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David J. Myers, "Venezuela's Political Party System: Defining Events, Reactions and the Diluting of Structural Cleavages," Party Politics, 4 (October 1998), 495-521.

First Paragraph:
This article examines how elite reactions to four defining events diluted structural cleavages that channeled political party competition in Venezuela after the fall of General Pérez Jiménez in 1958. These cleavages divided the poor from others, city-dwellers from rural residents, locations with high indices of traditional culture from those with high indices of modern culture, and the Caracas-dominated center from the periphery. Two of the four cleavage-diluting events were primarily political. First, between 1959 and 1973 all elite factions united behind democracy. Second, following two unsuccessful coup attempts in 1992, most Venezuelans remained supportive of democracy and rejected calls for a military government. International forces shaped the third and fourth cleavage-diluting events: the post 1973 revenue bonanza accruing to the Venezuelan state from foreign petroleum sales and the post-1988 economic decline. After 1995 Venezuela's party system became a pale copy of post-1973 two-party domination in which each major actor attracted diverse societal support.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1: Venezuelan party system evolution, 1958-93
Table 2: Percentage of 1958 party vote in Venezuelan municipalities regressed against cleavage variables
Table 3: With which political party do you most identify, or do you consider yourself totally independent? (%)

Last Paragraph:
Finally, some fallout from democratic Venezuela's defining events highlights the perils for comparativists of focusing only on common processes. Conflicts between elite factions similar to those that Venezuela experienced prior to 1958 occurred in other countries, but some gave rise to settlements that led to competitive party systems and others did not. Only with hindsight can we state with confidence that AD, COPET, URD and business elites intended to honor the power-sharing agreements into which they entered between 1957 and 1959. It is even more difficult to generalize cross-nationally about the consequences for party system evolution of the startling changes between 1973 and 1990 in the revenue available to Venezuela's national governments and political parties. Changes of this ilk during consolidation of multi-party democracy may be unique to post-1973 Venezuela, reminding us that exceptionalism must always be taken into account in social science explanation.