352. Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1

RP M 78-10448


The Democratic Action and the Social Christian parties, the two major political forces that have run Venezuela since the overthrow of the Perez Jimenez dictatorship in 1958, are again jockeying for position for the 3 December general elections. The Democratic Action’s candidate, Luis Pinerua Ordaz, is holding a narrow lead in opinion polls and seems the likely winner over his Social Christian opponent, Luis Herrera Campins. Although strong competitors, the two left-of-center parties tend to have similar outlooks on basic questions of international policy, economic development and national security; both are concerned by signs of growing public impatience with the inability of the major parties to solve many glaring problems, such as a shortage of [Page 1021] housing, underemployment, and badly deficient public services. This frustration is particularly intense among the lowest income groups, which have yet to receive what they consider their fair share of 20 years of democratic rule and economic well-being.

Independent Causa Comun candidate, Diego Arria, is making a surprisingly strong showing in opinion polls. Arria has concentrated his efforts on a media-oriented campaign to make up what he lacks in party organization. He hopes to win support from the large independent bloc as well as from disaffected members of both major parties. If he attains 12 to 15 percent of the vote, he will score a major success and will play a significant role in the political system.

The governing Democratic Action Party’s handling of both the nationalized oil industry and foreign companies has come in for sporadic criticism, but no important US interests are involved in this election. In fact, none would be put in jeopardy by the election of either of the major contenders. US-Venezuelan relations, however, will undergo a subtle change whichever administration takes over next March. Issues such as trade restrictions and technology transfer will assume a greater importance as Venezuela industrializes. The major differences in approach will be a reduction in the amount of time and resources directed toward foreign policy concerns as the new administration turns inward to deal with the nation’s economic problems. The highly personalistic style of governing that characterized the presidency of Carlos Andres Perez will be substantially modified when a new president takes office on 13 March 1979.2

[Omitted here is the body of the memorandum.]

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Office of Support Services (DI), Job 80T00634A, Box 5, Folder 9. Confidential. Prepared in the Latin America Division of the Office of Regional and Political Analysis.
  2. In a December 4 memorandum to Carter, Vance attributed Herrera Campins’ victory in the election to “his emphasis on improving public services and the quality of life for the average citizen.” Vance noted that “while Venezuelan foreign policy is not expected to change in any marked degree, Herrera will probably pay less attention to international affairs than Perez.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 21, Evening Reports [State], 12/78)