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Jaime Lusinchi


In office
2 February 1984 – 2 February 1989
Preceded by Luis Herrera Campins
Succeeded by Carlos Andrés Pérez

Senator for life
In office
February 2, 1989 – August 13, 1993
In office
1998–1999

Born 27 May 1924 (1924-05-27) (age 85)
Clarines, Anzoátegui, Venezuela
Political party Acción Democrática
Spouse(s) Gladys Castillo (div.)
Blanca Ibañez
Alma mater Central University of Venezuela
Occupation Physician
Religion Roman Catholic
Signature
Website Official website

Jaime Ramón Lusinchi (born 27 May 1924) is a Venezuelan politician who was the President of Venezuela from 1984 to 1989. His term was characterized by an economic crisis, growth of the External debt, populist policies, currency depreciation, inflation and corruption that exacerbated the crisis of the political system established in 1958.

Accused of corruption after leaving office, Lusinchi was popular during his presidency, and was succeeded by a member of his party, Carlos Andrés Pérez.

Contents

Life and career

Caricature of Jaime Lusinchi (Lusinchi´s “Bluff” falls), during the internal elections for the Secretariat-General of Acción Democrática, Resumen Magazine, 15 February 1981

Jaime Lusinchi was born in Clarines, Anzoátegui, on 27 May 1924. His mother María Angelica Lusinchi, from an Italian-Corsican descent, gave him her family name, growing up without the presence of a father (who probably was an Italian emigrant). Lusinchi attended elementary school in his native Clarines and Puerto Píritu, and high school at the Federa School of Barcelona, Anzoátegui. In 1941 started to study Medicine at the University of the Andes in Mérida, but soon moved to Caracas continuing his career at the Central University of Venezuela graduating in 1947.

From 1937, at the age of 15, Lusinchi vinculated to the National Democratic Party, organization created by Rómulo Betancourt against the government of Eleazar López Contreras. In 1941, Lusinchi was present at the foundation of the social democratic party Acción Democrática. The same year he married Gladys Castillo.

During his time on college, Lusinchi stood out as a political activist, was secretary of the School Medicine Council, vice president of the Venezuelan Association of Youth, and vice president of the Student Federation of Venezuela, a Radical organization with influences of Marxism, being part of the revolutionary movement of 19 October 1945, which overthrew the government of Isaías Medina Angarita. In 1948, was elected president of the Municipal Council of Freites District and president of the Legislative Assembly of Anzoátegui, as well as regional secretary of Acción Democrática.

After the overthrow of Rómulo Gallegos by a military coup, on 24 November 1948, Lusinchi continued carrying out political activities whilst in hiding from the authorities. He worked in a hospital belonging to the oil company Mene Grande in San Tomé (Anzoátegui state) - however he soon moved to Caracas to avoid the persecution of security forces, who arrested him several times.

In Caracas he was part of the clandestine organization of Acción Democrática, which in coordination with the leadership in exile established resistance to the dictatorship. Lusinchi acquired responsibilities in the national secretariats of organization and propaganda, and was a member of the party's Political Bureau. In 1950 he was one of the organizers of the nationwide strike of oil workers. After the 1952 election fraud, which dissolved the Civic-Military Junta and began the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez, Lusinchi was captured and imprisoned at the National Security.

A month later he was transferred to the Cárcel Modelo (Model Prison) in Caracas, and was released shortly after that, beginning an exile of five years in Argentina, Chile and the United States. During his stay in Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile, he undertook postgraduate study in Pediatrics. He resided in Santiago from 1953 and worked at Roberto del Río Hospital. In addition, he struck up friendships with prominent figures in local politics, such as the Christian Democrat Eduardo Frei Montalva and the socialist Salvador Allende.

In 1956 moved to New York City, which was the focal point of Acción Democrática's leadership in exile, with Betancourt as principal leader. At this city, Lusinchi gets a master's degree in pediatrics, at Lincoln Hospital and the Bellevue Hospital Center, joining the American Academy of Pediatrics. On 23 January 1958, democracy was restored in Venezuela. After the fall of Pérez Jiménez Government, Lusinchi returns from exile, and joined the National Executive Committee of Acción Democrática as secretary for International Affairs. In the 1959 General Elections he was elected deputy for Anzoátegui for the National Congress, being re-elected in 1963, 1968 and 1973.

In 1977, Lusinchi unsuccessfully ran for the presidential candidacy of Acción Democrática at the 1978 elections, being defeated by Luis Piñerúa Ordaz (who lost against the candidate of COPEI, Luis Herrera Campins). After this, Lusinchi was elected senator for the 1979-1984 period. On March, 1981 he was elected General Secretary of Acción Democrática, and on 29 June 1982, he was proclaimed as a candidate for the 1983 elections.

On 4 December 1983, Lusinchi with 56% of the votes, wins the presidency, and Acción Democrática obtains an absolute majority at the Congress. On 2 February 1984, sworn in as President of Venezuela for a five-year term.[1]

Presidency

Jaime Lusinchi during his campaign for presidency, 1983
Jaime Lusinchi was sworn in as President of Venezuela, on 2 February 1984

Lusinchi started his presidency at the age of 59, promising to govern with fairness, transparency, social sensitivity and austerity in the use of public funds, presenting himself as a moderate president.

The first three years of his presidency were characterized by efforts to achieve economy stability, the paying off of the foreign debts, the reduction of public spending, the implementation of social programs benefiting the people and the promotion of industrial growth. These goals were not accomplished. However, agriculture and the iron mining industry were developed during his administration, the country achieved positive growth rates at the end of 1984, with a growth rate of 6% in GDP, but the official rate of unemployment inherited from Herrera´s government was 20%.

During this period, the government started negotiations to restructure interest payments and amortizations of the foreign debt, which in 1985 was 36 billion dollars (of which 28 were from the public sector), contracted with the international private banking and multilateral agencies. The first positive result of this serious effort was that Venezuela regained a credit-eligibility rating. In addition, Lusinchi took initiatives to increase oil prices via OPEC.

Venezuelan Presidential election 1983
Results[1]
Candidates Votes  %
Jaime Lusinchi 3.773.731 56%
Rafael Caldera 2.298.176 34%
Teodoro Petkoff 277.498 4%
José Vicente Rangel 221.918 3%
Abstention: 952.712 12%
Total votes: 6.825.180

However, Lusinchi was not successful at crucial goals for the development of the country. The oil market was too unstable due to price fluctuations and thus unpredictable, the oil prices were low, and the Venezuelan economy was too oil-dependent. This led to a dismal situation due to an excessively high government fiscal budget, depleting financial reserves for the payment of debt, an important pledge made during Lusinchi's presidetial campaign.

1985, was characterized by a relative social peace and the absence of labor disputes and strikes, in part due to the support of the government by the largest trade union of the country, the Confederation of Workers of Venezuela, which had traditionally been closely linked to Acción Democrática. During this year, Lusinchi welcomed John Paul II, the first Pope ever to visit Venezuela. But in the second half of his presidency, the social malaise grew, and the government was pressed to change the direction of its policies. In December 1986, the government decided to devalue the official exchange of the national currency bolivar by 93%, culminating with three years of depreciation of the national currency from February, 1983, also introduces a system of multiple currency changes. In 1987, Lusinchi finally stopped the economic program carried out from the beginning of his term in office, and gave up his attempts to pay off the external debt, control the fiscal deficit and restrain public spending.

Jaime Lusinchi and Colombian president Belisario Betancur in Bogotá

After that, he decreed salary increases, price controls, emission of currency and compensatory bonds for subsidies. These measures tried to appease social tensions, that from 1987 appeared with more intensity. The consequences of this economic program were, more inflation and budget deficits.

The return to economic populism like previous administrations safeguarded Lusinchi's popularity, although currency devaluation, corruption, media criticism and unsatisfactory results at the Presidential Commission for State Reform (COPRE), established on 17 December 1984 and whose work encountered the same bureaucratic problems and administrative inefficiency, which it attempted to solve.

During Lusinchi's presidency some repudable incidents also occurred, such as the Yumare massacre, in Yaracuy, on 8 May 1986 carried out by the DISIP (political police of Venezuela), executing nine members of the subversive group Punto Cero; and the massacre of El Amparo, in Apure, on 29 October 1988, in which 14 fishermen were mistakenly assumed to be guerrillas and killed by the army.

His relationship with his secretary and long-time lover Blanca Ibáñez caused great controversy among public opinion during his administration, particularly when Ibañez assumed the role of first lady, and participated in the decision-making process of the Lusinchi's government. Lusinchi divorced his first wife Gladys Castillo in 1991 and married his lover Blanca Ibáñez,

Lusinchi supported the former minister and political leader Octavio Lepage in his bid to be AD's candidate for the 1988 elections, but Lepage was defeated in the internal elections of the party on October, 1987, by the former president Carlos Andrés Pérez. Pérez was elected for a new period at the presidency in 1988. Lusinchi finish his term in office on 2 February 1989.[2]

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Lusinchi´s cabinet (1984-1989)

Ministries [3]
OFFICE NAME TERM
President Jaime Lusinchi 1984-1989
Home Affairs Octavio Lepage 1984-1986
  José Ángel Ciliberto 1986-1988
  Simón Alberto Consalvi 1988-1989
Outer Relations Isidro Morales Paúl 1984-1985
  Simón Alberto Consalvi 1985-1986
  Germán Nava Carrillo 1986-1989
Finance Manuel Azpúrua Arreaza 1984-1987
  Héctor Hurtado 1987-1989
Defense Humberto Alcalde Álvarez 1984
  Andrés Brito Martínez 1984-1986
  José Cardozo Grimaldi 1986-1987
  Heliodoro Guerrero 1987-1988
  Italo del Valle Alliegro 1988-1989
Development Héctor Hurtado 1984-1986
  José Ángel Ciliberto 1986
  Gustavo Mirabal Bustillos 1986-1987
  Héctor Meneses 1987-1989
Transport and communications Juan Pedro del Moral 1984-1988
  Vicente Pérez Cayena 1988-1989
Education Ruth Lerner de Almea 1984-1985
  Luis Manuel Carbonell 1985-1987
  Pedro Cabello Poleo 1987-1988
  Laura Castillo de Gourfinkel 1988-1989
Justice José Manzo González 1984-1988
  Pedro Torres Agudo 1988-1989
Mines and Hydrocarbons Arturo Hernández Grisanti 1984-1988
  Julio César Gil 1988-1989
Environment Orlando Castejón 1984
  Juan Francisco Otaola Paván 1984-1986
  Guillermo Colmenares Finol 1986-1989
  José Arnaldo Puigbó Motales 1988-1989
Agriculture Felipe Gómez Álvarez 1984-1988
  Wenceslao Mantilla 1988-1989
Labor Simón Antonio Paván 1984-1988
  José Arnaldo Puigbó Morales 1988-1989
Health and Social Assistance Luis Maniel Manzanilla 1984-1985
  Otto Hernández Pieretti 1985-1987
  Francisco Montbrum 1987-1989
Urban Development Rafael Martín Guédez 1984-1986
  César Quintana Romero 1986-1989
Youth Milena Sardi de Selle 1984-1987
  Virginia Olivo de Celli 1987-1989
Secretary of Presidency Simón Alberto Consalvi 1984-1985
  Carmelo Lauría Lesseur 1985-1988
  Carlos Croes 1988-1989
Office of Coordination and Planification Luis Raúl Matos Azócar 1984-1986
  Leopoldo Carnevali 1986-1988
  Modesto Freites 1988-1989
CVG Leopoldo Sucre Figarella 1984-1989


John Paul II visits Venezuela

Jaime Lusinchi and German Vice Chancellor Hans-Dietrich Genscher in 1987

Pope John Paul II visited Venezuela in January, 1986, being the first visit of a Roman pontiff to the country. This special event, mobilizes thousands of people and conducts cultural and religious programs in several cities including Mérida and Caracas. In the place where is celebrated Pope's ceremony in Caracas, will be built years later a housing complex with the name John Paul II, which unfortunately, is tarnished by a corruption scandal.[4]

Caldas incident

On 13 August 1987, the Gulf of Venezuela is incursionated by the Colombian corvette Caldas, creating an extreme crisis in Colombian-Venezuelan relations, being near of an armed confrontation, those are days of military movements in both countries. The crisis was resolved by dialogue between presidents Jaime Lusinchi and Virgilio Barco.[5]

Blanca Ibañez affair

During Lusinchi's period, Blanca Ibañez his private secretary and extramarital lover, had an important role in Venezuela's politics, being a key member of the government and the target for accusations of corruption. The performance of Ibañez, goes from, her military attire at El Limón River tragedy, the declaration of adopted daughter of La Grita, accusations of irregularities with regard to the John Paul II housing complex, and her rejection from La Moncloa.[6]

Later career

Poster of Jaime Lusinchi, as candidate for the 1983 presidential elections

After the end of his presidency Lusinchi was appointed as Senator for life, as permitted by the 1961 constitution. From 27 March 1990 Lusinchi was subject of a parliamentary inquiry, by a corruption scandal of huge proportions during his government. Accused for the use of influences at the currency exchange, through the financial Regime of Preferential Currency Change (RECADI), the management of funds of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, for the purchase of 65 jeeps used at the 1988 Campaign of Acción Democrática, the use of some funds of the National Institute of Hippodromes, and for being, in August, 1993, behind the campaign of mail bombs, sent by anonymous persons to the Supreme Court with the purpose of intimidation.

On November, 1991, the Venezuelan Congress issued a "political and moral condemnation," without criminal referrals, against the former president, for his responsibility for economic mismanagement and administrative irregularities during his government. On 10 August 1993, while the public attention was dominated by the legal and political troubles of Carlos Andrés Pérez, the Supreme Court, after finding evidence of crime in the charges filed against Lusinchi, provided by the Attorney General's Office, started the proceedings.

On 13 August, Lusinchi was stripped of his senatorial immunity, and is prohibited by a judge from leaving of country. Lusinchi responded by, flying to Miami and then to Costa Rica, where meets with Blanca Ibañez, who in September, 1991, became his wife in a wedding held in New York City, after obtaining the divorce from Gladys Castillo. On July, 1994 and February, 1997, were declared prescribed by a court, the trials opened against the former president for the use of funds from the Foreigns Affair Ministry and the National Institute of Hippodromes, but on October, 1999 the Supreme Court reversed both decisions. However, although the process was reopened, the corruption charges expired.

In addition, on June, 2006, the former president, seven former officials of his government and 38 retired officials of the DISIP were accused at the 6th control court of Yaracuy, by relatives of the victims of the Yumare massacre. Jaime Lusinchi lives in self-imposed exile at the city of Miami.[7]

Trivia

  • During Lusinchi's government the José María Vargas Boulevard (Paseo Vargas) was constructed in Caracas.
  • Jaime Lusinchi has been parodied at Venezuelan media as an alcoholic, for his tendency to drink in excess.
  • In a news conference, Lusinchi responded to a journalist of RCTV "Tu no me jodes" ("You don´t fuck with me").
  • Lusinchi's Private Secretary and second wife Blanca Ibañez was known as La Barragana.
  • Another trivia was a special edition of Rubik Cube with Lusinchi's face and other "Accion Democratica" Logo and symbols.

See also

References

External links


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