Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Mixed Bag of Venezuelan Leader's Regime

February 3rd, 2011

Michaela Gibboni
Photo by Jose Ibanez

Credit and blame ‘€” Hugo Chávez deserves both. Experts presented their perspectives on the strengths and weaknesses of Chávez, the controversial president of Venezuela, at a recent symposium on the Tulane uptown campus. Chávez has his shortcomings and his successes, most of the speakers agreed.

The symposium, ‘€œVenezuela From the Neutral Ground,‘€ featured 17 speakers from around the world. A common theme among the scholars was the steadily socialist turn by Chávez and the methods he uses to maintain control.
María Teresa Romero of the Universidad Central de Venezuela discussed the radicalization of Venezuelan foreign policy in Chávez‘€™s leftist government. Romero focused on Chávez‘€™s ‘€œfriend‘€ and ‘€œenemy‘€ strategy when it comes to foreign affairs.

‘€œLeftist governments always have an enemy, and it‘€™s almost always imperialists,‘€ Romero said. ‘€œThe U.S. government is the principal enemy of Chávez.‘€

Margarita López Maya, also of the Universidad Central de Venezuela, spoke about Venezuela‘€™s populism and its tendencies. The ‘€œleft populism‘€ of Chávez focuses on eradicating poverty and inequality, making Venezuela ‘€œone of the least unequal societies in America,‘€ she said.

However, with Chávez‘€™s growing concentration of power and a weakening of civil and political rights, López Maya said, ‘€œWe are moving toward a non-liberal state.‘€

Chávez originally entered office based on popular support from Venezuela‘€™s working class, but his ratings have dropped, said López Maya. As evidence of his drop in popularity, López Maya pointed to the Sept. 26 elections in which Chávez did not win by a large majority, revealing his political weakness.

‘€œThe main weakness of Chavismo is its inefficiency in resolving everyday problems. This opens opportunities for opposition forces,‘€ López Maya said.

The symposium, held on Friday (Jan. 28), was sponsored by the Tulane Center for Inter-American Policy and Research, the Stone Center for Latin American Studies and the Department of Political Science.

Michaela Gibboni is a sophomore student at Tulane majoring in communication and Spanish.

Reported in the Tulane New Wave