After Chavez

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Here at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, we try to call awareness to pressing foreign affairs issues, especially in countries often sidelined for more “breaking” news. Just earlier this month our Latin America Regional Seminar at Fox Chapel Area High School showcased key developing issues – and the region’s integral role in the world. In this month alone, Latin American countries headlined major news stories on several occasions, most notably for the passing of Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez.

Since his failed coup in 1992 that ultimately led to his instatement as President two years later, Hugo Chavez was known for his unconventional policy ideas that were spurred by his history as a military paratrooper. He led Venezuela with a similarly adrenaline-fueled rigor. In brief, Chavez rewrote the Venezuelan constitution, poured federal money into social programs and haphazardly paved a road for his country in the global spectrum as a leading socialist nation. Although he projected power via public consent and election, Chavez endured a tumultuous first decade as president. In 2002, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans surrounded the presidential palace demanding his resignation. His efforts for security were diminished when the army refused to follow orders to confront the protestors. Instead, Chavez resigned and was replaced by a conservative business leader. Shortly thereafter, the self-appointed right-wing leader attempted to abolish Chavez’s constitution which consequently caused the army to switch sides again and reinstate Chavez in office. From its beginning, his presidency was dramatic and inconsistent.

Chavez reaped support from the lower socioeconomic communities within the country while simultaneously spurning the rich. He further established Venezuela’s role and his socialist ideals when he acknowledged relationships with Cuba, Iran and other globally ostracized countries. He imposed “oil-diplomacy” that introduced Venezuela as a leading participant in the global oil trade, creating competition with the United States. Funds generated from the revived oil industry were not completely redistributed to public needs. Moreover, despite efforts to improve living conditions for the lower classes, crime rates increased dramatically during Chavez’s presidency, especially in poor slums. As a result, most positive achievements during Chavez’s presidency are marred by speculations of control, corruption and overall discontent. If anything, Chavez was a controversial leader, who led with charisma but executed tasks with suspicious agendas.

What is in store for Venezuela?

Venezuelans head to the polls on April 14th. Current Vice-President, Nicolás Maduro, has the sympathy vote and is in control of major finances needed to win elections. Meanwhile, his opponent, Mr. Henrique Capriles, is governor of Miranda state and maintains some support. However, public polls estimate Maduro’s numbers are currently double Capriles’. The choice is a difficult one and Venezuelans are aware that both candidates are seemingly incompetent. As the Venezuelan currency’s value diminishes, crime rates rise, and overall public demeanor suffers- it becomes more difficult to determine the outcome of this upcoming election. Who will win? And more importantly, will their victory even matter? Or is a Venezuelan revolution inevitable?

More information…

For more information on this exciting, unfolding election, join the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh on April 1 at 12pm  to welcome our guest and esteemed speaker, Miguel Diaz, as he analyzes and interprets Venezuela’s future. Further details can be found on the following link:

After Chavez- What’s next for Venezuela?

by World Affairs Council Intern Marissa Gaab

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