Hugo Chávez

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Template:ChavezInputs Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías (born July 28, 1954) is the 53rd[1] and current President of Venezuela. Chávez is known for his democratic socialist governance, his promotion of Latin American integration together with anti-imperialism, and his radical critique of both neoliberal globalization and United States foreign policy.[2]

A paratrooper of humble origins, Chávez founded the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR) in 1994 after his pardoning for the 1992 coup d'état. Chávez was elected President in 1998[3], elected again in 2000[4], and survived the 2004 recall referendum[5][6][7] on promises of aiding Venezuela's poor majority. As President, Chávez has advanced the radical socialist policies at the core of Bolivarianism, the Bolivarian Constitution, and the "Bolivarian Revolution" by inaugurating Bolivarian Missions that combat malnutrition, illiteracy, disease, povertyTemplate:Ref label, and other social ills.Template:Ref label Abroad, Chávez has acted against the Washington Consensus by promoting alternative models of economic development and multilateral cooperation amongst the world's poor nations, especially those in Latin America.

Chávez is largely opposed by Venezuela's middle and upper classes, who have issued severe criticisms.[8][9][10] Nevertheless, whether viewed as a socialist liberator or an authoritarian demagogue, Chávez has to date proven himself among the most complex, controversial, dynamic, and high-profile political figures of the 21st century and the history of Latin America.


Early life (1954–1992)

Main article: Early life of Hugo Chávez

Chávez was born in Sabaneta, Barinas on July 28, 1954. The second son of schoolteachers Hugo de los Reyes Chávez and Elena Frías de Chávez, Chávez numbers among the mestizos and mulattos that live in central Venezuela's llanos. Chávez was raised alongside six brothers and sisters in a thatched palm hut; yet, at an early age, he was later sent to live with his paternal grandmother, Rosa Inés Chávez, in nearby Sabaneta. There, Chávez progressed in his education while pursuing hobbies such as painting, singing and baseball. Meanwhile, Chávez attended elementary school at the Julián Pino School in Sabaneta. Chávez later attended high school at the Daniel Florencio O' Leary School; he graduated with a science degree.Template:Ref label After school let out, Chávez peddled his grandmother's caramelized candies on the streets of Sabaneta.[11]

At age 17, Chávez enrolled at the Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences. He graduated—8th in his class—on July 5, 1975, as a second lieutenant with master's degrees in military science and engineering. Chávez did further graduate work in political science at Caracas's Simón Bolívar University, but left there without a degree. Over the course of his college years, Chávez and fellow students developed a fervently left-nationalist doctrine that they termed Bolivarianism. Chávez also participated heavily in sports and cultural activities during these years. Notably, Chávez played both baseball and softball with the Criollitos de Venezuela, progressing with them to the Venezuelan National Baseball Championships in 1969. Chavez also penned numerous poems, stories and theatrical pieces for submission and publication.[12]

Upon completing his studies, Chávez entered active-duty military service. Chávez's career as a professional soldier would last 17 years, during which time he held a variety of post, command, and staff positions. Chávez would eventually rise to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Notably, he held a series of positions at the Military Academy of Venezuela, where Chávez was first acknowledged by his peers for his fiery lectures and uniquely radical critiques of Venezuelan government and society.[13] At this time, Chávez established the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 (MBR-200), inspired by the philosophies of 19th century Venezuelan general Simón Bolívar and other socialist leaders. Afterward, he rose to fill a number of sensitive high-level positions in Caracas. Chávez was heavily decorated throughout his military career.Template:Ref label

Coup & political rise (1992–1999)

Template:Seealso2 After an extended period of popular dissatisfaction and economic decline under the neoliberal and reformist Carlos Andrés Pérez administration, Chávez together with a squad of MBR-200 conspirators launched the February 4, 1992 coup d'état.Template:Ref label Pérez survived the coup, however, and Chávez was soon forced to call upon his fellow conspirators to cease hostilities.[14] While he did so, Chávez famously quipped that he had only failed por ahora — "for now". This statement on the coup's demise immediately catapulted Chávez into the national spotlight.Template:Ref label Nevertheless, Chávez was imprisoned for the coup attempt; yet Pérez, the coup's intended target, later lost his presidency to Rafael Caldera. While Chávez was in prison, he developed a carnosity of the eye, which spread to his iris. The clarity of his eyesight was slowly corrupted; despite treatments and operations, Chávez's eyesight was permanently weakened.[15]

After serving two years of a prison sentence that was handed down in relation to his coup attempt, Chávez was pardoned by Caldera in 1994. Immediately upon his release, Chávez reconstituted the MBR-200 as the Movimiento Quinta República (MVR) — the V representing the Roman numeral five. Later, in 1998, Chávez announced that he would seek the presidency. In working to gain the trust of voters, Chávez drafted an agenda that drew heavily on Bolivarianism. Chávez thus campaigned on an anti-corruption and anti-poverty platform, while pledging to dismantle puntofijismo, the traditional two-party system of political exclusion and patronage.[16]Template:Ref label

Chávez also utilized his charisma and oratory skills on the campaign trail, and he thereby won the trust and favor of a primarily poor and working class following — by May 1998, Chávez's support had risen to 30% in polls; by August he was registering 39%. Chávez went on to win the Carter Center endorsed 1998 presidential election on December 6, 1998 with 56.2% of the vote.[17]Template:Ref label

Presidency (1999–present)


Chávez extols the anti-imperialist aspects of Bolivarianism in an address to hundreds of thousands of chavistas along Caracas's Avenida Bolívar on May 16, 2004.

Chávez took the presidential oath of office on February 2, 1999 with a mandate to reverse Venezuela's economic decline and strengthen the role of the state in ensuring distributive social justice. Chávez's first few months in office were dedicated primarily to dismantling puntofijismo via new legislation and constitutional reform; secondarily, Chávez immediately allocated more government funds for new social programs and spending. Yet, as a recession triggered by historic low oil prices and soaring international interest rates rocked Venezuela during 1999, few resources for Chávez's promised massive anti-poverty policies were available from the shrunken federal treasury. As a result, in April 1999 Chávez was forced to set his eyes upon the one Venezuelan institution that was costly for the government but did little for the systematic social development that Chávez desired: the military. Chávez immediately ordered all branches of the military to devise programs that would combat poverty. Chávez also demanded that their programs work to further civic and social development in Venezuela's vast slum and rural areas. This civilian-military program was launched as Plan Bolivar 2000, and was heavily patterned after a similar program enacted by Fidel Castro during the early 1990s, while the Cuban people were still suffering through the depths of the Special Period. Projects under Plan Bolivar 2000's purview included road building, housing construction, and mass vaccination. These programs were widely criticized by Chávez's opposition as corrupt and inefficient. On the other hand, Chávez defended them by stating that the program was one of the only means available to him in effecting his social agenda, in the face of a state bureaucracy dominated by what he saw as a recalcitrant opposition.[18]

In his economic policy, Chávez immediately terminated previous administrations' practice of extensively privatizing Venezuela's state-owned holdings, such as the national social security system, holdings in the aluminum industry, and the oil sector.[19] Nevertheless, Chávez faced a profound dilemma in that, while he wished to improve living standards through redistribution, increased regulation, and social spending, he did not wish to discourage foreign direct investment (FDI). Chávez attempted to shore up FDI inflows in an attempt to stem a crisis of chronic capital flight and monetary inflation. Chávez also worked to reduce Venezuelan oil extraction in hopes of garnering elevated oil prices and, at least theoretically, elevated total oil revenues and thereby boost Venezuela's severely deflated foreign exchange reserves. He also extensively lobbied other OPEC counries to cut their production rates as well. Stemming from these actions, Chávez was thus known as a “price hawk” in his dealings with the oil industry and OPEC. Chávez also attempted a comprehensive renegotiation of 60-year old royalty payment agreements with oil majors Philips Petroleum and ExxonMobil.[20] These agreements allow such corporations to pay in taxes as little as 1% of the tens of billions of dollars in revenues stemming from the Venezuelan oil they extract. Afterwards, a frustrated Chávez stated his intention to complete the nationalization of Venezuela's oil resources. Lastly, Chávez notably succeeded in improving both the fairness and efficiency of Venezuela's formerly lax tax collection and auditing system, especially in regards to taxes payable by major corporations and landholders.

Nevertheless, by mid-1999, Chávez was thoroughly incensed by his administration's setbacks in enacting the much promised anti-poverty initiatives; the National Assembly's opposition members were forestalling his allies' legislation. Chávez thus moved to bypass such opposition by approving the scheduling of two fresh national elections for July 1999 — just months after Chávez's assuming the presidency. The first was a nationwide referendum to determine whether a national constitutional assembly should be created. The assembly would be tasked with framing a new Venezuelan constitution that would hew more closely to Chávez's own political ideology. A second election was held that would elect delegates to this constitutional assembly. Chávez's widespread popularity allowed the constitutional referendum to pass with a 71.78% 'yes' vote; in the second election, members of Chávez's MVR and select allied parties formed the Polo Patriotico ("Patriotic Axis"). Chávez's Polo Patriotico went on to win 95% (120 out of 131 seats) of the seats in the voter-approved Venezuelan Constitutional Assembly.

However, in August 1999, the Constitutional Assembly first set up a special "judicial emergency committee" with the power to remove judges without consultation with other branches of government — over 190 judges were eventually suspended on charges of corruption. In the same month, the assembly declared a "legislative emergency," resulting in a seven-member committee that was tasked with conducting the legislative functions ordinarily carried out by the National Assembly — legislative opposition to Chávez's policies was thus instantly disabled. Meanwhile, the Constitutional Assembly prohibited National Assembly from holding meetings of any sort.[21]

Template:ChavezElections1998 The Constitutional Assembly itself drafted the new 1999 Venezuelan Constitution. With 350 articles, the document was, as drafted, one of the world's lengthiest constitutions. It first changed the country's official name from “Venezuela” to the "Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela". It also increased the presidential term of office from four to six years and introduced a presidential two-term limit. The document also introduced provisions for national presidential recall referenda — that is, Venezuelan voters now were to be given the right to remove their president from office before the expiration of the presidential term. Such referenda were to be activated upon provision of petitions with a valid number of signatures. The presidency was also dramatically strengthened, with the power to dissolve the National Assembly upon decree. The new constitution also converted the formerly bicameral National Assembly into a unicameral legislature, and stripped it of many of its former powers. Provision was also made for a new position, the Public Defender, which was to be an office with the authority to check the activities of the presidency, the National Assembly, and the constitution — Chávez styled such a defender as the guardian of the so-called “moral branch” of the new Venezuelan government, thus putatively tasked with defending public and moral interests. Lastly, the Venezuelan judiciary was reformed. Judges would, under the new constitution, be installed after passing public examinations and not, as in the old manner, be appointed by the National Assembly.

This new constitution was presented to the national electorate in December 1999 and approved with a CNE-audited 71.78% "yes" vote. Elections for the new unicameral National Assembly were held on July 30, 2000. During this same election, Chávez himself stood for reelection. Chávez's coalition garnered a commanding two-thirds majority of seats in the National Assembly while Chávez was reelected with 60% of the votes. The Carter Center monitored the 2000 presidential election; their report on that election stated that, due the a lack of transparancy, lack of CNE partiality, and political pressure from the Chávez government that resulted in unconstitutionally early elections, it was unable to validate the official CNE results.[22]

Over a span of a mere 60 days, the Constitutional Assembly thus framed a document that enshrined as constitutional law most of the structural changes Chávez desired. Chávez stated such changes were necessary in order to successfully and comprehensively enact his planned social justice programs. Sweeping changes in Venezuelan governmental structure were to be made; Chávez's plan was, stemming from his 1998 campaign pledges, thus to dramatically open up Venezuelan political discourse to independent and third parties by radically altering the national political context. In the process, Chávez sought to fatally paralyze his AD and COPEI opposition. All Chávez's aims were, in one move, dramatically furthered.

Later, on December 3, 2000, local elections and a referendum were held. The referendum, backed by Chávez, proposed a law that would force Venezuela's labor unions to hold state-monitored elections. The referendum was widely condemned by international labor organizations — including the ILO — as undue government interference in internal union matters; these organizations threatened to apply sanctions on Venezuela.[23] After the May and July 2000 elections, Chávez backed the passage of the "Enabling Act" by the National Assembly. This act allowed Chávez to rule by decree for one year. In November 2001, shortly before the Enabling Act was set to expire, Chávez enacted a set of 49 decrees. These included the Hydrocarbons Law and the Land Law, which are detailed below. The national business federation Fedecámaras opposed the new laws and called for a general business strike on December 10, 2001. The strike failed to significantly impact Chávez's policies, however. By the end of his first three years of his presidency, Chavez's main policy concerns thus challenged the Venezuelan oligarchy's control over Venezuela's land and petroleum resources, and introduced reforms aimed at improving the social welfare of the population by lowering infant mortality rates, introducing land reform, and the implementation of cursory government-funded free healthcare and education up to university level.Template:Ref label By December of 2001, Chavez's policies had reduced inflation from 40% to 12% while generating economic growth of 4%. His administration had also increased primary school enrollment by 1 million students.Template:Ref label

Coup of 2002

Main article: Venezuelan coup attempt of 2002

On April 9, 2002, CTV leader Carlos Ortega Carvajal called for a two-day general strike. Fedecámaras joined the strike and called on all of its affiliated member businesses to shut down for 48 hours. Approximately 500,000 people took to the streets on April 11, 2002 and marched towards the headquarters of Venezuela's state-owned oil company PDVSA in defense of its newly fired management. The organizers decided to redirect the march to Miraflores, the presidential palace, where a pro-Chávez demonstration was taking place. Chávez, alarmed by these developments, took over all Venezuelan airwaves, asking for all protesters to return to their homes. The private TV stations defied Chávez by showing both his address and the protest simultaneously, via a split-screen presentation. Chávez then ordered defiant private outlets to be taken off the air in a forced blackout. This lasted until several stations began rerouting their cable TV signals so as to continue covering the anti-Chávez protests. Despite Chávez's calls for calm, gunfire and violence erupted between the two groups of demonstrators, as well as the Caracas's metropolitan police (at that time they were controlled by anti-Chávez figures) and the Venezuelan national guard (controlled by Chávez). More than 100 casualties and 17 deaths resulted.

Then, unexpectedly, Lucas Rincón Romero, commander-in-chief of the Venezuelan armed forces, announced in an abrupt broadcast to a stunned nationwide audience that Chávez had tendered his resignation from the presidency. To this day, the events surrounding both the killings and the coup are hotly disputed. For example, General Manuel Rosendo, at the time chief of the National Unified Army Command (CUFAN), reported that he and others presented the newly deposed Chávez two options: first, Chávez could either be exiled; second, Chávez could choose to remain in Venezuela on condition that he stand trial for the April 11 killings. Chávez reportedly responded that he together with his family wished to be exiled to Cuba, on condition that Rosendo personally guarantee the safety of Chávez's relatives and that Chávez would depart via Maiquetía's Simon Bolivar International Airport.

On the other hand, Chávez himself has stated that he had negotiated an agreement to resign only after he realized that many top military leaders opposed his policies.[24] Chávez also agreed to resign only on the condition that his resignation would follow constitutional order: it must be tendered before the National Assembly, and Chávez's own vice-president would succeed him. Chávez stated that he was given assurances by the rebel generals that they would comply with these conditions. Based on these assurances, he stated that he instructed Rincón to announce his resignation publicly. He has also stated that shortly after Rincón's announcement, the assurances were abruptly rescinded and that he was then formally taken into custody.

After the resignation announcement, Chávez was escorted under military guard to Fort Tiuna, were he met with representatives of the Catholic Church. Chávez was also met by army officers, who by then had determined that he was indeed not to be sent to Cuba. Instead, Chávez would be taken to the La Orchila military base, which is off of Venezuela's coast, until rebel leaders could deliberate upon Chávez's fate. Meanwhile, the rebel military leaders appointed Fedecámaras president Pedro Carmona as Venezuela's interim president.

Carmona's first decree reversed all of Chávez's major social and economic policies that comprised his "Bolivarian Revolution", including loosening Chávez's credit controls and ending his oil price quotas by raising production back to pre-Chávez levels. Carmona also dissolved both the National Assembly and the Venezuelan judiciary, while reverting the nation's name back to República de Venezuela. These events generated pro-Chávez uprisings and looting across Caracas. Responding to these disturbances, Venezuelan army soldiers loyal to Chávez called for massive popular support for a counter-coup. These soldiers later stormed and retook the presidential palace, liberating Chávez from his captivity. The shortest-lived government in Venezuelan history thus was toppled, and Chávez resumed his presidency on the night of Saturday April 13, 2002. Following this episode, Rincón was reappointed by Chávez as commander-in-chief and later as Interior Minister in 2003.[25]


File:Néstor Kirchner y Hugo Chávez-Venezuela-Julio 2004.jpg
Chávez embraces Argentinian President Néstor Kirchner during the closing of a July 2004 joint press conference held in Venezuela.

Chavez resumed his presidency in April 2002 in a mood of continual outrage at his overthrow. He ordered several investigations to be carried out. The results of these investigations supported Chávez's assertions that the 2002 coup was U.S. sponsored.[26] On April 16, 2002, Chavez reported that a plane with U.S. registration numbers visited and was berthed at Orchila Island airbase, where Chavez had been held captive. On May 14, 2002 Chavez alleged that he had definitive proof of U.S. military involvement in April coup. He stated that, during the 2002 coup, Venezuelan radar images indicated the presence of U.S. military naval vessels and aircraft in Venezuelan territorial waters and airspace. Chavez also repeatedly claimed during the coup's immediate aftermath that the U.S. was continuing to seek his overthrow. On October 6, 2002, for example, Chavez stated that he had foiled a new coup plot. Lastly, on October 20, 2002, Chavez stated that he had barely escaped an assassination attempt while returning from a trip to Europe.Template:Ref label

Chavez took steps to prevent future coup attempts and stabilize the government. First, Chavez fired sixty generals and completely replaced the upper eschelons of Venezuela's armed forces, replacing them with more complacent pro-Chavez personnel. Chavez also sought to deepen his emotional bond with rank and file soldiers who, like Chavez himself, came from poor and neglected segments of Venezuelan society. He boosted support programs, employment, and benefits for veterans while promulgating new civilian-military development initiatives.

Yet, after the April 2002 coup attempt and investigations, only a few months would pass before the Chávez presidency would again be crisis-stricken. Chavez, outraged by the coup and seeking more funds for his social programs, moved in late 2002 to implement total control over PDVSA and its revenues. As a result, for two months following December 2, 2002, Chávez faced a strike from resistant PDVSA workers that sought to force Chavez from office by removing completely his access to the all-important government oil revenue. The strike, led by a coalition of labor unions, industrial magnates, and oil workers, sought to halt the activities of PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela, Venezuela's state-owned oil corporation). As a consequence, Venezuela ceased exporting its daily former average of 2,800,000 barrels (450,000 m³) of oil and oil derivatives. Hydrocarbon shortages soon erupted throughout Venezuela, with long lines forming at petrol filling stations. Gasoline imports were soon required. Alarmed, Chávez responded by firing PDVSA's anti-Chávez upper eschelon management and dismissed 18,000 PDVSA employees. Chávez justified this by alleging their complicity in gross mismanagement and corruption in their handling of oil revenues, while opposition supporters of the fired workers stated that the actions were politically motivated. Later, allegation emerged from anti-Chávez activists that Chávez has authorized creation of blacklists to preclude employment of opposition strike participants. A disputed Venezuelan court ruling declared the dismissal of these workers illegal and ordered the immediate return of the entire group to their former posts. Nevertheless, Chávez and his allies have repeatedly stated that the ruling will not be enforced.

In his continuing domestic policy efforts, Chávez made significant strides in both 2003 and 2004. Namely, Chavez initiated such nationwide programs as Mission Guaicaipuro (launched on October 12, 2003 to protect indigenous peoples' livelihood, religion, land, culture, and rights), Mission Robinson (launched in July 2003 to provide free reading, writing, and arithmetic lessons to the more than 1.5 million Venezuelan adults who were illiterate prior to Chavez's 1999 election), Mission Sucre (launched in late 2003 to furnish free and ongoing higher (college and graduate level) education to the two million adult Venezuelans who had not completed their elementary-level education), and Mission Ribas (launched November 2003 in order to provide remedial education and diplomas for Venezuela's five million high school dropouts). The impact of such programs were widely felt throughout Venezuela, to the extent that on the first anneversary of Mission Robinson's establishment, and to an audience of 50,000 formerly illiterate Venezuelans, Chávez stated in Caracas's Teresa Carreño theater that “it was truly a world record, in a year we have graduated 1,250,000 Venezuelans".

In May 9, 2004, a group of 126 Colombians were captured during a raid of a farm near the Venezuela-Colombia border. Chávez soon accused them of being foreign-funded paramilitaries who intended to violently overthrow Chávez.[27] These events merely served to further the extreme and violent polarization of Venezuelan society between pro- and anti-Chávez forces. Chávez's allegations of a planned 2004 coup continue to stir controversy and doubts to this day.[28]

Recall vote of 2004

Main article: Venezuelan recall referendum, 2004

Template:ChavezElections2004 In early and mid-2003, the Venezuelan opposition began the process of collecting the millions of signatures needed to activiate the presidential recall provision allowed for in the 1999 Constitution. In August 2003, around 3.2 million signatures were presented, but these were rejected by the pro-Chávez majority on the National Electoral Council (CNE) on the grounds that many had been collected before the mid-point of Chávez's presidential term.[29] Reports then began to emerge among the opposition and Western news outlets that Chávez had begun to act punitively against those who had signed the petition, while pro-Chávez individuals stated that they had been coerced by employers into offering their signatures at their workplaces. In November 2003, the opposition collected an entirely new set of signatures, with 3.6 million names produced over a span of four days. Riots erupted nationwide as allegations of fraud were made by Chávez against the signature collectors.

Reports again emerged that Chávez and his allies were penalizing signers of the publicly posted petition. Charges of summary dismissals from government ministries, PDVSA, the state-owned water corporation, the Caracas Metro, and public hospitals controlled by Chávez's political allies. Finally, after opposition leaders submitted to the CNE a valid petition with 2,436,830 signatures that requested a presidential recall referendum, a recall referendum was announced on 8 June 2004 by the National Electoral Council. Chávez and his poltical allies responded to this by launched a massive grassroots effort to mobilize supporters and encourage rejection of the recall with a "no" vote. The recall vote itself was held on August 15, 2004. A record numbers of voters turned out to defeat the recall attempt with a 59.25% "no" vote.[30]Template:Ref label A jubilant Chávez pledged to redouble his efforts against both poverty and imperialism, while promising to foster dialogue with his opponents. The election was overseen by the Carter Center and certified by them as fair and open.[31]


Hugo Chávez, speaking at the 2005 World Social Forum convened in Porto Alegre, Brasil. (Agência Brasil)

In the aftermath of his referendum victory, President Chávez's primary objectives of fundamental social and economic transformation and redistribution accelerated dramatically. Chávez himself placed the development and implementation of the Bolivarian Missions once again at the forefront of his political agendum. Sharp increases in global oil prices gave Chávez access to billions of dollars in extra foreign exchange reserves. Economic growth picked up markedly, reaching double-digit growth in 2004 and a projected 8% growth rate for 2005.

Many new policy initiatives were advanced by Chávez after 2004. The Chávez government passed a series of harsh media regulations that criminalized broadcasted libel and slander; the new legislation enabled prison sentences of up to 40 months for serious instances of character defamation launched against public officials, including Chávez. When asked in an October 2005 BBC interview if he would move to use the 40 month sentence if a media figure insulted him, he remarked that I don't care if they [the private media] call me names ... After all, if the dogs are barking, it is because we are working. Chávez also worked to expand the land redistribution and social welfare programs by authorizing and funding a multitude of new Bolivarian Missions, including Mission Vuelta al Campo, the second and third phases of Mission Barrio Adentro (both first initiated in June 2005 to construct, fund, and refurbish secondary (integrated diagnostic center) and tertiary (hospital) public health care facilities nationwide), and Mission Miranda (establishing a national citizen's militia).

Chávez considerably built Venezuela's foreign relations in 2004 and 2005. Chávez has deeply engaged Argentina's Nestor Kirchner, China's Hu Jintao, Cuba's Fidel Castro, and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad particularly deeply in terms of both new bilateral and multilateral agreements, including humanitarian aid and construction projects. On March 4, 2005 Chavez publicly declared that the US-backed FTAA was "dead". Chavez stated that the neoliberal model of development had utterly failed in improving the lives of Latin Americans, and that an alternative and non-capitalist model would be arrived at in order to increase trade and relations between Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil. Chavez also stated his desire that a leftist Latin American analogue of NATO would be established.

Over 2004 and 2005, the Venezuelan military under Chávez has also began in earnest to reduce weaponry sourcing and military ties with the United States. Chávez's Venezuela is thus increasingly purchasing arms from alternative sources such as Brazil, Russia, China and Spain. Frictions over these sales have escalated, and in response Chávez ended cooperation between the two militaries. He also asked all active duty U.S. soldiers to leave Venezuela. Additionally, in 2005 Chávez announced the creation of a large "military reserve" — the Mission Miranda program that encompasses a militia of 1.5 million citizens — as a defensive measure against foreign intervention or outright invasion.[32] Additionally, in October 2005, Chávez banished the Christian missionary organization "New Tribes Mission" from the country, accusing it of "imperialist infiltration" and harboring connections with the CIA.[33] At the same time he granted inalienable titles to over 6,800 square kilometers of land traditionally inhabited by Amazonian indigenous peoples to their respective resident natives. Chávez dubbed this as evidence that his revolution was also a revolution for the defense of indigenous rights (such as those promoted by Chávez's Mission Guaicaipuro).

Over 2004 and 2005, Chavez has placed much greater emphasis on alternative economic development and international trade models. Most notably, during his speech at the 2005 UN World Summit denounced models that are organized around neoliberal guidelines such as liberalization of capital flows, removal of trade barriers, privatization, and the like. Additionally, on November 7, 2005, Chavez stated at the 4th Summit of the Americas — held in Mar del Plata, Argentina — that “the great loser today was George W. Bush. The man went away wounded. You could see defeat on his face.” Chavez was referring to the stalling of the U.S.-backed FTAA at the meeting. Chavez took the same opportunity to state that “the taste of victory” was apparent with regards to the promotion of his own trade alternative, the ALBA.[34]

Impact of the Chávez presidency

Bolivarian Missions

Template:Main4 Template:Bolivarian Missions Infobox 1 The mainstay of Chávez's domestic policy is embodied in the form of the Bolivarian Missions. Through these missions, the profound changes Chávez set in motion as president have radically altered the economic and cultural landscape of Venezuela. Most notably, although recent economic activity under Chávez has been robust,[35][36] per-capita GDP in 2004 has dropped over 25% from 1998 levels.[37][38] There have also, as of September 2005, been significant drops since 1999 in both unemployment,[39] and government-defined poverty[40] and marked improvements in national health indicators between 1998 and 2005.[41][42]

Domestically, the Chávez administration has launched massive government anti-poverty initiatives,[43][44] constructed thousands of free medical clinics for the poor,[45] instituted educational campaigns that have made more than one million adult Venezuelans literate,[46][47] enacted deep food[48] and housing subsidies,[49] and promulgated the new progressive 1999 Bolivarian constitution. Chávez has also overseen widespread state-supported experimentation in citizen- and worker-managed governance[50][51] as well as the granting of thousands of free land titles to formerly landless poor and indigenous communities;[52] in contrast, several large landed estates and factories have been — or are in the process of being — expropriated.

Labor policy

Chávez has had a combative relationship with the nation's largest trade union confederation, the Confederación de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CTV), which is historically aligned with the Acción Democrática party. During the December 2000 local elections, Chávez placed a referendum measure on the ballot that would mandate and enforce state-monitored elections within unions. The referendum measure, which was condemned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) as undue interference in internal union matters, passed by a large margin on a very low electoral turnout. In the ensuing CTV elections, Carlos Ortega declared his victory and remained in office as CTV president, while Chavista (pro-Chávez) candidates declared fraud. In response, the Unión Nacional de los Trabajadores (UNT — National Union of Workers) is a new pro-Chávez union federation which has been growing in its membership during Chávez's presidency; it seeks to ultimately supplant the CTV. Several Chavista unions have withdrawn from the CTV because of their strident anti-Chávez activism, and have instead affiliated with the UNT. In 2003, Chávez chose to send UNT, rather than CTV, representatives to an annual ILO meeting.

At the request of its workers, Chávez nationalized the formerly closed paper and cardboard manufacturing firm Venepal on January 19, 2005. Workers had occupied the factory floor and restarted production, but following a failed deal with management and amidst management threats to liquidate the firm's equipment, Chávez ordered the nationalization, extended a line of credit to the workers, and ordered that the Venezuelan educational missions purchase more paper products from the company.

Economic policy

Venezuela is a major producer of oil products, and oil is the vital keystone of the Venezuelan economy. Chávez has gained a reputation as a price hawk in OPEC, pushing for stringent enforcement of production quotas and higher target oil prices. He has also attempted to broaden Venezuela's customer base, striking joint exploration deals with other developing countries, including Argentina, Brazil, China, and India. Record oil prices have meant more funding for the social programs, but has left the economy increasingly dependent on both the Chávez government and the oil sector; the private sector's role has correspondingly diminished. Despite the high government income, official unemployment figures has remained above 11%.[53] Associated social problems are present, such as the large informal economy and record high crime levels.[54]

Chávez has redirected the focus of PDVSA, Venezuela's state-owned oil company, by bringing it more closely under the direction of the Energy Ministry. He has also attempted to repatriate more oil funds to Venezuela by raising royalty percentages on joint extraction contracts that are payable to Venezuela. Chávez has also explored the liquidation of some or all of the assets belonging to PDVSA's U.S.-based subsidiary, CITGO. The oil ministry has been successful in restructuring CITGO's profit structure,[55] resulting in large increases in dividends and income taxes from PDVSA. In 2005 CITGO announced the largest dividend payment to PDVSA in over a decade — $400 million. Yet despite massive efforts to increase production, daily oil production is still well short of the levels attained under the previous administration of president Rafael Caldera.

Foreign policy

Main article: Foreign policy of Hugo Chávez
Chávez talks with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on February 14, 2005 in Caracas, Venezuela. (Agência Brasil)

Chávez has refocused Venezuelan foreign policy on Latin American economic and social integration by enacting bilateral trade and reciprocal aid agreements, including his so-called "oil diplomacy".[56][57] Abroad, Chávez regularly portrays his movement's objectives as being in intractable conflict with both "neocolonialism" and neoliberalism. Chávez has, for example, denounced U.S. foreign policy regarding Iraq, Haiti, regarding the Free Trade Area of the Americas and in numerous other areas. Chávez's warm and public friendship with Cuban President Fidel Castro and significant trade relationship with Cuba have markedly compromised the U.S. policy of isolating Cuba diplomatically and economically.[58] Longstanding ties between the U.S. and Venezuelan militaries were also severed on Chávez's initiative. Chávez's stance as an OPEC price hawk has also raised the price of oil for American consumers, as Venezuela pushed OPEC producers towards lower production ceilings, with the resultant price settling around $25 a barrel prior to 2004, and rising to over $60 per barrel by mid-2005. During Venezuela's holding of the OPEC presidency in 2000, Chávez made a ten-day tour of OPEC countries in a bid to promote his policies, and in the process become the first head of state to meet Saddam Hussein since the Gulf War. The visit was controversial at home and in the U.S., despite Chávez's observing the ban on international flights to and from Iraq (he drove from Iran, his previous stop).[59]

Chávez's foreign policy conduct and anti-Bush rhetoric has occasionally touched the personal. In response to the ouster of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February 2004, Chávez referred to U.S. President George W. Bush a pendejo ("jerk"). In a later speech, he made personal remarks regarding Condoleezza Rice, aiming vulgar sexual innuendo at her — suggesting, for example, that she "dreams" about him and that she would need "to look for some other options" other than her implied desire to marry him — and referring to her as a "complete illiterate" with regards to comprehending Latin America.[60]Template:Ref label[61]

The U.S. in turn has stated that Chávez a "negative force" in the region, and requested support from Venezuela's neighbors in isolating Chávez. Sentiments play equally deeply in Chávez's foreign policy, however. After Hurricane Katrina battered the United States’ gulf coast in late 2005, the Chávez administration was the first government that offered foreign aid to its "North American brothers". Chávez offered tons of food, water, and a million barrels of extra petroleum to the U.S. He has also offered up to sell at a significant discount as many as 66,000 barrels of heating fuel to poor communities that were hit by the hurricane, and offered mobile hospital units, medical specialists, and power generators. The Bush administration opted to refuse this aid.[62]

Chávez and the media

Main article: Media representation of Hugo Chávez

Even before the April 2002 coup, owners, managers, and commentators working for the five major private mainstream television networks and most major mainstream newspapers have stated their opposition to Chávez's polcies. These media accuse the Chávez administration of having intimidating their journalists using specially dispatched gangs. Chávez has in turn alleges that the owners of these networks have primary allegiance not to Venezuela but to U.S. interests and to the advancement of neoliberalism via corporate propaganda. Meanwhile, private media's prominent political commentators have reported that, among other things, Chávez is mentally ill and that he harbors a "sexual obsession with Castro". Chávez, in turn, has described the four largest private television networks as "the four whores of the Apocalypse", has stated that the late Catholic Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Velasco is "in hell", and that his opponents resemble a "truckful of squealing pigs".

Chávez currently hosts the live talk show known as Aló, Presidente!.[63] Of variable format, the show broadcasts on VTV (Venezuelan State Television) each Sunday at 11:00 AM. The show features Chávez addressing topics of the day, taking phone calls and live questions from both the studio and broadcast audience, and touring locations where government social welfare programs are active. Aside from the program, on July 25, 2005, Chávez inaugurated Telesur, a proposed pan-American homologue of Al-Jazeera that seeks to challenge the present domination of Latin American television news by U.S.-based CNN en Español and Univisión. Chávez's media policies have contributed to the elevated U.S.-Venezuela tensions.[64]


Bolivarianism & Chavismo

Chávez's version of Bolivarianism, although drawing heavily from Bolivar's ideals, was additionally strongly influenced by the writings of Marxist historian Federico Brito Figueroa. Early on in his life, Chávez was also thoroughly steeped in the South American tradition of socialism and communism, such as that practiced by Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Salvador Allende. These streams of influence would later become strongly manifest in his political philosophy and governance. It shoud be noted that while Chávez himself refers to his ideology as "Bolivarianism" or "Bolivarianismo", Chávez's supporters and opponents in Venezuela refer to themselves as being either for or against "Chavismo", indicating a public perception that Chávez's political philosophy does not so much originate from Bolivar but rather from Chávez. Thus, Chávez supporters refer to themselves not as "Bolivarianists", but rather as "chavistas".

Later in his life, Chávez would acknowledge the role that democratic socialism (an imprint of socialism that emphasizes grassroots democratic participation) plays in Bolivarianism as it is exhibited presently. For example, on 30 January 2005 at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Chávez declared his support for democratic socialism as integral to Bolivarianism. Thus Chávez proclaimed there that "a new type of socialism, a humanist one, which puts humans and not machines or the state ahead of everything."[65] He later reiterated this sentiment in a February 26 speech at the 4th Summit on the Social Debt held in Caracas.

The central points of Chávez's Bolivarianism are:Template:Ref label

1. Venezuelan economic and political sovereignty (anti-imperialism).
2. Grassroots political participation of the population via
popular votes and referenda (participatory democracy).
3. Economic self-sufficiency (in food, consumer durables, et cetera).
4. Instilling a national sentiment of patriotic service.
5. Equitable distribution of Venezuela's vast oil revenues.
6. Eliminating corruption.
7. Eliminating puntofujismo by way of constitutional reforms.[66]


Main article: Criticisms of Hugo Chávez

Chávez is a passionately disputed personality, both in Venezuela and abroad. His most steadfast domestic opponents state that Chávez is a dangerous militarist and authoritarian revolutionary who poses a fundamental threat to Venezuelan democracy. The opposition also reports that both poverty and unemployment figures under Chávez have not seen dramatic improvements, and that official corruption under his government is as rampant as ever.[67] Opposition figures also point to the many public hospitals that lack even basic medicines and hygenic supplies. They also point to the over 25% drop in Venezuela's per-capita GDP under Chávez. Others cite his demogoguery and personality cult as pathways to achieving power and adulation. More specifically, the opposition has reported that the Chávez government has engaged in extensive electoral fraud throughout its duration, especially during the 2000 and 2004 elections. The opposition also reports that some 98% of arrestees are anti-Chávez. More sympathetic critcisms arise from reports that Chávez is not fulfilling his major campaign pledges with respect to labor and land reform.[68][69][70] Abroad, Western mainstream news media have reported that Chávez is a confrontational ideologue[71] who willingly harbors, funds, and trains terrorists in Venezuela and insurgents abroad.[72][73]

On the other hand, human rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented human rights violations under Chávez.Template:Ref labelTemplate:Ref label Scores of deaths and hundreds of injuries inflicted during opposition demonstrations have resulted in little investigative action taken on the part of Chávez. Ill treatment of detainees, torture, and censorship comprise the other main allegations made against Chávez's government by such organizations. Meanwhile, relatives of victims who were killed in the April 11, 2002 clashes have filed a case against Chávez and others at the International Criminal Court, stating that Chávez is legally complicit in crimes against humanity. A ruling has yet to be reached.[74]

Personal life

Main article: Personal life of Hugo Chávez

Hugo Chávez has been married twice. He first wedded Nancy Colmenares, a woman of humble family originating from Sabaneta in Chávez's own native Barinas state; they remained together for eighteen years, during which they had three children: Rosa Virginia, María Gabriela, and Hugo Rafael. They separated after Chávez's 1992 coup attempt, but continued to remain good friends up to the present.[75] At the same time, Chávez had an affair with the historian Herma Marksman, which lasted nine years.[76]Template:Ref label Chávez is currently separated from his second wife, the journalist Marisabel Rodríguez de Chávez. He had another son and daughter — Rosa Inés and Raúl (Raúlito) Alfonzo — through that marriage. Chávez also has one granddaugher, Gabriela.[77]

Chávez is of Roman Catholic extraction, and is currently a practicing Christian. Nevertheless, he has engaged in a series of extremely bitter disputes with both the Venezuelan Catholic clergy and Protestant church hierarchies.[78] Although he has traditionally kept his faith private, Chávez has been increasingly discussing that both his faith and his interpretation of Jesus of Nazareth's personal life and ideology has had a profound impact on his leftist and progressivist views:

He [Jesus] accompanied me in difficult times, in crucial moments. So Jesus Christ is no doubt a historical figure — he was someone who rebelled, an anti-imperialist guy. He confronted the Roman Empire ... Because who might think that Jesus was a capitalist? No. Judas was the capitalist, for taking the coins! Christ was a revolutionary. He confronted the religous hierarchies. He confronted the economic power of the time. He preferred death in the defense of his humanistic ideals, who fostered change ... he is our Jesus Christ.Template:Ref label

Related topics

Template:Wikiquote Template:Wikinews Template:Wikitree



  • Boudin, Chesa, Hugo Chávez and Marta Harnecker (2005). Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution: Hugo Chávez Talks to Marta Harnecker. Monthly Review Press. ISBN 1583671277
  • Chávez, Hugo, David Deutschmann, and Javier Salado (2004). Chávez : Venezuela and the New Latin America. Ocean Press. ISBN 1920888004
  • Ellner, Steven and Daniel Hellinger (2004). Venezuelan Politics in the Chávez Era: Class, Polarization, and Conflict. Lynne Rienner. ISBN 1588262979
  • Golinger, Eva (2005). El Código Chávez: Descifrando la Intervención de los Estados Unidos en Venezuela. Editorial de Ciencias Sociales. ISBN 9590607233 Template:Es icon
  • Gott, Richard (2001). In the Shadow of the Liberator: The Impact of Hugo Chávez on Venezuela and Latin America. Verso. ISBN 1859843654
  • Gott, Richard (2005). Hugo Chávez: The Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. Verso. ISBN 1844675335
  • McCoy, Jennifer L. and David J. Myers. (2004). The Unraveling of Representative Democracy in Venezuela. (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004) ISBN 0801879604
  • Niemeyer, Ralph T. (2004). Under Attack: Morning Dawn in Venezuela. (iUniverse, 2004) ISBN 0595662080


External links

Official links

Interviews and speeches

Other links


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  2. ^ Template:Note label O'Keefe, Derrick. (Z Communications, 09 Mar 2005). "Building a Democratic, Humanist Socialism: The Political Challenge of the 21st Century". Retrieved 11 Nov 2005.
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  4. ^  McCoy and Neuman (Feb 2001), pp. 71-72.
  5. ^ Template:Note label Carter Center (Sep 2004), p. 7.
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  43. ^ Template:Note label Niemeyer, p. 36. "The World Bank asserted on 7th October 2003 that Latin America's biggest issue is the fight against poverty. The Bolivarian Revolution seems to be the only process worldwide which is taking this problem seriously and is effectively tackling poverty with government programs. The financing of these programs by spending a good portion of the Nation's GDP (0.2% in August 2003 alone) ... "
  44. ^  UNICEF. (UNICEF, 2005). "Venezuela’s Barrio Adentro: A Model of Universal Primary Health Care". Retrieved 15 Oct 2005. UNICEF, p. 2. "Barrio Adentro ... is part and parcel of the government's longterm poverty-reduction and social inclusion strategy to achieve and surpass the Millennium Development Goals."
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  46. ^  Niemeyer, pp. 14-15. "With high levels of illiteracy to be found amongst the population the alphabetisation campaign called 'Mission Robinson' was brought into action. It has already taught more than a million people how to read and write and gained widespread support. Older people participate while youngsters enjoy access to University through a program guaranteeing equal access to Universities. This program is referred to as 'Mission Sucre'."
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