Hugo Chavez in Venezuela has had a similar impact on the world stage – praised by those seeking radical change; attacked by those connected with business and financial institutions. Chavez is former army officer and was first elected to power in 1998. Despite repeated efforts at destabilising his regime, including one almost successful coup attempt, he has remained in power. He is widely hailed among Venezuela’s poor and in 2004 survived a rightwing inspired referendum aimed at driving him from office.
The rise to power of Morales, Chavez and Lula
(among others) has come at the end of a long and sustained period of
conservative rule in the Latin American region. Brutal dictatorship,
fixed elections and repression have been repeatedly used to stem any
popular pressure for change. However since the early 90s and following
the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been a gradual and slow
return to normality. Although open and fairer elections have been back
in favour, all they have resulted in is the imposition of neo-liberal
policies in the region. The disastrous impact of these policies –
privatisations, cutbacks, and subsidies of the wealthy - together with
the overwhelming and persistant sense that nothing has really changed in
the region is feeding this new upsurge in electorate support for what
are perceived to be ‘radical’ left leaders.
The victories then,
in this sense, are important in terms of what they represent. Popular
movement are recovering their confidence and the election successes
reflect the fact that people want and demand change. But the biggest
question of all remains – what can be achieved through electoral
Will a popular movement survive Hugo Chavez in Venezuela or will he turn out to have been another Caudillo?
Workers Solidarity Movement