The Chávez Way – NYTimes.com

Taking stock of Venezuela’s disenfranchised:

There’s no proper count of Venezuelans abroad. What’s clear, though, is that the typical Venezuelan migrant is nothing like the Latin migrant stereotype of the footloose subsistence farmer. Under Chávez, it’s Venezuela’s professional and managerial class that has left home, to flee the forced ideological conformity and stunted economic possibilities his regime has come to represent for them.

via The Chávez Way – NYTimes.com.

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4 thoughts on “The Chávez Way – NYTimes.com

  1. I definitely would like to comment on this post. I actually have had the great opportunity to have friendships with Venezuelans who have been displaced since Chavez took control of the government. They realized at an early time in his regime, that basic civil liberties would be disregarded and that anyone who dissented would be targeted. My two Venezuelan friends express deep love and commitment to the country, yet express distrust and frustration with the living conditions and undemocratic lives they would live if they stayed in Venezuela. I sought to intern with a professor on campus who specializes in Venezuela. He has done amazing research on Hugo Chavez and his populist movement, I was asked to participate in that research over the summer and learned that President Chavez is not ignorant ruler. He is conscious of his actions and words and this article further certifies his research. Of course he’ll pass referendums of this nature. He possesses a clear understanding of what keeps his people content or afraid of dissent. It is difficult as a friend to look at the circumstances and not feel frustrated by what happens in that country. One thing is certain; My friends are educated and talented, yet have experienced disenfranchisement at a far greater level than any other Latin american in the modern world.
    http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=ujAydQj-x_4C&oi=fnd&pg=PR5&dq=Venezuela%E2%80%99s+Chavismo+and+Populism+in+Comparative+Perspective&ots=5ENwnWhkIe&sig=viaBAKhCaXOw8LaXbRPiRigkYOY#v=onepage&q&f=false

  2. Studying Venezuela this semester, it’s been fun to see Chavez from both sides. It’s no secret that he is really hated by quite a few. Most recently probably the gold industry that he just nationalized, alongside a number of other industries over the years. But Chavez’ movement is still a “populist” movement. He has a lot of favor not just because of a suppression of dissent. For instance, unemployment and poverty in Venezuela have declined during his leadership (although at the same time inflation is up). Perhaps that’s why it is Venezuela’s elite and not their poor “footloose farmers” leaving as the NYT article pointed out. Furthermore, a lot of favor for Chavez is extra-Venezuelan, meaning that there’s many throughout Latin America that don’t mind Chavez. He’s played an enormously influential soft-power foreign policy game, donating millions and millions of dollars to other regimes, governments, development projects, and even to poor within the United States. The tactic has garnered a lot of friends, including the recent Nicaraguan win for Ortega, and also a lot of lending ears for those who enjoy the tune of anti-Americanism. To us, all of this just makes him sound worse and worse, but again, there are many that see him as the voice of the opposition that is often overlooked.

    With that said, no one can deny his somewhat extreme approach to other aspects of foreign policy, including his befriending of nearly everyone on the black list. Unfortunately for Chavez, his most close friends, including Gaddafi and Hussein, keep kicking the can… But even withsuch strange bedfellows, he’s still not always the viewed as Americans and the Venezuelan’s fleeing the country view him.

    This article documents Chavez’ soft power diplomacy: http://www.twq.com/09october/docs/09oct_Corrales.pdf

  3. iortega91 says:

    Populist regimes main goal is to win and exercise power, while using economic and social policy as an instrument to its purpose. Because populist leaders use democratic institutions to gain power, they have to make sure they are supported by large number of followers.
    Charismatic leaders win broad and intense support from a largely unorganized mass by representing people who feel excluded or marginalized from national political life and by promising to rescue them from crises. This is what happens in Venezuela, in which a charismatic leader promises change to 86% of the population which live in poverty. He promised to decrease the high levels of income inequality, and to stop corruption, so Venezuelans can have a share in the oil profits. it was expected that he would gain support from an unorganized mass of desperate citizens. While this can be confused with the mobilization of a newly created civil society, it is clear that it was really the mobilization of an uneducated and in need mass by a very strategic leader.
    Although under Chavez regime, statistics show that poverty and unemployment have decrease, it really means that the overall living standards in the country have decrease. Goods and services are equally inaccessible for everyone. Therefore, that minority of professionals who had a somehow acceptable standard of living before feel the need to rebel, but due to the lack of dissident channels, either by force or by democracy, are forced to look for opportunities abroad.
    I see populism as an ideological corruption of democracy, due to the fact that democracy is founded upon transmissible principles: the willingness to educate and teach people rather than to seduce them. Populism only uses democratic channels to monopolize power rather than to empower citizens, and the reason why it is so successful, at least for a while, is because it does increase the living standards of the very impoverished majority, although these standards are very limiting and not sustainable.
    Although sometimes is hard to believe that Chavez populist regime will ever end, I believe that it will. The problem with populist regimes is that they ignore macroeconomic equilibrium for as long as they can to maintain legitimacy, but sooner or later, the effects of inflation will affect the population that is being seduce with Chavez charity. Massive political instability and even a coup are likely to happen under these conditions, and Venezuela will not be the first case. However, it will be interesting to see how long would it take for revolution to happen, considering that Venezuelans remain poor and ignorant, and Chavez knows that it must remain this way for him to remains the voice of the poor. When Venezuelans understand the need of a leader that represents the well-being of society and guarantees high living standards, rather than the representation of the poor, they will be able to choose someone that truly looks for economic sustainability and political stability.
    I found a really interesting case study of Venezuela’s populist regime, with a valid hypothesis. It is a good source to read if you want to know more about why is Chavez regime likely to collapse. http://www.relooney.info/00_New_1744.pdf

  4. rduersch says:

    My knowledge of Venezuela is very limited. To be honest, I had to google a map of South America just now to correctly identify where Venezuela was located. Regardless, I found myself wanting to learn more and was intrigued by this post.

    Reading the article by Francisco Toro, his second to last sentence packed a punch: “It’s one of those galling, little-known facts that, to my mind, perfectly encapsulates Chávez’s peculiar understanding of democracy: the right to vote is guaranteed, but the right to have your vote counted isn’t.” Interesting to note though, Toro’s votes are actually almost certainly counted…just not in the way we might assume, or he would like. If you read the study Toro’s article linked to, within the abstract the researchers point out a very interesting trend in regards to the use of government voting/petition records:

    “In 2004, the Hugo Chávez regime in Venezuela distributed the list of several million voters who had attempted to remove him from office throughout the government bureaucracy, allegedly to identify and punish these voters. We match the list of petition signers distributed by the government to household survey respondents to measure the economic effects of being identified as a Chávez political opponent. We find that voters who were identified as Chávez opponents experienced a 5 percent drop in earnings and a 1.3 percentage point drop in employment rates after the voter list was released.”
    http://elsa.berkeley.edu/~emiguel/pdfs/miguel_maisanta.pdf

    No, Toro’s votes, along with his fellow ex-pats, may not be counted towards actually electing a president, but where they are being counted is to track Chavez’s opposition, and to impose economic measures to decrease their strength. No wonder the immigrants from Venezuela are the professional and managerial class. They clearly recognize the economic disadvantages their votes are giving them, so they are clearing out. I agree with previous posts, Chavez knows exactly what he is doing and is very aware of the world situations surrounding this. All in all, I think Toro is right; Chavez has a “peculiar understanding of democracy” indeed.

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