Are Chavez' policies in Venezuela a good model for developing countries?

In The Nation, 3/24/05, Christian Parenti has an interesting article assessing the record to date of the government of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. He has survived a coup attempt and a recall election and he seems to have the passionate support of the majority and the passionate hatred of a minority. His opponents compare him to Castro, but in fact Chavez, while he might have broken or at least curtailed the political power of the country’s traditional ruling class, has not expropriated their property. In part this is simply because he hasn’t needed to – Venezuela’s oilfields and main industries were nationalized in the '70s, so he took over their control when he became president. His policy has been to sembrar el petroleo – “sow the oil” – that is, invest the country’s revenue from oil exports in economic redevelopment and social programs:

Some of the elite class accuse the Chavez government of being both corrupt and incompetent – but say that’s actually good for business:

Issues for debate:

  1. Will Chavez’ policies help Venezuela achieve broadly shared prosperity?

  2. Will they help Venezuela develop an economy that can sustain itself if the oil runs out, or if (highly unlikely) the price drops drastically?

  3. Can other developing nations, in Latin America or elsewhere, beneficially copy anything from Venezuela’s example – even if they don’t have something valuable like oil to export?


Dear Og in heaven I hope not; the guy is an ideologue of the first magnitude; when the leftist goverment took office here (alas, a tragedy worth a thread on itself) 4 months ago he was a special guest for the party, the diatribe he gave at the municipal building plaza was something to behold and cringe; he put himself up in the cross saying how evil the USA was and how Bush was behind him, how all Latin America should rise against the USA to fight and so on and so forth. He´s a disgusting populist with all the charisma of a snake oil seller.

Your quotes speak for themselves, you said he´s not like Castro because he doesn´t expropiated properties, but your first cite says how the goverment can, and does do that, if considers the propertie is not productive enough; how he bases the welfare programs on oil revenues wiothout investing on wrought programes when the oil runs out. He buys the good will of the people giving money and talking like a magnanimous equal. All this is bound to fall someday when the chickens come to roost.

No, it´s not a good model, it´s not sustainable. It´s creating a welfare dependant society, I´ve seen this hapen in my own country, in the 50´s the state was the great giver, welfare galore, large hospitals, schools, social programs, the whole nine yards; and no development projects worth a damn; 50 years later the old generations still linger with the memory of the good old days and most people still expect the state to fix their lifes; a couple generations of people lived in a limbo of apathy and nostalgia for those days not doing a darn thing to put the country back in motion, expecting Father State to do it for themselves, while the younger generations running away from the statist mire and fleeing (half a million out of a 3 million population) to other countries.

Holy cow!, my spelling surely sucks in the morning!!!

An interesting question, but a near-idle one as the Real World will give us the answer in a couple of years. I would not bet big money on his populism succeeding.

If he does as he claims he will, his regime will alienate those who have (and make) money. You cannot have a rich country without having rich people in it. If he takes a pragmatic approach he will betray those who support him.

In any case, what nation has ever succeeded economically by appealing to the unwashed hoi polloi?

I wish his nation the best of luck. I love that neck of the woods. Still I fear the worst.

Judging by past events, if he does create the changes he is talking about, the US will be around in some guise shortly to do something about it.

The guy sound like Huey Long. What’s Spanish for Kingfish?

Caballa, assuming “kingfish” means “mackerel.” According to the Wikipedia, the word “kingfish” is a nickname for 11 different species of fish –

Meanwhile, in this week’s National Review, they’re calling Castro and Chavez the new “Axis of Evil.” (I’d link to the article but I can’t seem to find an on-line version.) They warn of Chavez being a new sign of communism/leftist sweeping Latin America – including Lula da Silva in Brazil and the comeback of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua (first I’ve heard of that).

Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and several others have won the presidency of the United States with that kind of appeal; and I don’t see how the country has fared any worse, economically, during the administrations of such (nominal) populists than it has under the government of more elitist presidents.

Well Huey Long got some impressive public works projects done while in power, improved the education of poor children, and generally improved the lives of the most impoverished (a pretty big segment of the population in Louisiana at the time). And the people loved him.

On the down side Long was in practical effect a dictator, and could be a ruthless one.

Minor hijack, but Huey Long was “the Kingfisher” - i.e. a bird, not a fish :). Don’t know the spanish word for kingfisher, but I’m sure Colibri does.

  • Tamerlane

Poking around to doublecheck myself, 'twould appear there is some discrepancy here. Some sources say “kingfish”, other “kingfisher”, which is what I always heard. Hmmm…

  • Tamerlane

Heh. Listed right next to each other in a list of historical films:

All the King’s Men (1949) – the Kingfisher, populist governor of Louisiana

Kingfish: A Story of Huey P. Long (1995) – populist threat to FDR

  • Tamerlane

Tamerlane, I’ve always heard Kingfish, and I had assumed that he’d taken the nickname from the Amos ‘n’ Andy character (that show being wildly popular during his reign).

Big deal; the conservatives have been demonizing Hugo Chavez for quite a while now. Have we forgotten Chavez’s brief ouster from office back in 2002?

This site seems to confirm my theory:

Venezuela’s efforts to arm itself have set the Bush administration into a tizzy.

One does wonder about the purchase of 100,000 AK-47s. An innocent upgrade of Venezuela’s military weaponry? Is Venezuela arming itself against a perceived threat from the US? Or will the weapons (as the Bush folks claim) wind up in the hands of various South American insurgent groups?

  1. Chavez policies aren’t stimulating enterprise… so eventually things will fall apart

  2. Venezuela depends on oil too much… and I don’t see Chavez changing that

  3. His example isn’t to be copied… strong state models are things of the 70’s and they didn’t work out back then.

    I think some people tend to exagerate the “invasion” of left wing parties in Latin America. Lula has shown himself to be quite conservative about economic policies for example. Trying to create silly panic in the US by inventing new “Axis of Evil” isn’t warranted. Chavez is a nutjob and not much of a danger… just yet. He is a populist like some many before him.

Banana Republics are not the grist for the communist mill that they once were. The only reason that communism spread as far as it did was thanks to the largess of the Soviet Union. Without a benefactor state any latin american flirtation with communism will be short lived.

The supposed Venezuelan support of FARC rebels in Columbia is what is really going to cause them problems.

I dunno. The Chavez model at least allows the poor some benefits from the oil economy, which is better than what you see in other oil-rich nations.

And if the majority of Venezuelans see benefits, who are we to say that they can’t keep Chavez in power? What should be our first priority, democracy or capitalism?

I don’t think the Chavez approach can be a model for other South American nations because, as Rashak Mani points out, Venezuela depends on oil dollars that other nations do not possess.