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. http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20050411&s=parenti 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:
Will Chavez’ policies help Venezuela achieve broadly shared prosperity?
Will they help Venezuela develop an economy that can sustain itself if the oil runs out, or if (highly unlikely) the price drops drastically?
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?