Weinberger Doctrine

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Analysis of What the Chavez Presidency Means for Venezuela

Politically Hugo Chavez was, what he termed, a Bolivarian. The Bolivarian movement, as Chavez envisioned it, was social-populism. His nationalization of the oil industry illustrated his mode of operation. He confiscated assets created by other organizations and used them to further his agenda. This tactic proved unfortunate for Venezuela in that it built inefficiencies into the system. The oil industry saw a drain of experts moving out of the country, putting a crimp on the industry's ability to produce at capacity. This also occurred within the farming sector where large farms and ranches were taken by the government and broken into small plots and given to the nation's poor. The loss of productivity meant that, in spite of Chavez rhetoric to the contrary, Venezuela turned from a food exporter, into a food importer1.

Hugo Chavez censored the press, shutting down media outlets unfriendly to his vision. He supported terrorist organizations, including the FARC in a bid to destabilize other countries. He engaged in a vigorous foreign policy that consumed vast resources Venezuela could better have put to use within its own borders. He also engaged in cronyism and nepotism to an extreme degree which exacerbated the nation's problems with corruption in the government.2

It is widely believed that Chavez tampered with the election machinery within his country. Going to the extent of firing or pressuring government workers who signed the petition that brought about the 2004 recall referendum (which failed). New voting machines from a company supported by investments directly from the Chavez government and with a Chavez supporter on the board seemed to have inordinately favored Chavez in every vote where he had an interest (slanting the percentage for Chavez up to 98%). Without free and fair elections, it is difficult to see why the government should be responsive to the needs of the people.

Ultimately, Chavez did not take into account essential economic and social factors such as individual initiative, honest dealing, and the inherent problems of top-down management. This, coupled with his tendency to authoritarian unilateralism he hurt both the Venezuelan economy and the nation's ability to cope with technological advancement. If President Chavez helped Venezuela, it was in the realm of prestige. He managed to garner the support of many ideological leftists by his rhetorical flourishes. At the same time his extravagant application of oil revenues abroad made many countries seek his nod before acting on the international scene. However, this was counter-acted by his support for terror organizations. He was also often viewed as a brash and arrogant figure. At one point at a conference, a normally restrained King of Spain felt compelled to ask him to be quiet3.

The final analysis: Hugo Chavez was an entertaining character to have on the international stage. However, his administration was a net negative for Venezuela.

<< Hugo Chavez as President of Venezuela | Death of Hugo Chavez >>

  1. Venezuela Imports Food
  2. Corruption in Venezuelan Government
  3. Shut Up, Spain's King Tells Chavez