Friday, June 23, 2006
Venezuela: Is Chavez a Socialist?????
That is the question Alek Boyd asks, and which is debated on the Foreign Policy Forum.
IMO - which I clumsily try to write down - Chavez is part nationalistic military strongman, part populist demagouge, who builds a cult of personality around himself. In many ways, a sort of Latin American Nasser. He is taking a page out of Marxist-Leninist tradition to build support in poor communities, the block committee types. But in the end, his power is based more on the military than on the ballot box results.
His domestic economic policies, are pretty much consistent with previous governments, a rentist, state-based approach in a petro-economy experiencing a boom cycle. The State serves as the filter for oil funds, and distributes the money to different constituencies - the rich, cronies, army, poor, middle class. Chavez is just good at PR,when he does these things. His solutions to poverty are pretty much throw money at things and take pictures when you do it. It is more like a combination of irresponsible fiscal policies and crony capitalism - allowed when oil is at 70 a barrel.
What distinguishes him I would say that his foreign policy is very anti-capitalist and very anti-American. And that is the worst part, by creating this sort of alliance, he is in fact destroying possibilities of South American integration and free trade treaties.