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Rafael Caldera

In office
11 March 1969 – 12 March 1974
Preceded by Raúl Leoni
Succeeded by Carlos Andrés Pérez

In office
February 2, 1994 – February 2, 1999
Preceded by Ramón José Velásquez
Succeeded by Hugo Chávez

In office
12 March 1974 – 2 February 1994
In office
2 February 1999 – 20 December 1999

President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Congress of Venezuela
In office

Solicitor General of Venezuela
In office
26 October 1945 – 13 April 1946

Born 24 January 1916(1916-01-24)
San Felipe, Yaracuy
Died 24 December 2009 (aged 93)
Caracas, Venezuela[1]
Political party Copei (1946–1993)
National Convergence (1993–2009)
Spouse(s) Alicia Prieti Montemayor
Alma mater Central University of Venezuela
Occupation Lawyer
Religion Roman Catholic
Website Official website

Rafael Antonio Caldera Rodríguez (24 January 1916 – 24 December 2009) was president of Venezuela from 1969 to 1974 and again from 1994 to 1999.

Caldera taught sociology and law at various universities before entering politics. He was a founding member of COPEI, Venezuela's Christian Democratic party. He first ran for president unsuccessfully in 1947 and tried again every time it was possible until finally succeeding in 1968, winning by a relatively scant 33,000 votes against a recently divided Acción Democrática party. When he was sworn into office in 1969, it marked the first peaceful transfer of power from one party to another in Venezuela's history. During his first presidency, Caldera was able to pacify the country by granting an amnesty that allowed guerrilla fighters, who had been operating clandestinely for almost a decade, to reincorporate them to society and participate in politics.

In 1993, Caldera split from COPEI, the party he had founded, to form a new political party, Convergence, which, supported by a coalition of many small leftist parties: (MAS, MEP, PCV) as well as some centre-right parties (URD, MIN), raised Caldera to the presidency in December 1993. This was a fatal blow to the traditional parties which, leaderless and demoralized, garnered few votes in the election. He won a very narrow victory in that year's presidential election. During his second presidential period, he pardoned Hugo Chávez, who eventually went on to succeed him in 1999.


Family and education

Caldera during childhood

Rafael Caldera, was born in San Felipe, Yaracuy. His parents were Tomás Rafael Caldera Izaguirre and Rosa Sofía Rodriguez Rivero. Orphaned at a young age, he was adopted by his aunt Maria Eva Rodriguez Rivero, who was married to lawyer Tomás Liscano,[2] and became part of a wealthy Venezuelan Roman Catholic family. He married Alicia Pietri de Caldera (granddaughter of Juan Pietri, and first-cousins with Arturo Uslar Pietri and Andres Boulton Pietri) in 1941 with whom he had six children: Mireya, Juan José, Rafael Tomás, Alicia Helena, Cecilia, and Andrés Antonio Caldera Pietri.

Caldera attended elementary school in San Felipe 1921–1922, entered San Ignacio school of the Society of Jesus in Caracas 1923–1925, in 1926 returned to Yaracuy studying at Padre Delgado school, and secondary education again in Caracas (San Ignacio school) 1927–1931, made his superior studies in this city, at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) 1931–1938, obtained a doctorate in the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences, later was professor of sociology and law in several universities including the UCV, where he was a student leader, which took him into the political world.

Due to his education, Caldera was fluent in languages including French, English, Italian, while being somewhat fluent in German and Portuguese. Caldera was also a leading student on the XIX Century humanist and educator Andrés Bello and wrote multiple books on politics, literature and Christian Democracy, and was a member of the Venezuelan Academy of the Language. As such, one of his achievements is the acceptance of millardo ("milliard", 109) by the Royal Spanish Academy in 1995 as an alternative to mil millones (in English: one billion).

Caldera participated in educative and political circles, like the direction of the Venezuelan Institute of Labor rights (1958–1966) and the presidencies of the Venezuelan Association of Sociology (1958–1967), the Christian Democratic Organization of Latin America (1964–1968) and the Worldwide Christian Democratic Union (1967–1968).[3]

Political life

Rafael Caldera (center) and the National Union of Students

Foundation of several parties, and the beginning of COPEI

Caldera was secretary of the Venezuelan Catholic Youth. In 1936 he participated in the formation of the National Student Union, which on 1 October 1938 became the political party Electoral Action. This party later merged with the National Action Movement, legalized on 2 June 1942, which was one of the groups that formed the social Christian party COPEI on January 13, 1946, with Caldera becoming known as a co-founder of the party. Caldera stood as COPEI's candidate in the 1947 presidential elections, being defeated by the Acción Democrática (AD) candidate, writer Rómulo Gallegos. Gallegos was overthrown a few months later by a military junta, headed by Carlos Delgado Chalbaud, who was later succeeded by the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez.[4]

Presidential candidate

Signers of Punto Fijo Pact in 1958, from left to Right: Rafael Caldera, Jóvito Villalba and Rómulo Betancourt

After the overthrow of Pérez Jiménez and the consequent constitution of a provisional government headed by Wolfgang Larrazábal in 1958, Caldera was elected Solicitor General of Venezuela, but left this position, to participate in the 1958 Presidential Elections, which were won by Rómulo Betancourt of Acción Democrática. Nevertheless, Caldera had much influence as a leader in his political party, which was the third strongest political force in the country at the time. Together with Betancourt, Jóvito Villalba, leader and founder of Unión Republicana Democrática (URD), and other political leaders, he elaborated and signed the Punto Fijo Pact, (named after Caldera's house, which was the site chosen by the leaders to sign the document). Supporters of the pact claimed that it provided the basis of a democratic coexistence which would hold for the next 40 years, laying the foundations for principles such as free and transparent elections, respect for electoral results, the conformation of checks and balances for the branches of the government, with representation of independent political forces, and the application by those governments of a Common Minimum Program that guaranteed the democratic viability and the development of the country with the due internal consensus.

Caldera was COPEI's unsuccessful candidate for president again in 1963. However, he won the 1969 elections, and was sworn in as president on 11 March 1969. It was the first time in Venezuela's 139 years of independence that an incumbent government peacefully surrendered power to an elected member of the opposition. However, COPEI still had a minority in the legislature.[5][citation needed]

First term as president

Rafael Caldera was sworn in as President, on 11 March 1969
Venezuelan Presidential election 1968
Candidates Votes  %
Rafael Caldera 1,083,712 29.13%
Gonzalo Barrios 1,050,806 28.24%
Miguel Angel Burelli 826,758 22.22%
Luis Pietro Figueroa 719,461 19.34%
Abstention: 135.311 3.27%
Total votes: 3,999,617

Caldera's first government emphasized the end of Betancourt doctrine, which denied Venezuelan diplomatic recognition to any regime, right or left, that came to power by military force. Caldera broke the isolation of Venezuela with the rest of Latin America, recognizing the military governments of the region, and made a policy in defense of the insular territories, and the Gulf of Venezuela, and signed the Port of Spain Protocol with Guyana, which concerned the Guayana Esequiba. The president's economic policies were notable for the reinforcement of the power of the employer's association Fedecámaras, and the period of North American economic crisis, that also characterized the first term of Richard Nixon, with low oil prices, which caused the economic growth of Venezuela to stagnate. Caldera also presided over a period of pacification of the country, making a ceasefire with the left armed groups, which were then integrated into the political life, and legalising the Communist Party of Venezuela in spite of the opposition of Acción Democrática.

Caldera also reformed the 1961 Constitution to remove a ban on election to public office for people who had been sentenced to more than three years in prison, which had been specifically designed to politically disqualify General Marcos Pérez Jiménez, by means of its retroactive application. Caldera closed the Industrial Technical School permanently, and the Central University of Venezuela for two years, due to student protests against his government. On 9 December 1970, Rafael Caldera created the Great Marshal of Ayacucho Institute of National Higher Defence Studies (IAEDEN), to further the development of a state security perspective, and to contribute to the defence culture of the nation.

Rafael Caldera at the inauguration of the Caracciolo Parra León school, Caracas, 1972

Caldera, who raised the tax on the rent to the oil companies to 60 percent, initiated the construction of El Tablazo petrochemical complex, in Zulia state. He also inaugurated the Caracas Polyhedron, and the Miguel Pérez Carreño Hospital in Caracas, and concluded the demarcation of borders with Brazil. Rafael Caldera ended his first term as president on 12 March 1974, and was replaced by Carlos Andrés Pérez, from Acción Democrática, who won the 1973 elections.[6]

Pacification of Venezuela

In 1969, the new government inherited a country with active urban and rural guerrilla movements, bans on two important political parties and many political leaders imprisoned. From the beginning of Caldera's presidency, this practice was suspended and constitutional guarantees thereafter were maintained.

The government arrived with an attitude of ideological pluralism and dialogue across the political spectrum, entered into talks with the armed groups, legalized leftist parties and released jailed politicians, demanding only that they stay within Venezuelan law.

As result from this effort, by the end of Caldera's presidency, for the first time in many years, no significant political organization in Venezuela planned to take control of the government by violent means. At the 1973 elections, leaders of the old guerrilla movements were elected as senators and deputies.[7]

First presidency cabinet (1969–1974)

Ministries [8]
President Rafael Caldera 1969-1974
Home Affairs Lorenzo Fernández 1969-1972
  Nectario Andrade Labarca 1972-1974
Outer Relations Arístides Calvani 1969-1974
Finance Pedro R. Tinoco 1969-1972
  Luis Enrique Oberto 1972-1974
Defense Martín García Villasmil 1969-1971
  Jesús Carbonell Izquierdo 1971-1972
  Gustavo Pardi Dávila 1972-1974
Development Haydée Castillo 1969-1971
  Héctor Hernández Carabaño 1971-1974
Public Works José Curiel 1969-1974
Education Héctor Hernández Carabaño 1969-1971
  Enrique Pérez Olivares 1971-1974
Justice Nectario Andrade Labarca 1969-1970
  Orlando Tovar Tamayo 1970-1971
  Edilberto Escalante 1971-1974
Mines and Hydrocarbons Hugo Pérez La Salvia 1969-1974
Labor Alfredo Tarre Murzi 1969-1970
  Nectario Andrade Labarca 1970-1972
  Alberto Martín Urdaneta 1972-1974
Communications Ramón José Velásquez 1969-1971
  Enrique Bustamante Luciani 1971-1974
Agriculture Jesús López Luque 1969-1971
  Daniel Scott Cuervo 1971-1972
  Miguel Rodríguez Viso 1972-1974
Health and Social Assistance Lisandro Latuff 1969-1970
  José de Jesús Mayz Lyón 1970-1974
Secretary of Presidency Luis Alberto Machado 1969-1974
Office of Coordination and Planification Luis Enrique Oberto 1969-1972
  Antonio Casas González 1972-1974

Political activity and leaving COPEI

Caldera waited the ten years of the constitutional period, of no immediate re-election, and stood as a candidate again in the 1983 Presidential Elections with COPEI support, and was defeated by Jaime Lusinchi of Acción Democrática. In 1987 stood for the COPEI nomination for the 1988 presidential election, being defeated by Eduardo Fernández. In 1993 he decided to leave COPEI, and participated in the presidential elections of the same year with his new party, known as National Convergence, with the support of groups which had been his historical opponents, such as the left parties PCV, MAS and MEP.

We cannot ask to people with hunger to immolate themselves for a democracy that has not been able to give them enough to eat.

—Declarations of Rafael Caldera at the National Congress after the 4 February 1992 coup attempt[9]

Caldera won his second term as president in February 1994 – a win with its roots in his speech to the National Congress on 4 February 1992, the date of the first coup d'état against the second government of Carlos Andrés Pérez. His tacit support to the Caracazo in 1989, the 1992 coup attempts, and the opposition to the neoliberal economic reforms pursued by Pérez in his second term, mark the beginning of Caldera's return to the presidency for a second term. Caldera won with around 30% of the votes, followed very closely by three other candidates, but the abstention rate was 39.84%.[10]

Second term as president

In his second presidency, Caldera included politicians from other political backgrounds who supported his candidacy in his cabinet, like some representatives of MAS party, Teodoro Petkoff at the Ministry of the Central Office of Coordination and Planning, and Pompeyo Márquez at the Border Ministry, as well as some independents in other ministries. In any case the support of the MAS and other parties were fundamental to approve some laws in the National Congress in his first years of government, due to his own party having few seats in Congress. On 18 December 1994 he inaugurated the Plaza Venezuela – El Valle section of the Caracas Metro which had been initiated by previous governments. In 1996, he received Pope John Paul II on his second visit to Venezuela, when he blessed the prisoners of the Catia Prison, on the west side of Caracas (After this visit, the building was demolished).[11] On 12 October 1997 he received U.S. President Bill Clinton, in November of the same year Margarita Island hosted the Seventh Ibero-American Conference. In June 1998, the Inaugural meeting of the XXVIII General Assembly of the Organization of American States was held in Caracas.[12]

Second presidency cabinet (1994-1999)

Ministries [13]
President Rafael Caldera 1994-1999
Home Affairs Ramón Escovar Salom 1994-1996
  José Guillermo Andueza 1996-1998
  Asdrúbal Aguiar 1998-1999
Outer Relations Miguel Ángel Burelli Rivas 1994-1999
Finance Julio Sosa Rodríguez 1994-1995
  Luis Ramón Matos Azócar 1995-1998
  Freddy Rojas Parra 1998
  Maritza Izaguirre 1998-1999
Defense Rafael Montero Revette 1994-1995
  Moisés Orozco Graterol 1995-1996
  Pedro Valencia Vivas 1996-1997
  Tito Manlio Rincón Bravo 1997-1999
Development Luis Carlos Palacios 1994
  Alberto Poletto 1994-1995
  Werner Corrales 1995-1996
  Freddy Rojas Parra 1996-1999
Transport and communications César Quintín Rosales 1994
  Ciro Zaa Álvarez 1994-1996
  Moisés Orozco Graterol 1996-1998
  Julio César Martí Espina 1998-1999
Education Antonio Cárdenas Colmenter 1994-1999
Justice Rubén Creixens Savignon 1994-1996
  Enrique Meier Echeverría 1996-1997
  Hilarión Cardozo Esteva 1997-1999
Mines and Hydrocarbons Edwin Arrieta Valera 1994-1999
Labor Juan Nepomuceno Garrido 1994-1997
  María Bernardoni de Govea 1997-1999
Environment Roberto Pérez Lecuna 1994-1997
  Rafael Martínez Monró 1997-1999
Agriculture Ciro Añez Fonseca 1994-1995
  Raúl Alegrett Ruiz 1995-1998
  Ramón Ramírez López 1998-1999
Health and Social Assistance Vicente Pérez Dávila 1994
  Carlos Walter Valecillos 1994-1995
  Pedro Rincón Gutiérrez 1995-1997
  José Félix Oletta 1997-1999
Urban Development Ciro Zaa Álvarez 1994
  Francisco González 1994-1997
  Julio César Martí Espina 1997-1998
  Luis Granados 1998-1999
Family and Youth Mercedes Pulido de Briceño 1994-1996
  Carlos Altimari Gásperi 1996-1999
Industry and Commerce Freddy Rojas Parra 1997-1998
  Héctor Maldonado Lira 1998-1999
Secretary of Presidency Andrés Caldera Pietri 1994-1996
  Asdrúbal Aguiar 1996-1998
  José Guillermo Andueza 1998-1999
Office of Coordination and Planification Enzo Del Búffalo 1994
  Luis Carlos Palacios 1994
  Werner Corrales 1994-1995
  Edgar Paredes Pisani 1995-1996
  Teodoro Petkoff 1996-1999
CVG Alfredo Grúber 1994
  Elías Innaty 1994-1999

Economic crisis

Venezuelan Presidential election 1993[14]
Candidates Votes  %
Rafael Caldera 1,710,722 30.46%
Claudio Fermín 1,325,287 23.60%
Oswaldo Alvarez Paz 1,276,506 22.73%
Andrés Velásquez 1,232,653 21.95%
Abstention: 3,859,579 39.84%
Total votes: 5,829,216

In the first year of his second presidency, Caldera was faced with a major financial crisis that began with the intervention of Banco Latino during the acting presidency of Ramón José Velásquez, continued with the intervention of more than ten banks, and culminated with the draining of deposits, by concept of financial aid granted by the government to the banks, it produced thousands of affected people and a serious imbalance in the Venezuelan economy. The confidence and credibility of Venezuelans and foreigners at the Financial institutions were affected seriously. More than seventy thousand medium and small companies went bust, fundamentally due to the Exchange rate regime imposed by the government, which made it difficult to obtain the currency to acquire Intermediate goods. The price of food, clothes and transport was raised without control, impoverishing a greater number of Venezuelans.

Caldera also had to handle a vertiginous inflationary spiral and a parallel reduction of the Forex reserves, employees generously for the support of the bolívar in front of the U.S. dollar. On 27 June, he announced the temporary suspension of some constitutional guarantees, fundamentally related to the private property and the free economic activity, to allow control of the exchange market, the banking system and prices by the State. The financial organizations in bankruptcy by the draining of deposits and the affected by speculative practices, went to be adjusted by the State, in fact the Central Bank of Venezuela announced the suspension of all its operations of transaction of dollars. These economic measures were tolerated by the mass media and the international community, but not by the Venezuelan people.

Although Caldera promised during his campaign to never accept the help of the International Monetary Fund, his government had to rescind the vow, due to the economic crisis and bad management. The effect of the interventionist practice in the economy of Venezuela caused Caldera to announce the Agenda Venezuela (Venezuela Agenda) programme, which promised to restore the macroeconomic balance and to beat inflation. He applied measures labeled by his opponents as neoliberal, in agreement with the recommendations of the IMF, that he had previously resisted. The bolívar was devalued by 70%, the exchange rate regime was imposed, fuel prices increased by 800%, liberalized the types of interest, was continued the process of privatization. This program was welcomed by the IMF, but not by the country. Demonstrations and disturbances among the population were frequent.

In 1997, a tripartite commission, consisting of representatives of industrialists, workers and the Government, assumed the reform of the regime of social benefits, and the deep revision of the Labour law. The tripartite commission creates a system of social benefits that anticipated, among other things, the annual payment and the cease of the labor performance, at the same time, five subsystems of social security with the purpose of improving the Government's activity, at the resolution of the basic problems of the Venezuelan workers.

Also during the second Caldera presidency, the process of Apertura Petrolera began with the purpose of increasing the involvement of the private sector, national and international, in the operation, exploration and refinement of petroleum and natural gas. The worldwide oil market crisis negatively influenced this process.

Due to differences with his coalition partners such as MAS, Caldera looked for the support of AD in Congress. Some AD members entered the Ministerial cabinet.[15]

Amnesty to the 1992 coup participants

In 1994 Caldera fulfilled a promise made during the presidential campaign and pardoned the military figures involved in the 1992 Venezuelan coup d'état attempts.[16] Many of these, once liberated, grouped in the political party MVR, under the leadership of Hugo Chávez, who ultimately, after several years in the political wilderness, won the 1998 presidential elections. That election saw the comprehensive defeat of Acción Democrática and COPEI, which had alternated in government for 35 years (from 1959 to 1994), and which now lost their influence on the Venezuelan political scene.

Last years and death

Funeral of Rafael Caldera. December 26, 2009

On 2 February 1999, Rafael Caldera concluded his second term as president, and was succeeded by Hugo Chávez. Although Caldera granted Chávez amnesty and released him from prison (in March 1994), the new president did not exclude him from criticism in his inaugural speech. After the parliamentary elections of 30 July 2000, National Convergence remained with a single representative in the new unicameral National Assembly until 2005.

His poor health caused by Parkinson's disease forced him to retire from politics during his last years.[17] Caldera died around 2 a.m. on 24 December 2009 at the age of 93.[18][19][20] His son Aldrés Caldera announced the death, but did not specify a cause.[19][21][16] His funeral was on 26 December 2009, in Caracas.[18] He was buried the same day.[22]


  • Rasgos Biográficos del prócer José Gabriel Álvarez de Lugo (1932)
  • Andrés Bello (1935)
  • Derecho del Trabajo (1939)
  • Idea de una sociología venezolana (1953)
  • Aspectos sociológicos de la cultura en Venezuela (1957)
  • El Bloque Latinoamericano (1961)
  • Moldes para la Fragua (1962)
  • El lenguaje como vinculo social y la integración latinoamericana (1967)
  • Especificidad de la Democracia Cristiana (1972)
  • La Casa de Bello (1973)
  • Temas de Sociología Venezolana (1973)
  • Cinco años de cambio (1974)
  • La Nacionalización del Petróleo (1975)
  • Reflexiones de la Rábida (1976)
  • Caracas, Londres, Santiago de Chile: las tres etapas de la vida de Bello (1981)
  • Parlamento Mundial: una voz latinoamericana (1984)
  • Bolívar Siempre (1987)
  • El pensamiento jurídico y social de Andrés Bello (1987)
  • Los causahabientes, de Carabobo a Puntofijo (1999)


  • Caldera was famous for his hairstyle, and for the use of hair gel.
  • During Rafael Caldera's first government, television became a new way to communicate. Through Habla el Presidente, a television program, the head of the Venezuelan state informed about government projects and policies.
  • In 1996, astrologer José Bernardo Gómez predicted the death of Caldera, and claimed he would not finish his term. He was later arrested by the DISIP. After these events, Gómez decided to abandon his career.
  • During his second presidency, because of his age and unintelligible speeches, Caldera was imitated by many Venezuelan comedians, one of them Laureano Márquez.
  • In 1967, Rafael Caldera had a height of 5 ft 8 in (1.77 m) and a weight of 176.3 pounds (80 kg).[23]

See also


  1. ^ Falleció ex presidente de la República Rafael Caldera. El Universal, Caracas, 24 December, 2009
  2. ^ Guillermo Morón, "Los Presidentes de Venezuela". Caracas: Meneven, 1979
  3. ^ Family and education
  4. ^ Foundation of several parties, and the beginning of COPEI
  5. ^ Presidential candidate
  6. ^ First term as president
  7. ^ Pacification of Venezuela
  8. ^ Ediciones Centauro/87 (1987). Gehard Cartay Ramírez. “Caldera y Betancourt.”
  9. ^ "Discurso en la sesión conjunta del Congreso de la República". Venezuela Retrieved 26 September 2009. 
  10. ^ Active in the politics and his retire of COPEI
  11. ^ Second term as president
  12. ^ Foreign policy
  13. ^ Gaceta Oficial de Venezuela, period 1994-1999.
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ Economic Crisis
  16. ^ a b Efrain Hernandez Jr. (2009-12-24). "Former Venezuela President Rafael Antonio Caldera dies at age 93". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-12-24. 
  17. ^ Later trajectory
  18. ^ a b "Venezuelan ex-President Rafael Caldera dies at 93". Yahoo! News. Retrieved 2009-12-24. 
  19. ^ a b "Rafael Caldera, Ex-President of Venezuela, Dies at 93". The New York Times. 2009-12-24. Retrieved 2009-12-24. 
  20. ^ "Ex-Venezuelan president dies". The Straits Times. 2009-12-25. Retrieved 2009-12-25. 
  21. ^ Murió el expresidente Rafael Caldera. Globovision, December 24, 2009
  22. ^ "Two-time Venezuelan president Caldera dies at 93". Reuters. 2009-12-24. Retrieved 2009-12-24. 
  23. ^ Gonzalo Álvarez, ¿Caldera Presidente?, Momento Magazine, 16 April 1967

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by

Luis Herrera Campins (1978)
COPEI presidential candidate
1947 (lost)
1958 (lost)
1963 (lost)
1968 (won)
1983 (lost)
Succeeded by
Lorenzo Fernánndez (1973)
Eduardo Fernández (1988)
Preceded by
National Convergence presidential candidate
1993 (won)
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Raúl Leoni
President of Venezuela
1969 – 1974
Succeeded by
Carlos Andrés Pérez
Preceded by
Ramón J. Velásquez
President of Venezuela
1994 – 1999
Succeeded by
Hugo Chávez


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