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The Nation: Chávez Not Authoritarian Enough

Who knew there was a Goldilocks-type scale for dictators?

An excerpt from The Nation’s Greg Grandin on the now-dead leader:

Chávez was a strongman. He packed the courts, hounded the corporate media, legislated by decree and pretty much did away with any effective system of institutional checks or balances. But I’ll be perverse and argue that the biggest problem Venezuela faced during his rule was not that Chávez was authoritarian but that he wasn’t authoritarian enough. It wasn’t too much control that was the problem but too little.

Chavismo came to power through the ballot following the near total collapse of Venezuela’s existing establishment. It enjoyed overwhelming rhetorical and electoral hegemony, but not administrative hegemony. As such, it had to make significant compromises with existing power blocs in the military, the civil and educational bureaucracy and even the outgoing political elite, all of whom were loath to give up their illicit privileges and pleasures. It took near five years before Chávez’s government gained control of oil revenues, and then only after a protracted fight that nearly ruined the country.

Once it had access to the money, it opted not to confront these pockets of corruption and power but simply fund parallel institutions, including the social missions that provided healthcare, education and other welfare services being the most famous. This was both a blessing and a curse, the source of Chavismo’s strength and weakness.

Stupid Chavez not mean enough. The whole piece here.


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