 putsch, and Maduro has long claimed to be
under threat from a “continuous coup.” There is no doubt that Maduro
has faced significant discontent across the 160,000-strong armed forc-
42 Journal of Democracy
es. This has prompted him to crack down hard. There are reports that
any officer “in touch with the opposition” can be arrested, with threats
against family members in turn.4 By mid-2019, the regime held 217 ac-
tive and retired officers (including twelve generals) in prison, many of
them without trial. Since 2017, there have been at least 250 cases of
torture committed against military officers, their relatives, and opposi-
tion activists.5 Reports suggest that Cuban security forces were in 2008
specifically directed to train a government unit, known as the Director-
ate General of Military Counterintelligence, devoted to spying on the
armed forces.6
Operation Gideon, the armed assault that failed to unseat Maduro
in early May 2020, illustrates the extent of both military disaffection
and state-sponsored surveillance. This plan by about three-hundred ex-
iled Venezuelan military officers based in Colombia called for invad-
ing Venezuela by sea and toppling Maduro. The endeavor was aided
by a U.S. security firm and had some support from civilian opponents
of Maduro. The landing attempt, which in the end consisted of around
sixty people, would not have been possible without military defections.
Among the reasons it failed was the degree to which Maduro had man-
aged to infiltrate it. His forces were ready and intercepted the two inva-
sion boats.
Next on the list of troubles is Venezuela’s grave economic contraction.
Ongoing since at least 2014, it has been the worst economic crisis that
Latin America has seen since 1945, with deprivations resembling war-
time conditions. To survive, Maduro has wielded a typical authoritarian’s
tool: rampant cronyism. He has granted economic elites and close asso-
ciates privileges such as access to the best foreign-exchange rates, con-
tracts to import food for the government’s distribution programs (known
as CLAP), significant degrees of impunity, and most recently, control of
gold mines (placed in the hands of regime-friendly governors).7
Finally, Maduro has had to outlast rising street protests. To deal with
the massive nationwide protest waves of 2014 and 2017, his government
reached for those most traditional forms of repression—brute force and
censorship. Venezuela saw levels of repression not seen in Latin America
(with the possible recent exception of Nicaragua) since the early 1980s.
The Venezuelan human-rights group Foro Penal reports that by the end
of July 2017, the number of people who had been killed while protesting
was 133. (Of these, 101 had been “directly assassinated” during demon-
strations.) The regime had also made 5,061 arbitrary arrests, and held 620
political prisoners as of July 31.8 Censorship has risen, aided by Chinese
technology. In 2017, the government hired a Chinese telecom company
(ZTE) to develop a national identity card, named Carnet de la Patria, capa-
ble of tracking citizens’ social and political behavior. Everyone must have
one of these cards to qualify for food assistance as well as access to pen-
sion benefits and subsidized oil. The government also offers cash prizes
43Javier Corrales
to encourage citizens to apply for the card. As many as eighteen-million
Venezuelans are cardholders.9 It appears that since the onset of the co-
vid-19 pandemic, media censorship has intensified. Internet-content and
access blockage now extends to portals covering the spread of the disease,
including even websites maintained by the World Health Organization.10
The Uses of Fused Functions
To his conventional authoritarian expedients, Maduro has added the
more novel method of function fusion. This concept is not new to the
social sciences, nor is it necessarily something that goes on only under
authoritarianism: Democracies too have seen institutions manipulated
and distorted to serve goals other than the ones that they were originally
established to serve. For instance, democratically elected governments
often use social spending to buy votes; “fine tune” the instruments of
macroeconomic policy to affect electoral outcomes; and manipulate in-
formation to deflect criticism. Likewise, authoritarian regimes often in-
corporate or “mimic” democratic practices, for instance by allowing the
use of elections to fill some offices, or by permitting certain aspects of
media independence to survive.
Function fusion is related to but also different from this type of in-
stitutional blending. It is related in that the state deliberately blends in-
stitutional functions that one typically does not expect to go together. It
is different in that the fusion takes place not by importing institutions
from other regime types, but by blending the functions of institutions
within the same regime type. Let us consider some examples. The first
involves the military.
Every authoritarian regime needs military support. Maduro’s regime
has it, but with some unconventional twists. In Venezuela today, “the
military” means not only the standard military establishment (compris-
ing both professional and ideologically oriented soldiers), but also four
other groups, each with its own interest in supporting Maduro. Beyond
the standard military there are first the military politicians who fill high
civilian posts. As of 2020, eight members of Maduro’s 33-member cabi-
net, as well as seven of the nineteen governors who belong to the ruling
party, are active or retired military. Then there are the generals who are
running at least sixty state-owned corporations. Until April 2020, these
included PDVSA, which is the world’s largest oil concern in terms of
proven reserves and until recently was one of the few enterprises in
Venezuela capable of earning export income.
Alongside the soldiers, the soldier-politicians, and the soldier-manag-
ers, Maduro has created two classes of profit-seeking soldiers. One is in-
volved in legal business activities; the other pursues illicit as well as licit
gains. Since taking power in 2013, Maduro has founded fourteen busi-
ness concerns that the military owns outright (as distinguished from state-
44 Journal of Democracy
owned civilian firms that military officers manage). These are not the first
such enterprises in Venezuelan history, but the number before Maduro
was small. Maduro’s military businesses are involved in car sales, bank-
ing, clothing, printing, construction, farming, the media, mining, subsi-
dized foods, transport, and even water distribution.
In addition, soldiers have been encouraged to establish their own pri-
vate firms to do business with the state. The Organized Crime and Cor-
ruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) estimates that the family of General
Vladimir Padrino López, who is the uniformed head of the military as
well as the defense minister, owns two-dozen companies in the United
States and Venezuela as well as U.S. real estate worth millions of dol-
lars. The OCCRP has also reported on what it calls “The 35 Club,” a
group of Venezuelan generals who since 2004 have founded 41 private
companies and secured 220 state contracts.11
On the illegal side, Maduro has allowed the military to engage in
lucrative illicit dealings.12 These include controlling informal domestic
markets, smuggling consumer goods such as gasoline into Brazil and
Colombia, and working with the Andean drug trade (it is estimated that
a quarter of Colombian drug exports pass through Venezuela).13 More
recently, members of the military appear to have become involved in the
illegal export of gold.14 While some analysts find U.S. charges concern-
ing the Venezuelan military’s illicit dealings overstated, few experts
deny that the military is involved in such activities, or that officers take
part in them without much fear of punishment.
Civilians as Soldiers—and Gangsters?
Another institution that has become fodder for function fusion is
the network of civilians whom the ruling party has organized into what
are known as colectivos. In Venezuela, this term signifies groups of
civilians whom the government encourages—and even pays—to terror-
ize political dissidents. These armed bands have become a hallmark of
Maduro’s rule. The regime began using them in the early 2000s under
Chávez. As the government’s popularity has decreased under Maduro,
the state’s need to rely on colectivos has increased.15 Today, the col-
ectivos comprise mostly ruling-party followers, paid civilians, moon-
lighting police officers in plain clothes, delinquents, and assorted thugs,
sometimes even former convicts.16 The government hires them infor-
mally to carry out some of the dirtiest forms of repression. Distributed
across low-income neighborhoods throughout the country, these groups
can be sent into city streets quickly. Altogether, colectivos may control
as much as a tenth of the country’s urban space.17
Deployed mostly to handle protests, colectivos are especially good at
intimidating people who gather for small neighborhood demonstrations
or rallies. In Venezuela, street protests have been nationally organized
45Javier Corrales
and coordinated (as in 2014 and 2017), but also small and dispersed,
occurring in neighborhoods throughout the country and not necessar-
ily coordinated by national-level politicians. These smaller protests
have included street meetings, marches, and labor strikes. A study by a
Venezuelan NGO documents their dramatic proliferation (see the Fig-
ure). Maduro has preferred to deal with these protests via the colectivos
rather than uniformed police or soldiers.18 The colectivos show up un-
announced and armed. They ride motorcycles and their faces are often
covered. Their street clothes make it hard for reporters to certify that
they are government-backed operatives. This gives the state “deniabil-
ity” when the colectivos threaten (or use) violence.
Colectivos have thus become the unofficial “sheriffs” or gangs in
particular neighborhoods, especially low-income ones. In return for sup-
pressing protests, they have freedom to commit ordinary felonies such
as armed robbery, burglary, drug dealing, smuggling, and extortions of
both businesses and private persons.19 In the economy of “twenty-first–
century socialism,” where scarcity is severe and business opportunities
are few, the chance to engage in criminality with near-total impunity
has turned out to have an appeal for many civilians. This is especially
so when all that is needed to earn such impunity is doing the job that the
state wants done against protesters.
Why does the state give to civilians certain functions associated with,
on the one hand, the military, and, on the other, criminal syndicates?
5,338 5,483
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Figure—Protests in Venezuela, 2011–19
*Approximately 68 percent of protests in 2014 and 82 percent in 2017 formed part of na-
tional-level protests.
Source: Observatorio Venezolano de Conflictividad Social (various years).
* *
46 Journal of Democracy
The reasons are likely two: The colectivos spare the government embar-
rassment, and they ease the minds of officials worried that ordinary sol-
diers (who face the same hardships as others who dwell outside favored
regime circles) are not loyal enough to Maduro to be trusted with the
task of repressing fellow citizens.
Before the 2000s, books on the military hardly discussed the pos-
sibility of institutional and functional diversity within the state’s secu-
rity apparatus. The standard view was to agree with Max Weber that
states pursue a monopoly of violence within their respective territories.
Today, however, the diversification of state coercion, or what political
scientists are calling the new oligopoly of state violence, is the preferred
norm among undemocratic regimes and failed states.20 Maduro’s regime
is a good example of it.
When a legislature refuses to go along with an executive branch, the
most autocratic solution is of course the autogolpe or self-coup: The
executive closes the legislature and seizes all governmental power. But
self-coups, like instances of sending “the uniforms” to assault civilians,
are embarrassingly high-profile and bring a lot of negative publicity.
Alberto Fujimori tried one in Peru in 1992 and got away with it for a
time, but eventually ended up in jail. Maduro’s alternative to a self-coup
has been the Constituent National Assembly (ANC).
Maduro acquired the problem of a nonsubservient legislature after
voters in December 2015 gave the opposition a 109-seat supermajority
in the 167-seat unicameral National Assembly. Initially, the government
began reducing the legislature’s powers through the Supreme Court.
Four opposition deputies had their elections challenged, thus stopping
the supermajority. Then came a ruling that no legislation can affect any
other branch of government, thereby blocking most bills. The Court also
ordered the arrest of several deputies, and finally, in March 2017, took
over legislative functions completely, on the claim that the National As-
sembly was in violation of the Constitution.
Then, in May 2017, Maduro came up with the idea of using a constitu-
ent assembly to bypass the legislature. Invoking the 1999 Constitution’s
Article 347, which grants the people the right to convene a constituent
assembly, Maduro organized a highly irregular constituent-assembly
election. He carried out no consultations before making his announce-
ment, and there was no referendum (there had been one in 1999) on
whether to call a new constitution-writing body into being. According
to one poll, 85 percent of respondents favored sticking with the existing
constitution.21 On election day, some citizens, mostly regime loyalists,
were allowed to vote for multiple candidates, and opposition participa-
tion was restricted. Everything took place, moreover, in a context of
massive unrest. Forty countries refused to recognize the new body.
To no one’s surprise, once the ANC came into being, it gave itself
power to make laws. Perhaps more surprisingly, albeit in line with
47Javier Corrales
function fusion, it also began acting as a national supreme court, an
election authority, a foreign ministry, and a politburo. As a court,
the ANC barred opposition candidates from running for office and
stripped National Assembly president Juan Guaidó of his parliamenta-
ry immunity. As an electoral body, the ANC has made decisions about
elections, including announcing that there will be no 2020 presiden-
tial election despite demands from the opposition and most Western
countries. As a foreign ministry, the ANC has made pronouncements
about policy toward the United States and toward other Latin Ameri-
can countries. As a politburo, the ANC has handed down political prin-
ciples and policy directives to the entire ruling party. For instance, the
ANC has fired a cabinet member (Prosecutor General Luisa Ortega
Díaz) who criticized the administration, created truth commissions to
investigate human-rights charges, and offered opinions on tax policy
and military affairs.
In addition to the opportunity to carry out a self-coup through other
means, function fusion as it relates to the Constituent Assembly has
allowed Maduro to give a fiefdom to one of the ruling party’s most im-
portant leaders, Diosdado Cabello. Considered by Chávez as a possible
successor and long seen as Maduro’s top internal rival, Cabello wields
influence with crony capitalists, Bolivarian ideologues, and various
sections of the military. Function fusion has allowed Maduro to keep
Cabello within the fold. As ANC president since 2018, Cabello stands
at the head of a national-level political organ with extraordinary pow-
ers. Like Cabello, many other ruling-party members—Maduro’s wife,
Cilia Flores, among them—hold seats in the ANC, an outcome achieved
through electoral tricks.
As of June 2020, the ANC has been in place for three years and still
shows no sign of producing a new constitution. In 1999, when he was
keen on giving the country a new basic law, Chávez accomplished the
entire process in less than eight months. Under Maduro, having the ANC
act variously as a legislature, a court, and a party organ has taken prece-
dence over the work of drawing up a new constitution.
Sharing Sovereignty
Authoritarian regimes have been known to host and support foreign
armies within their territories. Maduro has gone further by also shar-
ing sovereignty with such armies. This has been Maduro’s approach
to elements of two radical-leftist guerrilla groups from neighboring
Colombia. One group is the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colom-
bia (FARC), and the other is the smaller Army of National Liberation
(ELN). Each came into being in 1964 and long waged war against the
government of Colombia, which has a border with Venezuela more than
2,200 kilometers long. In 2012, Colombia sought an end to the guerrilla
48 Journal of Democracy
conflict by opening peace talks, which produced an accord with FARC
in late 2016. Talks with the ELN continue.
The forces that Maduro and various subnational authorities have been
sheltering in Venezuela are dissident FARC and ELN splinter groups.
They have rejected the peace process, and claim to be continuing their
operations against the government of Colombia from within that coun-
try’s neighbor. Maduro has not only permitted them to stay, but has been
allowing them to wield powers similar to those of sovereign governments.
This sharing of sovereignty with foreign guerrillas is most visible in
the gold-mining industry. With world oil prices declining and Venezu-
ela’s oil sector collapsing around the time Maduro became president,
the government began looking to gold to make up the gap. Exports other
than oil were few, and Venezuela has large gold reserves, especially
in the vast Orinoco Mining Arc that covers 112,000 square kilometers
(about an eighth of Venezuela’s total area) stretching across the country
from west to east south of the Orinoco River. In November 2018, Mad-
uro estimated that his “Gold Plan” could yield as much as US$5 billion
in profit.22 Maduro has given dissident FARC and ELN factions freedom
to operate in the Cuba-sized Mining Arc.23 These guerrillas have access
to illicit export channels through which at least some of the gold can be
sold abroad despite U.S. sanctions.24
Dissident FARC and ELN groups are allowed not only to run their
own mines and keep substantial revenues (a type of privatization), but
also to control a range of related activities. These include selling gold
both within Venezuela and abroad; deciding which other groups, legal
or illegal, also get to mine; collecting unofficial taxes from both legal
and illegal miners; and most important, controlling the people who live
in these areas. Inside their mineral fiefdoms, it is up to FARC and ELN
elements to provide security (or not), to control borders, to decide who
can work in the mining sector, and even to provide local citizens with
social services. Some reporters have documented similar “state” ser-
vices being provided by foreign guerrillas in the interior states of Ama-
zonas, Apure, and Táchira.25 These foreign guerrillas also are known to
commit human-rights abuses with impunity.
In controlling large portions of Venezuela’s extractive industries out-
side the oil sector, these foreign armies (and by extension, the Venezue-
lan state) are also sharing sovereignty with colectivos and even criminal
syndicates that also mine and market gold. Human Rights Watch reports
that each mining enterprise in the state of Bolívar has its own violent
criminal syndicate.26 Local citizens engaged in private mining have re-
ported preferring “to sell to the syndicates because the soldiers often
take part or sometimes all of their gold.”27
Criminal syndicates and foreign armies are now the dominant armed
forces in these regions, and hence what passes for the law there. The
gangs and the guerrillas are de facto quasi-states operating within a na-
49Javier Corrales
tion-state. Maduro can count these nonstate groups as coopted; they give …

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