Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights

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Posts tagged Hugo Chavez

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In the Face of Uncertainty, a Ritual Calendar Emerges

Image posted on President Nicolas Maduro’s official twitter account @NicolasMaduro, on March 5, 2014

Hugo Perez Hernáiz and David Smilde

During a difficult year in which the future of Chavismo has become increasingly uncertain, the Maduro government has continued to construct a civil religion around the figure of Hugo Chávez through a continual flow of ritual events.

These ceremonies construct a narrative in which XIX Century independence struggle against imperial Spain is constantly linked to the life of Chávez and his personal struggle against new forms of imperialism. Indeed the life and death of Chávez himself is narrated as the reenactment of the life of Venezuela’s independence hero Simón Bolívar. President Maduro emphasized this connection in his speech on July 5, Venezuela’s Independence Day. 

We are here today to make effective the message of independence that was enacted 200 years ago in this land of Venezuela, a great battle of ideas, a battle by those who were willing to open a historical time to the new man and women that live in this fatherland. We are aware today more than ever that this is a legacy left to us by Comandante Chávez. Today…we can say that thanks to Simón Bolívar, thanks to the men and women of our time, at 16 months of the physical passing of our Comandante Hugo Chávez, we have to infinitely thank our Comandante for giving us dignity.    

Looking back at the first half of 2014 we can trace the multiple ceremonial events that are being used to construct a new civil religion.

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Filed under Hugo Chavez Civil religion Independence day

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Hugo Chávez, Rest in Peace

David Smilde

I learned about Hugo Chávez’s passing just as I boarded a flight to Caracas and had four solid hours to think about it. It seems incredible that it was fourteen years ago that Chávez assumed the presidency. It seems incredible to imagine Venezuela without him. Chávez changed Venezuela and changed the region. It will take a few years to fully understand his legacy—and it will undoubtedly be debated for decades to come.

Within Venezuela Chávez generated a sense of inclusion among the poor who now feel like they have a place and a voice in Venezuelan society. I first came to Venezuela in the peak of the neoliberal era, the early 1990s. The reigning wisdom was that the state had no money and could not attend to people’s needs. Venezuelans had to change and they were on their own. The barrios I studied back then were desolate places with a sense of despair. The most significant institutional presence came in the form of Evangelical and Catholic churches (mainly the former) and the state was largely absent. Those same barrios now have an entirely different feel. They have all of the same problems and some of them are worse. But there is a collage of activity and state presence in the form of missions and participatory initiatives. People have a sense of hope and a feeling of inclusion.

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Filed under Hugo Chavez death legacy

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More on Access to Information on Presidential Health

David Smilde

The Alianza Regional para la Expresión e Información has come out with a timely and useful document called “Acceso a la Información de la Salud de los Jefes de Estado.” (It’s not available in English yet but can be accessed in Spanish here.) In it they look at the tension between two basic principles: public figures’ right to privacy and citizens’ right to know about the health of their leaders.

The authors look at several recent cases in Latin America (Paraguay, Venezuela, Argentina, and Colombia) and how they were handled. They conclude that both rights can be respected. “The public does not need to know the embarrassing details of the sickness, but does need to know a realistic prognosis since this can directly influence in the management of state affairs, and for this reason, in [the public’s] quality of life” (p.25).

Filed under Access to information Venezuela Hugo Chavez

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Chávez Endgame?

[Editor’s note: a couple of readers pointed out some ambiguities in my reading of the constitutional provisions and I have clarified the wording of a couple of sentences from the original version.]

David Smilde and Hugo Pérez Hernaíz

As has been widely reported, on Saturday night, December 8, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez made a nationally televised appearance to announce that he had suffered a re-occurrence of his cancer and to designate a successor, current Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nicolás Maduro.

The announcement came after he had reappeared in Venezuela only 24 hours earlier. Chávez had gone to Cuba for treatment on November 27. While it was announced that he would be receiving treatment in a hyperbaric chamber to “continue his recovery,” there was a great deal of speculation that it was something much more serious since his departure was not publicized and he had not made any public appearances or even tweeted for several weeks. The rumors only increased when it was announced that Chávez would not be attending the Mercosur summit Brazil.

It seems clear that the primary purpose of Chávez’s weekend return to Caracas was to consolidate support for Maduro within the pro-government coalition and leave no doubts among the population as to who he wants to succeed him by creating a major media event. Not only did he name Maduro successor but had him swear before God, the people, the flag and Simón Bolívar’s sword, to continue the revolution.

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Filed under Venezuela Hugo Chavez Nicolas Maduro Diosdado Cabello Cancer

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Two-hour Take-home

David Smilde

A couple of hours after the results were announced, here are my initial reactions. Winning by 9.5% represents a real decline from the three previous presidential elections which Chávez has won by 15 to 20%. However it is still a decisive victory that Chávez accepted with grace. While previous victories have led to vitriolic triumphalism, tonight Chávez was more circumspect in his celebration.

Capriles recognized the electoral defeat quickly and gave no encouragement to the “plan B” of saying the electoral playing field was unfair. Indeed he actively discouraged the “creative radicalism” of some elements of the opposition. This would seem to reinforce the predominance of the new generation of opposition politicians represented by Capriles and campaign manager Armando Briquet. However, the fact that Capriles did not make any reference to the December regional elections suggests to me that not all is settled in the opposition camp. If Capriles had lost by 5% or less, his dominance in the opposition coalition would have been ensured. But losing by almost 10% means there could well be a struggle for leadership.

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Filed under Venezuelan election Henrique Capriles Hugo Chavez International community

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Venezuela Discussion at Wilson Center (webcast) on Friday, Sept. 28

Update Venezuela:

The October 7, 2012, Presidential Elections 

Friday, September 28, 2012, 9:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Sixth Floor Board Room, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Dear Colleague:

In one of the most closely watched elections in Latin America, Venezuelans will go to the polls on October 7, 2012, to choose a president for the next six-year term.  With only weeks to go, most—but not all—polls show President Hugo Chávez leading his opponent, Henrique Capriles Radonski, who has posed the most serious challenge to Chávez since he took office in 1998.    

Joining us to discuss the electoral context, the issues that are shaping voters’ choices, as well as the broader significance of this election for Venezuela’s future, are three distinguished experts:

Luis Vicente León, Datanálisis, Caracas (León will present the results of the final Datanálisis poll prior to October 7)

David Smilde, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Georgia, and Senior Fellow, Washington Office on Latin America

David Myers, Associate Professor of Political Science, Penn State University

Access webcast here

Filed under Venezuelan elections Polls Hugo Chavez Henrique Capriles Radonski