Chavez and Modern Caudillismo

According to the Washington Post article, Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez has returned to Caracas after a 10-week hiatus. The newly re-elected leader had been recovering from cancer in Cuba and even missed his own swearing-in ceremony which left the Venezuelan government in “institutional crisis.” Furthermore, his long absence from governing the South American nation riled his opponents and left them pleading for a constitutional foul. However, Chavez’s supporters celebrated his arrival and proclaimed his return to the Venezuelan government.

The Post article and the news of Chavez’s arrival can be directly tied to our lecture from Thursday, wherein Dr.Poska discussed Caudillios and their over-encumbering influence on political life. The re-elected Venezuelan president had used widespread popular support as the foundation for his rule, just as some folk caudillos used popular sentiment among the masses to establish themselves as powerful rulers. Chavez, known to his followers as El Comandante, embodies the caudillo personality because of his charisma and strong populist message. He even managed to stay in power through constitutional disarray and institutional turbulence because of his stacking of the supreme court with his supporters. While these types of rulers often ruled with an iron fist, they were exaulted because of their ability to maintain order. For example, a Chavez supporter, Wildre Colmenares stated, “Things were quite out of control without him. It was time for him to put order to things.” This demonstrates the absolute authority that Chavez rules.

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