Dean Rohrer

Latin America Without Chávez

In the 14 years of his presidency in Venezuela, Hugo Chávez was the main architect of important changes in relations among Latin American countries and between them and the US. So, what will the post-Chávez era in Venezuela mean for diplomacy within the hemisphere?

BOGOTÁ – Venezuela is poised to vote on a new president to replace the recently deceased Hugo Chávez. In the 14 years of his administration, Chávez was one of the major leaders in promoting changes in relations among Latin American countries and between them and the United States. So, what will the post-Chávez era in Venezuela mean for diplomacy within the hemisphere?

A significant group of Latin American countries with leftist governments have created new mechanisms for integration among themselves, as well as more autonomous relations with the US. Traditional bodies such as the Organization of American States and the Andean Community of Nations – in which US influence is a defining feature – have weakened, making way for Chávez’s Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).

Chávez transformed Venezuela according to a program that he called “twenty-first century socialism.” With his populist style, demagogic language, and authoritarian behavior, he replaced the country’s former elite, demolished traditional power structures, and sharply increased spending on anti-poverty programs and social inclusion.

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