Hugo Chávez

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Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías
Hugo Chávez

In office
February 2, 1999 – April 11, 2002
April 13, 2002 - present
Preceded by Rafael Caldera (1999)
Diosdado Cabello (2002)
Succeeded by Pedro Carmona (2002)

Born July 28, 1954 (age 52)
Sabaneta, Barinas, Venezuela
Political party Fifth Republic Movement
Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

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Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías (IPA: ['uɰo rafa'el 'tʃaβes 'fɾias]) (born July 28, 1954) is the current President of Venezuela. As the leader of the "Bolivarian Revolution", Chávez promotes his vision of democratic socialism,[1] Latin American integration, and anti-imperialism. He is also an ardent critic of neoliberal globalization and U.S. foreign policy.[2]

A career military officer, Chávez founded the left-wing Fifth Republic Movement after orchestrating a failed 1992 coup d'état against former President Carlos Andrés Pérez. Chávez was elected President in 1998 on promises of aiding Venezuela's poor majority, and was reelected in 2000 and in 2006. Domestically, Chávez has launched Bolivarian Missions, whose goals are to combat disease, illiteracy, malnutrition, poverty, and other social ills. Abroad, Chávez has acted against the Washington Consensus by supporting alternative models of economic development, and has advocated cooperation among the world's poor nations, especially those in Latin America.

Chávez's reforms have evoked exceptional controversy in Venezuela and abroad, receiving both vehement criticism and adulation. Venezuelans are split between those who say he has empowered the poor and stimulated economic growth, and those who say he is autocratic and has mismanaged the economy.[3] Some foreign governments, including the government of the United States, view Chávez as a threat to global oil prices and regional stability.[4] Others sympathize with his ideology[5] or welcome his bilateral trade and reciprocal aid agreements.[6]

In 2005 and 2006 he was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people.[7][8]


[edit] Early life (1954–1992)

Chávez was born on July 28, 1954 in the town of Sabaneta, Barinas. The second son of two schoolteachers, Hugo de los Reyes Chávez a zambo/mulatto and Elena Frías de Chávez a mestizo, he is of mixed Amerindian, Afro-Venezuelan, and Spanish descent[citation needed]. Chávez was raised in a thatched palm leaf house near Sabaneta. At an early age, Chávez was sent to Sabaneta with his older brother Adán to live with his paternal grandmother, Rosa Inés Chávez. There, he pursued hobbies such as painting, singing, and baseball, while also attending elementary school at the Julián Pino School. He was later forced to relocate to the town of Barinas to attend high school at the Daniel Florencio O'Leary School.[9]

At age seventeen, Chávez enrolled at the Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences. After graduating in 1975 as a sub-lieutenant with a degree in Military Arts and Science, Chávez entered military service for several months. He was then allowed to pursue graduate studies in political science at Caracas' Simón Bolívar University, but left without a degree.[9]

Over the course of his college years, Chávez and fellow students developed a fervently left-nationalist doctrine that they termed "Bolivarianism," inspired by the Pan-American philosophy of 19th-century Venezuelan revolutionary Simón Bolívar, the influence of former Peruvian President Juan Velasco Alvarado and the teachings of various socialist and communist leaders.[10] Chávez engaged in sporting events and cultural activities during these years as well. He played both baseball and softball with the Criollitos de Venezuela, progressing with them to the Venezuelan National Baseball Championships in 1969. Chávez also authored numerous poems, stories and theatrical pieces.[9]

Upon completing his studies, Chávez initially entered active-duty military service as a member of a counter insurgency battalion stationed in Barinas. Chávez's military career lasted 17 years, during which time he held a variety of post, command, and staff positions, eventually rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Chávez also held a series of teaching and staffing positions at the Military Academy of Venezuela, where he was first acknowledged by his peers for his fiery lecturing style and radical critique of Venezuelan government and society.[11] In 1983, Chávez established the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 (MBR-200). Afterwards, he rose to a number of high-level positions in Caracas and was decorated several times.[9]

[edit] Coup attempt of 1992

Chávez calls for the surrender of all forces on national TV.
Chávez calls for the surrender of all forces on national TV.
Chávez interviewed following his 1994 release from prison. Although the coup for which Chávez was imprisoned failed, it elevated him into the national spotlight.
Chávez interviewed following his 1994 release from prison. Although the coup for which Chávez was imprisoned failed, it elevated him into the national spotlight.

After an extended period of popular dissatisfaction and economic decline[12] under the administration of President Carlos Andrés Pérez and the violent repression known as El Caracazo,[13] Chávez made extensive preparations for a military coup d'état.[14] Initially planned for December, Chávez delayed the MBR-200 coup until the early twilight hours of February 4, 1992. On that date, five army units under Chávez's command barreled into urban Caracas with the mission of assaulting and overwhelming key military and communications installations throughout the city, including the Miraflores presidential palace, the defense ministry, La Carlota military airport, and the Historical Museum. Chávez's ultimate goal was to intercept and take custody of Pérez, who was returning to Miraflores from an overseas trip.

Chávez held the loyalty of less than 10% of Venezuela's military forces;[15] still, numerous betrayals, defections, errors, and other unforeseen circumstances soon left Chávez and a small group of rebels cut off in the Historical Museum, without any means of conveying orders to their network of spies and collaborators spread throughout Venezuela.[16] Further, Chávez's allies were unable to broadcast their prerecorded tapes on the national airwaves in which Chávez planned to issue a general call for a mass civilian uprising against Pérez. As the coup unfolded, the coup plotters were unable to capture Pérez: fourteen soldiers were killed, and 50 soldiers and some 80 civilians injured in the ensuing violence.[17] Nevertheless, rebel forces in other parts of Venezuela made advances and were ultimately able to take control of such large cities as Valencia, Maracaibo, and Maracay with the help of spontaneous civilian aid. Chávez's forces, however, had failed to take Caracas.[18]

Chávez, alarmed, soon gave himself up to the government. He was then allowed to appear on national television to call for all remaining rebel detachments in Venezuela to cease hostilities. When he did so, Chávez famously quipped on national television that he had only failed "por ahora" (for the moment).[19] Chávez was catapulted into the national spotlight, with many poor Venezuelans seeing him as a figure who had stood up against government corruption and kleptocracy.[20][21] Chávez was sent to Yare prison; meanwhile, Pérez, the coup's intended target, was impeached a year later. While in prison, Chávez 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 damaged.[22]

[edit] Political rise (1992–1999)

Further information: Venezuelan presidential election, 1998
Hugo Chávez's Election Results
1998 presidential election
Source: CNE data
Candidate Votes %
Chávez: 3,673,685 56%
H. Salas: 2,613,161 40%
Valid votes: 6,537,304
Non-voting: 4,024,729 37%

After a two-year imprisonment, Chávez was pardoned by President Rafael Caldera in 1994. Upon his release, Chávez reconstituted the MBR-200 as the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR—Movimiento Quinta República, with the V representing the Roman numeral five). Later, in 1998, Chávez began to campaign for the presidency. In working to gain the trust of voters, Chávez drafted an agenda that drew heavily on his ideology of Bolivarianism. Chávez and his followers described their aim as "laying the foundations of a new republic" to replace the existing one, which they cast as "party-dominated"; the current constitution, they argued, was no more than the 'juridico-political embodiment of puntofijismo,' the country's traditional two-party patronage system.[23] Controversially, foreign banks—including Spain's Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) and Banco Santander (BSCH), each the owner of one of Venezuela's largest banks—illicitly funneled millions of dollars into Chávez's campaign.[24][25]

Chávez utilised his charisma and flamboyant public speaking style—noted for its abundance of colloquialisms and ribald manner—on the campaign trail to win the trust and favour of a primarily poor and working class following. By May 1998, Chávez's support had risen to 30% in polls, and by August he was registering 39%. Chávez went on to win the 1998 presidential election on December 6, 1998 with 56% of the vote.[14][26]

[edit] Presidency (1999–present)

Chávez holds up a miniature copy of the 1999 Venezuelan Constitution at the 2005 World Social Forum held in Brazil.
Chávez holds up a miniature copy of the 1999 Venezuelan Constitution at the 2005 World Social Forum held in Brazil.

Chávez was sworn in as president on February 2, 1999. Among his first acts was the launching of Plan Bolivar 2000, which included road building, housing construction, and mass vaccination.[27] Chávez also halted planned privatizations of, among others, the national social security system, aluminum industry holdings, and the oil sector.[28] Chávez also overhauled the formerly lax tax collection and auditing system—especially regarding major corporations and landholders.

Hugo Chávez's Election Results
1999 referendum
Enact the new constitution?
Option Votes %
Yes: 3,301,475 72%
No: 1,298,105 28%
Abstention: 6,041,743 56%

Responding to the stalling of his legislation in the National Assembly, Chávez scheduled two national elections for July 1999, including a referendum for and elections to fill a new constitutional assembly. The Constitutional Assembly was created when the referendum passed with a 72% "yes" vote, while the pro-Chávez Polo Patriotico ("Patriotic Pole") won 95% (120 out of the total 131) of its seats. In August 1999, the Constitutional Assembly's "Judicial Emergency Committee" declared a "legislative emergency" whereby a seven-member committee conducted the National Assembly's functions; meanwhile, the National Assembly was prohibited from holding meetings.[29] The Constitutional Assembly drafted the 1999 Venezuelan Constitution, which included an increase in the presidential term from five to six years, a new presidential two-term limit, a new provision for presidential recall elections, renaming of the country to República Bolivariana de Venezuela, expanded presidential powers, conversion of the bicameral National Assembly into a unicameral legislature, merit-based appointments of judges, and creation of the Public Defender, an office authorized to regulate the activities of the presidency and the National Assembly.[30]

In December 1999, the new constitution was approved. On December 15, after weeks of heavy rain, statewide mudslides claimed the lives of an estimated 30,000 people. Critics claim Chávez was distracted by the referendum and that the government ignored a civil defense report, calling for emergency measures, issued the day the floods struck.[31] The government rejected these claims.[31] Chávez personally led the relief effort afterwards.[32]

[edit] 2000–2001: Reelection

Further information: Venezuelan presidential election, 2000
Hugo Chávez's Election Results
2000 presidential election
Source: CNE data
Candidate Votes %
Hugo Chávez: 3,757,773 60%
Francisco Arias: 2,359,459 38%
Valid votes: 6,288,578
Non-voting: 5,120,464 44%
— 2000 labor union reform referendum —
State-monitored labor union elections?
Source:CNE data
Candidate Votes %
Yes: 1,632,750 62%
No: 719,771 27%
Non-voting: 8,569,691 76%

General elections were held on July 30, 2000. Chávez's coalition garnered two-thirds of seats in the National Assembly while Chávez was reelected with 60% of the votes. The Carter Center monitored the election; their report stated that, due to lack of transparency, Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE; "National Electoral Council") partiality, and political pressure from the Chávez government that resulted in early elections, it was unable to validate the official CNE results.[33] However, they concluded that the presidential election legitimately expressed the will of the people.[34]

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 organisations—including the International Labour Organization—as undue government interference in internal union matters; these organisations threatened to apply sanctions on Venezuela.[35]

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. Fedecámaras, a national business federation, and the Confederación de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CTV), a federation of labor unions, opposed the approval of the new laws and called for a general business strike on December 10, 2001[36] in the hope that the President would reconsider his legislative action and, instead, open a debate about those laws.[37] The strike failed to significantly impact Chávez's decision or policies.[38]

By the end of the first three years of his presidency, Chávez had successfully[citation needed] initiated a land transfer program and had introduced several reforms aimed at improving the social welfare of the population. These reforms entailed the lowering of infant mortality rates; the implementation of a free, government-funded healthcare system; and free education up to the university level. By December of 2001, inflation fell to 12.3% the lowest since 1986,[39] while economic growth was steady at four percent.[40] Chávez's administration also reported an increase in primary school enrollment by one million students.[40]

[edit] 2002: Coup and strike/lockout

Further information: Venezuelan coup attempt of 2002
Mass demonstration leading to the coup against Hugo Chavéz in 2002
Mass demonstration leading to the coup against Hugo Chavéz in 2002

On April 9, 2002, CTV leader Carlos Ortega called for a two-day general strike. Hundreds of thousands[41] took to the streets on April 11, 2002 and marched towards the headquarters of Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), in defense of its recently-fired management. The organisers decided to redirect the march to Miraflores, the presidential palace, where a pro-Chávez demonstration was taking place. Gunfire and violence erupted between two groups of demonstrators, Caracas' Metropolitan Police (under the control of the oppositionist mayor), and the Venezuelan national guard (under Chávez's command), and snipers were reported from the areas where both opposition and Chávez supporters were concentrated.

Then, unexpectedly, Lucas Rincón Romero, commander-in-chief of the Venezuelan armed forces, announced in a broadcast to a nationwide audience that Chávez had tendered his resignation from the presidency. While Chávez was brought to a military base and held there, military leaders appointed the president of the Fedecámaras, Pedro Carmona, as Venezuela's interim president. Carmona's first decree reversed all of the major social and economic policies that comprised Chávez's "Bolivarian Revolution", and dissolved both the National Assembly and the Venezuelan judiciary, while reverting the nation's name back to República de Venezuela.

Carmona's decrees were followed by pro-Chávez uprisings and looting across Caracas. Responding to these disturbances, Venezuelan soldiers loyal to Chávez called for massive popular support for a counter-coup. These soldiers later stormed and retook the presidential palace, and retrieved Chávez from captivity. The shortest-lived government in Venezuelan history was thus toppled, and Chávez resumed his presidency on the night of Saturday, April 13, 2002. Following this episode, Rincón was reappointed by Chávez as Commander of the Army, and later as Interior Minister in 2003.[42] The opposition would later argue that, since Lucas Rincón remained close to the President, there was no coup but a power vacuum once Chávez resigned,[citation needed] despite the succession order being broken.

Chávez waves to supporters after disembarking at Salgado Filho Airport on January 26, 2003 while on route to the World Social Forum convened in Porto Alegre, Brazil (Agência Brasil).
Chávez waves to supporters after disembarking at Salgado Filho Airport on January 26, 2003 while on route to the World Social Forum convened in Porto Alegre, Brazil (Agência Brasil).

After Chávez resumed his presidency in April 2002, he claimed that a plane with U.S. registration numbers had visited and been berthed at Venezuela's Orchila Island airbase, where Chávez had been held captive. On May 14, 2002, Chávez alleged that he had definitive proof of U.S. military involvement in April's coup. He claimed that during the coup Venezuelan radar images had indicated the presence of U.S. military naval vessels and aircraft in Venezuelan waters and airspace. The Guardian published a claim by former US intelligence officer Wayne Madsen alleging U.S. Navy involvement.[43] U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd, D-CT, requested an investigation of concerns that Washington appeared to condone the removal of Mr Chávez,[44][45] which subsequently found that "U.S. officials acted appropriately and did nothing to encourage an April coup against Venezuela's president," nor did they provide any naval logistical support.[46][47] According to Democracy Now!, CIA documents indicate that the Bush administration knew about a plot weeks before the April 2002 military coup. They cite a document dated 6 April 2002, which says: "dissident military factions... are stepping up efforts to organize a coup against President Chávez, possibly as early as this month." According to William Brownfield, ambassador to Venezuela, the U.S. embassy in Venezuela warned Chávez about a coup plot in April 2002.[48] The United States Department of State and the investigation by the Office of the Inspector General found no evidence that "U.S. assistance programs in Venezuela, including those funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), were inconsistent with U.S. law or policy" or "… directly contributed, or was intended to contribute, to [the coup d'état]."[49][46]

Chávez also claimed, during the coup's immediate aftermath, that the U.S. was still seeking his overthrow. On October 6, 2002, he stated that he had foiled a new coup plot, and on October 20, 2002, he stated that he had barely escaped an assassination attempt while returning from a trip to Europe. During that period, the US Ambassador to Venezuela warned the Chávez administration of two potential assassination plots.[48]

Only a few months would pass after the April 2002 coup before the Chávez presidency would enter another crisis. For two months following December 2, 2002, Chávez faced a strike organized by the resistant PDVSA management who sought to force Chávez out of office by completely removing his access to the all-important government oil revenue. The strike/lockout, led by a coalition of labor unions, industrial magnates, and oil workers, sought to halt the activities of the PDVSA. As a result, Venezuela ceased exporting its former daily 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. Chávez responded by firing PDVSA's anti-Chávez upper-echelon management and dismissing 18,000 skilled 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 his actions were politically motivated.

[edit] 2003–2004: Recall vote

Chávez acknowledges a cheering crowd from the high balcony of the Piratini Palace, seat of the government of Rio Grande Do Sul in Brazil, on January 26, 2003 (Agência Brasil).
Chávez acknowledges a cheering crowd from the high balcony of the Piratini Palace, seat of the government of Rio Grande Do Sul in Brazil, on January 26, 2003 (Agência Brasil).
Further information: Venezuelan recall referendum of 2004

In 2003 and 2004 Chávez launched a number of social and economic campaigns as he struggled to maintain popular support. In July 2003 he launched "Mission Robinson", billed as a campaign aimed at providing free reading, writing and arithmetic lessons to the more than 1.5 million Venezuelan adults who were illiterate prior to his 1999 election. On October 12, 2003, Chávez initiated "Mission Guaicaipuro", a program billed as protecting the livelihood, religion, land, culture, and rights of Venezuela's indigenous peoples. In late 2003, the Venezuelan president launched "Mission Sucre", with the stated intent of providing free higher education to the two million adult Venezuelans who had not completed their elementary-level education. In November 2003, Chávez announced "Mission Ribas", with the promise of providing remedial education and diplomas for Venezuela's five million high school dropouts. On the first anniversary of Mission Robinson's establishment, Chávez stated in Caracas's Teresa Carreño theater to an audience of 50,000 formerly illiterate Venezuelans, "in a year, we have graduated 1,250,000 Venezuelans." Nevertheless, there were also significant setbacks. Notably, the inflation rate rocketed to 31% in 2002 and remained at the high level of 27% in 2003, causing a great deal of hardship for the poor.

In May 9, 2004, a group of 126 Colombians were captured during a raid of two farms near Caracas. The Colombians were outfit in Venezuelan military uniforms and testified that, once they arrived in Venezuela after receiving promises of legal employment, they were then hired for military action against Venezuelan regulars. The farm was owned by a Cuban anti-Fidel Castro exile and a leader in the unsuccessful 2002 coup. Chávez soon levelled accusations of the attempted formation of a foreign-funded paramilitary force who intended to violently overthrow his rule.[50] These events merely served to further the extreme and violent polarisation of Venezuelan society between pro- and anti-Chávez camps. Chávez's allegations of a putative 2004 coup attempt continue to stir controversy and doubts to this day.[50] In October 2005, 27 of the accused Colombians were found guilty, while the rest were released and deported.[51]

Hugo Chávez's Election Results
2004 recall referendum
Recall Hugo Chávez?
Source: CNE data
Candidate Votes %
No: 5,800,629 59%
Yes: 3,989,008 41%
Non-voting: 4,222,269 30%

In early and mid-2003, Súmate, an opposition-aligned volunteer civilian voter rights organization, began the process of collecting the millions of signatures needed to activate the presidential recall provision provided for in Chávez's 1999 Constitution. In August 2003, around 3.2 million signatures were presented, but these were rejected by the National Electoral Council (CNE) on the grounds that many had been collected before the mid-point of Chávez's presidential term.[52] Reports then began to emerge among opposition and international 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.

The provision in the Constitution allowing for a presidential recall requires the signatures of 20% of the electorate in order to effect a recall. Further, the cédulas (national identity card numbers) and identities of petition signers are not secret, and in fact were made public by Luis Tascón, a member of the Venezuelan National Assembly representing Chávez's party (Fifth Republic Movement - MVR) and the Communist Party of Venezuela of Táchira state.

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 June 8, 2004 by the CNE. Chávez and his political allies responded to this by mobilising supporters to encourage rejection of the recall with a "no" vote.

The recall vote itself was held on August 15, 2004. A record number of voters turned out to defeat the recall attempt with a 59% "no" vote.[53][54] The election was overseen by the Carter Center and the Organization of American States, and was certified by them as fair and open.[55] European Union observers did not attend, saying too many restrictions had been placed on their participation by the government.[56]

Other critics, including economists Ricardo Hausmann of Harvard and Roberto Rigobon of MIT, called the results fraudulent, alleging a "very clear trails of fraud in the statistical record" and alleged electronic voting machines had been reconfigured to allow results to be altered remotely.[57] In response, the Carter Center consulted with Professor Jonathan Taylor, an independent statistician from Stanford University and Professor Aviel Rubin, a Johns Hopkins University computer scientist who both initially concluded that the actual results are within the predicted range and do not of themselves prove fraud.[58] Subsequently, however, the Carter Center admitted Taylor had "found a mistake in one of the models of his analysis which lowered the predicted number of tied machines, but which still found the actual result to lie within statistical possibility."[58]

The opposition also cited an exit poll which implied the actual results were the opposite of those reported. "Massive fraud" was alleged and the conclusions of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter were questioned.[59] It should be noted that five other opposition polls showed a Chávez victory.[60]

After his victory, a jubilant Chávez pledged to redouble his efforts against both poverty and "imperialism", while promising to foster dialogue with his opponents. Chávez's government subsequently charged the founders of Súmate with treason and conspiracy for receiving foreign funds, earmarked for voter education, from the United States Department of State through the National Endowment for Democracy, triggering commentary from human rights organizations and the U.S. government.[61][62][63] The trial has been postponed several times. A program called "Mission Identity", to fast track voter registration of immigrants to Venezuela—including Chávez supporters benefiting from his subsidies—has been put in place prior to the upcoming 2006 presidential elections.[64]

[edit] 2004–2006: Focus on foreign relations

Chávez embraces Argentinian President Néstor Kirchner during the closing of a July 2004 joint press conference held in Venezuela (Office of the Argentine Presidency).
Chávez embraces Argentinian President Néstor Kirchner during the closing of a July 2004 joint press conference held in Venezuela (Office of the Argentine Presidency).

In the aftermath of his referendum victory, 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 agenda. 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 9.3% growth rate for 2005.

Many new policy initiatives were advanced by Chávez after 2004. In late March 2005, the Chávez government passed a series of media regulations that criminalised broadcasted libel and slander directed against public officials; prison sentences of up to 40 months for serious instances of character defamation launched against Chávez and other officials were enacted. When asked if he would ever actually move to use the 40-month sentence if a media figure insulted him, Chávez remarked that "I don't care if they [the private media] call me names… As Don Quixote said, 'If the dogs are barking, it is because we are working.'"[65] Chávez also worked to expand his 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 with the stated aim of constructing, funding, and refurbishing secondary (integrated diagnostic center) and tertiary (hospital) public health care facilities nationwide; and "Mission Miranda", which established a national citizen's militia. Meanwhile, Venezuela's doctors went on strike, protesting the siphoning of public funds from their existing institutions to these new Bolivarian ones, run by Cuban doctors.

Hugo Chávez takes a walk with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on March 29, 2005.
Hugo Chávez takes a walk with Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on March 29, 2005.

Chávez focused considerably on Venezuela's foreign relations via new bilateral and multilateral agreements, including humanitarian aid and construction projects. Chávez has engaged, with varying degrees of success, numerous other foreign leaders, including Argentina's Néstor Kirchner, China's Hu Jintao, Cuba's Fidel Castro and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. On March 4, 2005, Chávez publicly declared that the U.S.-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) was "dead". Chávez stated that the neoliberal model of development had utterly failed in improving the lives of Latin Americans, and that an alternative, anti-capitalist model would be conceived in order to increase trade and relations between Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil. Chávez also stated his desire that a left-wing, Latin American analogue of NATO be established. In accordance with his foreign policy trends, Chávez has visited several countries around the world.

Over the course of 2004 and 2005, the Venezuelan military under Chávez 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. Friction over these sales escalated, and in response Chávez ended cooperation between the militaries of the two countries. 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, which encompasses a militia of 2 million citizens—as a defensive measure against foreign intervention or outright invasion.[66] 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.[67] 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, though this land could not be bought or sold as Western-style title deeds can. Chávez cited these changes as evidence that his revolution was also a revolution for the defense of indigenous rights, such as those promoted by Chávez's "Mission Guaicaipuro".

During this period, Chávez placed much greater emphasis on alternative economic development and international trade models, much of it in the form of extremely ambitious hemisphere-wide international aid agreements. For example, on August 20, 2005, during the first graduation of international scholarship students from Cuba's Latin American School of Medicine, Chávez announced that he would jointly establish with Cuba a second such medical school that would provide tuition-free medical training—an ex gratia project valued at between $20 and 30 billion—to more than 100,000 physicians who would pledge to work in the poorest communities of the South. He announced that the project would run for the next decade, and that the new school would include at least 30,000 new places for poor students from both Latin America and the Caribbean.[68]

 Schafik Handal, Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro and Evo Morales, in Havana in 2004.
Schafik Handal, Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro and Evo Morales, in Havana in 2004.

Chávez has also taken ample opportunity on the international stage to juxtapose such projects with the manifest results and workings of neoliberal globalization. Most notably, during his speech at the 2005 UN World Summit, he denounced development models that are organised around neoliberal guidelines such as liberalisation of capital flows, removal of trade barriers, and privatisation as the reason for the developing world's impoverishment. Chávez also went on to warn of an imminent global energy famine brought about by hydrocarbon depletion (based on Hubbert peak theory), stating that "we are facing an unprecedented energy crisis… Oil is starting to become exhausted."[69] Additionally, on November 7, 2005, Chávez referenced the stalling of the FTAA, stating at the Fourth 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." Chávez took the same opportunity to state that the taste of "the honey of victory" was apparent with regards to the promotion of his own trade alternative, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA—Alternativa Bolivariana para América), which Venezuela and Cuba inaugurated on December 14, 2004.[70][71]

In 2005, Chávez demanded the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles, accused of conspiring to bomb Cubana Flight 455. A Texas judge blocked the extradition on the grounds that he could be tortured in Venezuela; the Venezuelan embassy blamed the Department of Homeland Security for refusing to contest such accusations during the trial.[72] Chávez also requested the extradition of former Venezuelan officers and members of Militares democraticos, Lt. German Rodolfo Varela and Lt. Jose Antonio Colina, who are wanted for bombing the Spanish and Colombian embassies after Chávez made a speech criticizing both governments.[73][74]

Chavez meeting with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk in 2006.
Chavez meeting with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk in 2006.

The BBC says that Chavez "has made no secret of the fact that he is in favour of amending the constitution so that he can run again for president in 2012."[75] In June 2006, Chávez announced Venezuela's bid to win a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council; Washington officials encouraged Latin American and Caribbean nations to vote instead for Guatemala.[76] Analysts quoted by Forbes Magazine said that Chávez would offer to supply 20% of China's crude oil needs if Beijing backed Venezuela's bid to join the UN Security Council.[77] In Chile, the press was concerned that Venezuelan grants for flood aid might affect the government's decision about which country to support for admission to the UN Security Council.[78] However, Venezuela was never able to obtain more votes than Guatemala in the forty one separate UN votes in October of 2006.[79] Because of this deadlock in voting, Panama was selected as a consensus candidate and subsequently won the election for Latin America's seat on the Security Council.

Moreover, Chávez accused the government of the United States of attempting to turn Colombia into Venezuela's adversary, after U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggested that Colombia and other countries would be concerned over Venezuela's recent military purchases. "The U.S. empire doesn't lose a chance to attack us and try to create discord between us," Chávez said. "That's one of the empire's strategies: Try to keep us divided." The Colombian government did not take sides during the incident.[80]

[edit] Subsidising heating fuel for the poor in the U.S.

In 2005, President Chávez initiated a program to provide cheaper heating fuel for low income families in several areas of the United States. The program was expanded in September 2006 to include four of New York City's five boroughs, earmarking 25 million gallons of fuel for low-income New York residents this year at 40% off the wholesale market price. That quantity provides sufficient fuel to heat 70,000 apartments, covering 200,000 New Yorkers, for the entire winter. It has also been reported that Chavez is sending heating oil to poor, remote villages in Alaska. Some have questioned the motives of this generosity. Legislative leaders in Maine have asked that state's governor to refuse the subsidised oil,[81] and New York Daily News criticized his offer by calling him an "oil pimp".[82]

[edit] Speech to the United Nations

Main article: 2006 Chávez speech at the UN

On 20 September 2006, Chávez delivered a speech to the United Nations General Assembly damning U.S. President George Bush.[83] In the speech Chávez referred to Bush as "the devil", adding that Bush, who had given a speech to the assembly a day earlier, had come to the General Assembly to "share his nostrums to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation and pillage of the peoples of the world."[84] Although it was widely condemned by U.S. politicians and media,[85] the speech was received with "wild applause" in the Assembly.[86][87]

[edit] Re-election

Main article: Venezuelan presidential election, 2006

Chavez again won the OAS and Carter Centre certified national election on December 3, 2006 with 63 percent of the vote,[88] beating his closest challenger Manuel Rosales who conceded his loss on December 4, 2006.[89] After his victory, Chávez promised a more radical turn towards socialism.[90]

[edit] 2007–present

On January 8, 2007, President Chávez installed a new cabinet, replacing most of the ministers. Jorge Rodríguez was designated the new Vice President, replacing José Vicente Rangel. Chávez announced that will send to the National Assembly a new enabling act, asking for the authority to nationalize the biggest phone company of the country (Cantv), and other companies from the electrical sector, all of them privatized in the past. He is also asking to eliminate the autonomy of the Central Bank.[91]

On January 31, 2007, Venezuelan National Assembly approved an enabling act granting Chávez the power to rule by decree for 18 months. He plans to continue his "Bolivarian Revolution", enacting economic and social changes. He has said he wants to nationalize key sectors of the economy.[92][93] Chavez, who is beginning a fresh six-year term, says the legislation will be the start of a new era of "maximum revolution" during which he will consolidate Venezuela's transformation into a socialist society. His critics, however, are calling it a radical lurch toward authoritarianism by a leader with unchecked power.[94]

On 8 February 2007, the Venezuelan government signed an agreement to buy an 82,14% stake in Electricidad de Caracas from AES Corporation. Paul Hanrahan, president and CEO of AES said the deal has been a fair process that respected the rights of investors.[95] On February 2007, the Venezuelan government buy the 25,83% of actions from CANTV to Verizon Communications.

[edit] Impact of presidency

[edit] Domestic policy

Missions of the Bolivarian Revolution
— food — housing — medicine —
Barrio Adentro  · Plan Bolivar 2000
Hábitat  · Mercal
— education —
Ribas  · Sucre
Robinson I  · Robinson II
— indigenous rights — land — environment —
Guaicaipuro  · Identidad
Miranda  · Piar
Vuelta al Campo  · Vuelvan Caras
— (Hugo Chávez) — (Venezuela) —
See also: Bolivarian Missions

Chávez's domestic policy relies heavily on the "Bolivarian Missions," a series of political campaigns aimed at radically altering the economic and cultural landscape of Venezuela.

The "Bolivarian Missions" have entailed the launching of government anti-poverty initiatives,[96] the construction of thousands of free medical clinics for the poor,[97] the institution of educational campaigns that have reportedly made more than one million adult Venezuelans literate[98] and the enactment of food[99] and housing subsidies.[100] There have been marked improvements in the infant mortality rate between 1998 and 2006.[101][102] The government earmarked 44.6% of the 2007 budget for social investment, with 1999-2007 averaging 12.8% of GDP.[103]

The Missions have overseen widespread experimentation in what Chávez supporters term citizen- and worker-managed governance,[104][105] as well as the granting of thousands of free land titles, reportedly to formerly landless poor and indigenous communities.[106] Several allegedly unused estates and factories have been expropriated to provide this land.

In March 2006 the Communal Council Law was approved, whereby communities that decide to organize themselves into a council can be given official state recognition and access to federal funds and loans for community projects. This skips the local and state governments that are perceived as corrupt.[107]

[edit] 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 (AD) party. During the December 2000 local elections, Chávez placed a referendum measure on the ballot that would mandate state-monitored elections within unions. The measure, which was condemned by the International Labour Organization (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.

The Unión Nacional de Trabajadores (UNT—"National Union of Workers"), a new pro-Chávez union federation, formed in response and has been growing in membership; 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.

Further augmenting state involvement in Venezuela's economy, Chávez nationalized Venepal, a formerly closed paper and cardboard manufacturing firm, 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.

Under Chávez, Venezuela has also instituted worker-run "co-management" initiatives, in which worker councils are the cornerstone of the management of a plant or factory. In co-management experiments such as at the Alcasa factory, both workers and strategists take part in management discussions and decisions, amid reams of statistics, charts sketched on white boards, and scale models. One representative is elected from each department or sector to work with the company executives.[108]

[edit] Economic policy

* Sources: WDI/World Bank. GDP and GDP per capita is in year 2000 VEB, adjusted for inflation. Unemployment data for 2005 is the CIA World Factbook estimate. 1 trillion = 1,000,000,000,000. The vertical scales do not always start at 0 to make more details visible. Oil production figures from IEA in thousands of barrels per day.
* Sources: WDI/World Bank. GDP and GDP per capita is in year 2000 VEB, adjusted for inflation. Unemployment data for 2005 is the CIA World Factbook estimate. 1 trillion = 1,000,000,000,000. The vertical scales do not always start at 0 to make more details visible. Oil production figures from IEA in thousands of barrels per day.

Venezuela is a major producer of oil products, which remain the 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. At a June 2006 meeting, Venezuela was the only OPEC country calling for lowered production to drive oil prices higher. Industry analysts say Venezuela wants lower quotas because, under Chávez's administration, the output of Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), Venezuela's state-owned oil company, has been reduced by 25% and Venezuela cannot meet its current quota.[109] However, Forbes argues that some oil production numbers are politically motivated, intended to discredit the Venezuelan industry.[110] Nonetheless, Chávez has 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 social programs, but have left the economy increasingly dependent on both the Chávez government and the oil sector; the private sector's role has correspondingly diminished.

Chávez has redirected the focus of PDVSA by bringing it more closely under the direction of the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum. 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. Citgo, whose profitability made many Venezuelans skeptical, has been paying record dividends to the government of Venezuela.[111]Chávez said that "Venezuela had not received a penny from this enterprise for 20 years".[112] Accordingly to Finance minister Nelson Merentes, the Venezuelan 2006 budget would get more income from taxation than from the oil industry, unlike formerly.[113]

During Chávez's presidency from 1999 to 2004, per-capita GDP dropped 1–2%,[114] but with the help of rising oil prices, the end of the oil strike, and strong consumption growth, recent economic activity under Chávez has been robust. GDP growth rates were 18% in 2004,[115] 9% in 2005,[116] and 9.6% in the first half of 2006, with the private sector growing at a 10.3% clip.[117] From 2004 to the first half of 2006, non-petroleum sectors of the economy showed growth rates greater than 10%.[118] Datos reports real income grew by 137% between 2003 and Q1 2006.[119] Official poverty figures dropped by 10%.[120][121] Some economists argue that this subsidized growth could stop if oil prices decline,[64] but the government argues its budget uses 29$ a barrel and 60 billion dollars in reserves as a cushion for a sudden drop.[122] Some social scientists and economists claim that the government's reported poverty figures have not fallen in proportion to the country's vast oil revenues in the last two years.[115] The president of Datos said that, although his surveys showed rising incomes because of subsidies and grants, the number of people in the worst living conditions has grown. "The poor of Venezuela are living much better lately and have increased their purchasing power… [but] without being able to improve their housing, education level, and social mobility," he said. "Rather than help [the poor] become stakeholders in the economic system, what [the government has] done is distribute as much oil wealth as possible in missions and social programs."[123]

Chávez attends the Arab-South America Summit held on May 5, 2005 in Brasília, Brazil. He is flanked by Qatari Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani and Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati (Agência Brasil).
Chávez attends the Arab-South America Summit held on May 5, 2005 in Brasília, Brazil. He is flanked by Qatari Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani and Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati (Agência Brasil).

According to government figures, unemployment has dropped by 7.7% since the start of Chávez's presidency.[124][125] Venezuela's rate of unemployment dropped to 10% in February 2006 from the 2003 high of 20%, which occurred during a two-month strike and business lockout that shut down the country's oil industry. According to the Venezuelan government, an unemployed person is a citizen above the age of 15 who has been seeking employment for more than one week.[126] But, according to The Boston Globe, critics say that the government defines "informal workers, such as street vendors, as employed, and exclud[es] adults who are studying in missions from unemployment numbers." Critics also point to figures released by the president of the Venezuelan National Statistics Institute, Elías Eljuri, which showed that poverty had actually risen by more than 10 percentage points under Chávez (to 53% in 2004). Chávez called for a new measure of poverty, a "social well-being index". Under this new definition, poverty registers at 40 percent.[123] Eljuri denies changing the statistic and claims it is entirely income excluding social programs.[127] The World Bank calculated a 10% drop in poverty.[128][129]

According to the Banco Central de Venezuela, inflation dropped from 29.9% to 14.4%.[130][116] During 2005, imported goods were cheaper than commodities made in Venezuela; variability in the price of goods was linked to import performance and exchange stability.[116] In the second quarter of 2006 gross fixed investment was the highest ever recorded by the Banco Central de Venezuela since it started tracking the statistic in 1997.[117] However, the BBC reported on February 15, 2007, that Venezuela's inflation rate rose to a two-year high in January, with consumer prices rising 18.4% in 12 months. [3]

While the Venezuelan Government enjoys a windfall of oil profits, the business environment is risky and discourages investment, according to El Universal. As measured by prices on local stock exchanges, investors are willing to pay on average 16.3 years worth of earnings to invest in Colombian companies, 15.9 in Chile, 11.1 in Mexico, and 10.7 in Brazil, but only 5.8 in Venezuela. The World Economic Forum ranked Venezuela as 82 out of 102 countries on a measure of how favorable investment is for institutions. In Venezuela, an investor needs an average of 119 days and must complete 14 different proceedings to organize a business, while the average in OECD countries is 30 days and six proceedings.[131]

Public spending in Venezuela has broken unprecedented records as measured by local currency Central Bank debt, which could increase inflation.[132]

[edit] Foreign policy

Chávez and Argentina President Néstor Kirchner discuss energy and trade integration projects for South America. They met on November 21, 2005 in Venezuela as a gesture of mutual solidarity in their opposition to the Washington Consensus and the FTAA proposal (Office of the Argentine Presidency).
Chávez and Argentina President Néstor Kirchner discuss energy and trade integration projects for South America. They met on November 21, 2005 in Venezuela as a gesture of mutual solidarity in their opposition to the Washington Consensus and the FTAA proposal (Office of the Argentine Presidency).

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".[133][134] Chávez stated that Venezuela has "a strong oil card to play on the geopolitical stage…" He said, "It is a card that we are going to play with toughness against the toughest country in the world, the United States."[135] Chávez has focused on a variety of multinational institutions to promote his vision of Latin American integration, including Petrocaribe, Petrosur, and TeleSUR. Bilateral trade relationships with other Latin American countries have also played a major role in his policy, with Chávez increasing arms purchases from Brazil, forming oil-for-expertise trade arrangements with Cuba, and creating unique barter (economics) arrangements that exchange Venezuelan petroleum for cash-strapped Argentina's meat and dairy products. Additionally, Chávez worked closely with other Latin American leaders following the 1997 Summit of the Americas in many areas—especially energy integration—and championed the OAS decision to adopt the Anti-Corruption Convention. Chávez also participates in the United Nations Friends groups for Haiti, and is pursuing efforts to join and engage the Mercosur trade bloc to expand the hemisphere's trade integration prospects.

Abroad, Chávez regularly portrays his movement's objectives as being diametrically opposed to "neocolonialism" and "neoliberalism". Chávez has, for example, denounced U.S. foreign policy regarding areas such as Iraq, Haiti, and the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Chávez's warm and public friendship with Cuban President Fidel Castro has markedly compromised the U.S. policy of isolating Cuba diplomatically and economically.[136] Long-standing ties between the U.S. and Venezuelan militaries were also severed by Chávez. Moreover, his stance as an OPEC price hawk has made him unpopular in the United States. In 2000, Chávez made a ten-day tour of OPEC countries in a bid to promote his policies, becoming the first head of state to meet Saddam Hussein since the Gulf War.

Chávez's foreign policy conduct and anti-Bush rhetoric has occasionally reached the level of personal attacks. Chávez once referred to U.S. President George W. Bush as a pendejo, and constantly refers to him as Míster Danger. In a later speech, he made personal remarks regarding Condoleezza Rice, referring to her as a "complete illiterate" when it comes to comprehending Latin America.[137] On September 20, 2006 Chavez called Bush "the devil".[138]

After Hurricane Katrina battered the United States’ Gulf Coast in late 2005, the Chávez administration was the first foreign government to offer aid to the devastated regions. The Bush administration opted to refuse this aid. Later during the winter of 2005, various officials in the Northeastern United States signed an agreement with Venezuela to provide discounted heating oil to low income families.

Chávez's socialist ideology and the tensions between the governments of Venezuela and the United States have had little impact on economic relations between the two countries. In 2006, the United States remained Venezuela's largest trading partner for both oil exports and general imports; bilateral trade expanded 36% during that year[139]

There have also been heated disputes between Chávez and other Latin American leaders, including one with Mexican President Vicente Fox over what Chávez alleged was Fox's support of U.S. trade interests. The dispute resulted in a strained diplomatic relationship between the two countries.[140] Another diplomatic row with Colombia, referred to as the Rodrigo Granda affair, occurred in 2004, after the kidnap of Rodrigo Granda, a high ranking member of the political wing of the FARC. In 2001, a dissension with Peru occurred over suspicions that Chávez's administration was protecting and hiding Vladimiro Montesinos,[141] a former Peruvian intelligence director under the Alberto Fujimori administration, wanted for corruption. Montesinos was extradited back to Peru where he was incarcerated awaiting trial. Between January and March of 2006, Chávez commented on the candidates of the 2006 Peruvian Presidential election, openly backing Ollanta Humala while referring to Alan García as a "thief" and a "crook".[142][143] The Peruvian government therefore admonished Chávez for interfering in Peru's affairs. Alan Garcia and Hugo Chavez have reconciled their differences, ending the feud and relations between Peru and Venezuela were restored.

On August 3, 2006 Chávez ordered the Venezuelan chargé d'affaires to Israel to return from Tel Aviv to Venezuela, protesting the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. Israel responded by recalling its Israeli ambassador to Venezuela.[144][145][146] Chávez responded with statements comparing Israel to Hitler and describing their actions as a "new Holocaust", and blaming the United States, which led to accusations of trivializing the Holocaust.[147]

[edit] Chávez and the media

Even before the April 2002 coup, many owners, managers, and commentators working for the five major private mainstream television networks and largest mainstream newspapers had stated their opposition to Chávez's policies.[148] These media outlets have accused the Chávez administration of intimidating their journalists using specially-dispatched gangs.[148] Chávez in turn alleges that the owners of these networks have primary allegiance not to Venezuela but to the United States, and that they seek the advancement of what he terms neoliberalism via corporate propaganda.

According to Greg Grandin, professor of Latin American history at New York University, "[The Venezuelan] media is chronically obsessed with Chávez, and critical in a way that would be completely alien for most U.S. observers." After the media-backed 2002 coup attempt, Venezuela passed 'social responsibility' legislation ostensibly regulating the media but has largely failed to enforce it.[149]

Throughout his presidency, Chávez has hosted the live talk show known as Aló Presidente ("Hello, President!").[150] The show broadcasts in varying formats on state owned Venezolana de Televisión (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. Additionally, 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 Univision and the United States-based CNN en Español. Chávez's media policies have contributed to elevated tensions between the United States and Venezuela.[151]

In 2006, President Chávez announced that the operating license for RCTV —Venezuela's second largest TV channel— will not be renewed.[152] The licence expires on 27 May.[153] He publicly stated: "It runs out in March[sic]. So it's better that you go and prepare your suitcase and look around for what you're going to do in March... There will be no new operating license for this coupist TV channel called RCTV. The operating license is over... So go and turn off the equipment,"[154] RCTV is accused of supporting the coup against Chávez in April 2002, and the oil strike in 2002-2003. Also, has been accused by the government of violating the legislation for social responsibility in radio and TV.[155] The director of the station, Marcel Granier, denies taking part in the coup.[156] José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director for Human Rights Watch, called the RCTV case "clearly a case of censorship and the most grave step back in the region since Fujimori," referring to the alleged manipulation of the media by Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori in the 1990s. "Chavez is not renewing the concession to punish a medium for its opposition to the government," Vivanco said.[156] However, as pointed out in an article in The Washington Post, "[f]ree expression is exercised in Venezuela. Another influential television station, Globovision, lambastes the Chavez government frequently, and Caracas boasts a range of newspapers, many of them with an anti-government bent."[156]

Journalists told The Washington Post that access to information is routinely denied, and state advertising is withheld from some opposition media outlets. The government is now planning to close many press relations offices, funneling all information through the communications minister, according to a report in El Universal newspaper.[156]

[edit] Bolivarianism and Chavismo

Chávez speaks during a 2005 visit to an MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra—"Landless Workers' Movement") encampment in Brazil. (Agência Brasil)
Chávez speaks during a 2005 visit to an MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra—"Landless Workers' Movement") encampment in Brazil. (Agência Brasil)

Chávez's version of Bolivarianism, although drawing heavily from Simón Bolívar's ideals, was also influenced by the writings of Marxist historian Federico Brito Figueroa. Chávez was well acquainted with the various traditions of Latin American socialism espoused by Jorge Eliécer Gaitán and Salvador Allende and from a young age by the Cuban revolutionary doctrine of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. Other key influences on Chávez's political philosophy include Ezequiel Zamora and Simón Rodríguez. Other indirect influences on Chávez's political philosophy are the writings of Noam Chomsky and the teachings of Jesus as recorded in the Bible (Chávez describes Jesus as the world's first socialist.) Although Chávez himself refers to his ideology as Bolivarianismo ("Bolivarianism"), Chávez's supporters and opponents in Venezuela refer to themselves as being either for or against "chavismo". Thus, Chávez supporters refer to themselves not as "Bolivarians" or "Bolivarianists", but rather as "chavistas".

Later in his life, Chávez would acknowledge the role that democratic socialism (a form of socialism that emphasizes grassroots democratic participation) plays in Bolivarianism.[157] Because his Bolivarianism relies on popular support, Chávez has organized the "Bolivarian Circles", which he cites as examples of grassroots and participatory democracy. The circles are charged with such tasks as neighborhood beautification, mass mobilization, lending support to small businesses, and providing basic social services, but critics are suspect of their independence and aims.

[edit] Criticism

With respect to domestic policies, critics report that both corruption and crime are rampant.[158][159] They also cite a failing infrastructure and public hospitals.[115] Criticism from Chávez supporters arises from reports that Chávez is not fulfilling his major campaign pledges with respect to labor and land reform.[160][161][162]

Critics have also charged that the Chávez government has engaged in "gigantic fraud" during the 2004 recall referendum.[163] The United States government claims that his cooperation in the War on Terrorism is negligible or purposely indifferent with regards to the FARC and ELN;[164] nonetheless, the U.S. government says there is no evidence of a direct link between terrorism and Chávez.[165]

Several public figures have even gone so far as to call for the assassination of Chávez, most notably US Conservative Christian televangelist Pat Robertson.[166] Other such requests have been expressed by Venezuelan actor Orlando Urdaneta[48] and former president of Venezuela Carlos Andrés Pérez.[167] The US Ambassador to Venezuela between 2001 and 2004, Charles Shapiro, also reported to the Chávez administration two potential assassination plots.[48]

Chavez has been accused of concentrating power of judicial and legislative branches.[168] The leading business daily of Argentina, Ambito Financiero , described Venezuela under Chavez in 2007 as having a "nationalized economy, out-of-control spending, government by decree, and perpetual re-election."[169] The daily also compared Chavez to King Louis XIV of France, stating his 2007 inauguration would mark "a concentration of power without precedent in Venezuela".[170]

[edit] Personal life

Chávez and his three daughters, Rosa Virginia, María Gabriela and Rosinés.
Chávez and his three daughters, Rosa Virginia, María Gabriela and Rosinés.

Hugo Chávez has been married twice. He first wedded Nancy Colmenares, a woman from a poor family originating in Chávez's own hometown of Sabaneta. Chávez and Colmenares remained married for eighteen years, during which time they had three children: Rosa Virginia, María Gabriela, and Hugo Rafael. They separated soon after Chávez's 1992 coup attempt. During his first marriage, Chávez also had an affair with young historian Herma Marksman; they had a relationship which lasted nine years, but ended.[14][171] Chávez is divorced from his second wife, journalist Marisabel Rodríguez de Chávez.[172] Through that marriage, Chávez had another daughter, Rosinés. Chávez has one granddaughter, Gabriela.[173]

Chávez was raised a Roman Catholic,[174] although he has had a series of disputes with both the Venezuelan Catholic hierarchy and Protestant groups like the New Tribes Mission.[67][175] He has traditionally kept his own faith a private matter, but over the course of his presidency, Chávez has become increasingly open to discussing his religious views, stating that both his faith and his interpretation of Jesus' personal life and ideology have had a profound impact on his left-wing and progressivist views.[22] He often invokes God and asks for prayer in speeches, as he did when he asked Venezuelans to pray for Fidel Castro.[176]

[edit] See also

The Presidential Army Ensign of Venezuela.      Topics related to Hugo Chávez      The Coat of Arms of Venezuela.
Biography Early life | Military career | Presidency
Political events Coup attempt of 1992 | Coup attempt of 2002 | Recall referendum of 2004 | Putative coup attempt of 2004
Elections Presidential election of 1998 | Presidential election of 2000 | Presidential election of 2006
Governance Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas | Bolivarian Circles | Bolivarianism | Bolivarian Revolution | Cabinet | Chavismo | Constitution | Foreign policy
Bolivarian Missions Barrio Adentro | Guaicaipuro | Hábitat | Identidad | Mercal | Miranda | Piar | Plan Bolivar 2000 | Ribas | Robinson | Sucre | Vuelta al Campo | Vuelvan Caras | Zamora
Reactions Criticism | Media representation | ¿¡Revolución!? | The Revolution Will Not Be Televised | Súmate

The Presidential Army Ensign of Venezuela.      Presidents of Venezuela      The Coat of Arms of Venezuela.
Mendoza | Bolívar | Bolívar | Páez | Vargas | Narvarte | Carreño | Soublette | Páez | Soublette | J.T. Monagas | J.G. Monagas | J.T. Monagas | Gual | J. Castro | Gual | Tovar | Gual | Páez | Falcón | Bruzual | Villegas | J.R. Monagas | Villegas | Guzmán | Linares | Varela | Guzmán | Crespo | Guzmán | H. López | Rojas | Andueza | Villegas | Crespo | Andrade | C. Castro | Gómez | Márques | Gómez | J. Pérez | Gómez | E. López | Medina | Betancourt | Gallegos | Delgado Chalbaud | Suárez Flamerich | Pérez Jiménez | Larrazábal | Sanabria | Betancourt | Leoni | Caldera | C. Pérez | Herrera | Lusinchi | C. Pérez | Velásquez | Caldera | Chávez | Carmona | Cabello | Chávez

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ O'Shaughnessy, Hugh (2006-05-22). Venezuela's President Chavez wins hearts and minds in London. The Observer available at Taipei Times. Retrieved on 2006-12-28.
  2. ^ Ellner, Steve. "The 'Radical' Thesis on Globalisation and the Case of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez" Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 29, No. 6, Globalization and Globalism in Latin America and the Caribbean. (Nov., 2002), pp. 88-93. Stable URL.
  3. ^ BBC News. Chávez allies rally their support(24 August 2003). Accessed 4 December 2006
  4. ^ Sign of hope in US-Venezuela ties. BBC News (2006-12-15). Retrieved on 2006-12-19.
  5. ^ Ofensiva diplomática de Correa. Al Día (2006-12-28). Retrieved on 2006-12-28.(Spanish)
  6. ^ Chávez resumes cooperation agenda in South America. El Universal (2006-12-08). Retrieved on 2006-12-19.
  7. ^ Padgett, Tim (2005-04-10). Hugo Chavez: The Radical with Deep Pockets. Time. Retrieved on 2006-12-31.
  8. ^ Padgett, Tim. "Hugo Chavez: Leading the Left-Wing Charge", 2006-05-08. Retrieved on 2006-07-26.
  9. ^ a b c d Government of Venezuela, Gobierno En Línea (2005). "Presidente Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías", Gobierno En Línea. Accessed 15 June 2006. (Spanish)
  10. ^ Hugo Chávez Venezuela's Redeemer Burt, Jo-Marie & Rosen, Fred: May 2000
  11. ^ Gott, Richard. (The Guardian, 25 Aug 2005). "Two fingers to America". Retrieved 18 Oct 2005.
  12. ^ Schuyler, George W. (2001), "Health and Neoliberalism: Venezuela and Cuba", The Policy Studies Organization.
  13. ^ Inter-American Court of Human Rights Del Caracazo Case Judgment of 11 November 1999 "according to official figures, the events of February and March 1989 left a balance of 276 dead, numerous injured, several disappeared and heavy material losses. However, this list was invalidated by the subsequent appearance of mass graves"
  14. ^ a b c Guillermoprieto, Alma (October 6 2005). "Don't Cry for Me, Venezuela". New York Review of Books. 
  15. ^ Gott (2005), p.64.
  16. ^ Gott (2005), p.63.
  17. ^ Gott (2005), p.69.
  18. ^ Gott (2005), pp.66-67.
  19. ^ Gott (2005), p. 67. Chávez spoke thus: "Comrades: unfortunately, for the moment, the objectives that we had set for ourselves have not been achieved in the capital. That's to say that those of us here in Caracas have not been able to seize power. Where you are, you have performed well, but now is the time for a rethink; new possibilities will arise again, and the country will be able to move definitively towards a better future."
  20. ^ Gott (2005), p.67.
  21. ^ 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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NAME Chávez, Hugo Rafael
ALTERNATIVE NAMES Chávez Frías, Hugo Rafael
SHORT DESCRIPTION Venezuelan President
DATE OF BIRTH July 28, 1954
PLACE OF BIRTH Sabaneta, Barinas, Venezuela