Democratic Action (AD)

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Democratic Action (AD)

Democratic Action is one of Venezuela's two major political parties and an important force in building and strengthening the modern democratic system. Its origins date back to the so-called Generation of '28, when a group of university students organized massive protests against the long-standing dictatorship of Juan Vicente Gómez. Driven into exile, these young activists returned in 1936 following Gómez's death and founded the Venezuelan Organization (ORVE). They continued the struggle for democratic pluralism and on 13 September 1941 officially established AD. The new party gradually built grassroots support while fighting for direct elections.

Faced with official barriers to competitive elections, AD, together with junior military officers, launched a successful uprising on 18 October 1945. During the next three years AD introduced far-reaching reforms, first under the provisional presidency of Rómulo Betancourt and then under the elected administration of Rómulo Gallegos, an eminent writer and educator. Gallegos was toppled by the military in late 1948. For the next decade AD was harassed and persecuted by the dictatorship of Marcos Pérez Jiménez. In 1958, following an uprising that ousted the dictatorship, AD collaborated with rival parties to create the democracy that has endured ever since.

Rómulo Betancourt was elected to a five-year term and survived despite assassination attempts from the Right and the guerrilla insurgency of Castroites. He was succeeded in 1964 by his fellow adeco (member of Acción Democrática) Raúl Leoni. Five years later AD lost the presidency to Rafael Caldera of the Social Christian COPEI Party as a result of a debilitating party division. In 1974, AD recaptured power with the victory of Carlos Andrés Pérez, a onetime protégé of Betancourt. The party lost to COPEI in 1979, regained the presidency with Jaime Lusinchi in 1984, and retained it in 1989 in the person of Pérez. He was the first modern president to win a second term after the constitutionally mandated two terms out of office.

Through the 1990s, COPEI and AD dominated national politics and maintained an extensive organizational structure. Ideologically it is a member of the Socialist International and is regarded as the most influential Latin American member. Yet, by the end of the 1990s, both parties had lost considerable credibility and were widely seen as corrupt. This disenchantment allowed Hugo Chávez, a former colonel who staged a coup in 1992, to become president in 2000. Since Chávez's election and reelection in 2006, the AD has lost political power. In 2005 the AD boycotted the legislative election and therefore does not hold any seats in the National Assembly.

See alsoBetancourt, Rómulo; Gallegos, Rómulo; Leoni, Raúl; Pérez, Carlos Andrés.


Robert J. Alexander, The Venezuelan Democratic Revolution (1964).

John D. Martz, Acción Democrática: Evolution of a Modern Political Party in Venezuela (1966).

Rómulo Betancourt, Venezuela: Oil and Politics, translated by Everett Baumann (1979).

Robert J. Alexander, Rómulo Betancourt and the Transformation of Venezuela (1982).

David J. Myers, "The Venezuelan Party System: Regime Maintenance Under Stress," in Venezuela: The Democratic Experience, edited by John D. Martz and David J. Myers, rev. ed. (1986).

John D. Martz, "Venezuela," in Latin America and Caribbean Contemporary Record, vol. 6, edited by Abraham F. Lowenthal (1989).

Additional Bibliography

Ellner, Steve, and Daniel Hellinger, eds. Venezuelan Politics in the Chávez Era: Class, Polarization, and Conflict. Boulder, CO: L. Rienner, 2003.

Hernández, Carlos Raúl, and Luis Emilio Rondón. La democracia traicionada: Grandeza y miseria del Pacto de Punto Fijo (Venezuela 1958–2003). Caracas, Venezuela: Rayuela, Taller de Ediciones, 2005.

Sosa A., Arturo. Rómulo Betancourt y el Partido del Pueblo, 1937–1941. Caracas: Editorial Fundación Rómulo Betancourt, 1995.

                                          John D. Martz

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Democratic Action (AD)

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