Venezuela's Uncertain Course

The political upheaval under way in Venezuela sends ripples across the hemisphere. Is Latin American democracy, recently resurgent, headed for yet another decline?

The turmoil embodied by Venezuelan President Hugo Chvez is of a different order than the old military coup model. Mr. Chvez, a former paratroop commander, had his fling with that more than a decade ago. Now he operates through the system.

To be more exact, he operates within the system to utterly remake the system. But in whose image? Chvez's political philosophy swings between neo-fascism and Fidel Castro's socialism, touching on most everything in between.

His deconstruction has included the elimination of the country's supreme court and congress, and the redesign of the latter as a unicameral body. All this has been done under a new Constitution pushed through by Chvez that also enhances the power of the presidency.

He just won a six-year term, and under the new rules could hold office for the next 13 years.

The parallels to Peru, another center of political turmoil in the region, are clear, if imperfect. President Alberto Fujimori is further along in the process, struggling to hold onto a mandate weakened by allegations of electoral fraud. He faces a vocal opposition that has taken to the streets and violently clashed with police.

The prospect of unrest and uncertainty undermines critically needed economic progress. Investors shy away. Chvez's populist rants resonate with the poor (more than 80 percent of Venezuelans). But they scatter the small middle class, many of whom are leaving the country and heading for Florida.

Both Chvez and Fujimori came to office after years of mismanagement and corruption. The idea of a strong hand at the helm had appeal. But the gravitation toward authoritarianism, Latin America's bane, is all too clear.

Their problem? Not entirely. For one thing, Venezuela is the single biggest supplier of oil to the US. What happens there matters greatly.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK