The Chavez challenge Venezuela, the United States and the geo-politics of post-Cold War inter-American relations
Trinkunas, Harold A.
Berger, Marcos (Mark T.).
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Hugo ChaÌ vez, who was elected to the presidency of Venezuela in 1999, has become exemplary of the wider phenomenon of post-Cold War populism (or neopopulism) in Latin America. He has successfully mobilized the poor in Venezuela and beyond, tapping into the resentment felt by the marginalized throughout the region after almost three decades of neo-liberal economic reform. This thesis explores how well he has done in promoting his brand of post-Cold War populism regionally and internationally. There is an important connection between his populism and his foreign policy. The thesis argues that while ChaÌ vez has been successful at garnering the support of the poor, his ultimate goal has increasingly become a desire to consolidate his own power. In classic populist fashion, ChaÌ vez has drawn many Venezuelans into a hierarchical patronage machine, which is dependent on his continued occupation of the presidency and on the use of the country's oil wealth in order to survive. Furthermore, ChaÌ vez has taken significant steps to ally Venezuela with various rivals of the United States. However, despite, his regionally-and internationally-oriented rhetoric about Bolivarian Socialism and 21st century socialism, his efforts at building alliances to counterbalance United States hegemony are best understood by adopting a realist conception of Venezuelan foreign policy. His foreign policy can be viewed as being driven less by ideology and more by a desire to strengthen Venezuela's position in the regional and international arena. Also, this thesis evaluates the ways in which the United States has dealt with the ChaÌ vez challenge and the effectiveness of such an approach. Ultimately, this thesis approaches ChaÌ vez as a symptom rather than a cause of broader political and socio-economic forces at work. It takes the position that U.S. policymakers should be concerned about the ChaÌ vez challenge, but not alarmed. Although he may have initially been considered a serious threat to the U.S. position in the region and beyond, his inability to create a robust coalition of nation-states to counter U.S. hegemony is evidence that his influence even in his own country may have peaked.
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