Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution
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The authoritative first-hand account of contemporary Venezuela, Hugo Chávez places the country’s controversial and charismatic president in historical perspective, and examines his plans and programs. Welcomed in 1999 by the inhabitants of the teeming shanty towns of Caracas as their potential savior, and greeted by Washington with considerable alarm, this former golpista-turned-democrat took up the aims and ambitions of Venezuela’s liberator, Simón Bolívar. Now in office for over a decade, President Chávez has undertaken the most wide-ranging transformation of oil-rich Venezuela for half a century, and dramatically affected the political debate throughout Latin America.
In this updated edition, Richard Gott reflects on the achievements of the Bolivarian revolution, and the challenges that lie ahead.
border between Brazil and Paraguay, is larger. Here too are the excavations of the immense iron mountain of Cerro Bolívar, the huge steelworks run by Siderúrgica del Orinoco (Sidor), and the embryonic aluminium industry. All these were set up and run by the all-powerful state. To serve and manage these gigantic enterprises has required a huge labour force, attracted to the region from all over the country, and not surprisingly, the region has become famous for its radical politics. A powerful
early recruit to the cause, fulfilling Maneiro’s ambition that a new leadership should arise from specific struggles, was Andrés Velásquez, a skilled electrician who later became a presidential candidate of the left. After five years of sustained political activity, in 1977, another recruit, Tello Benítez, secured an elected position in the steelworkers’ union, Sutiss, the Sindicato Unico de los Trabajadores de la Industria Siderúrgica y Similares. After nearly a decade of political work, the
the Catholic Church – an unusual but powerful alliance. The Constitutional Assembly had also rejected his own pet project of renaming the country ‘the Bolívarian Republic of Venezuela’, a name change that appeared innocent enough on the surface, but encapsulated in coded form his ambitious plans for the future of Latin America. One observer, Celina Romero, writing in late September, noted how ‘international scrutiny’ was beginning to play ‘a significant role in the transition process’. Romero
an existing though abandoned farm project where the homeless survivors of the December floods might be resettled. Lying under the slopes of the Andes, close to the Colombian border, it was to be another pilot scheme for the ambitious long-term projects he had in mind. ‘It’s a place in the state of Táchira, to the north of the Apure– Orinoco axis, to the north of San Cristóbal. Here is the village, with about ten thousand inhabitants. It’s a wonderfully rich region, at the foot of the mountains,
infrastructure. Soldiers would make available to local communities their barracks, their sports grounds, and their canteens. They would go out into the community and help rebuild roads and schools. The Plan Bolívar was designed to be implemented in three stages. Stage one, called Pro-País, would involve the armed forces in the provision of social service. Stage two, Pro-Pátria, would involve the military in helping local communities to seek local solutions to their problems; and stage three,