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Electing Chavez

The Business of Anti-neoliberal Politics in Venezuela

Leslie C. Gates

Publication Year: 2010

Venezuela's Hugo Chávez was the first anti-neoliberal presidential candidate to win in the region. Electing Chávez examines the circumstances that facilitated this pivotal election. By 1998, Venezuela had been rocked by two major scandals-the exchange rate incidents of the 1980s and the banking crisis of 1994-and had suffered rising social inequality. These events created a deep-seated distrust of establishment politicians. Chávez's 1998 victory, however, was far from inevitable. Other presidential candidates also stood against corruption and promised a clean break from politics as usual. Moreover, business opposition to Chávez's anti-neoliberal candidacy should have convinced voters that his victory would provoke a downward economic spiral. In Electing Chávez, Leslie C. Gates examines how Chávez won over voters and even obtained the secret allegiance of a group of business “elite outliers,” with a reinterpretation of the relationship between business and the state during Venezuela's era of two-party dominance (1959-1998). Through extensive research on corruption and the backgrounds of political leaders, Gates tracks the rise of business-related corruption scandals and documents how business became identified with Venezuela's political establishment. These trends undermined the public's trust in business and converted business opposition into an asset for Chávez. This long history of business-tied politicians and the scandals they often provoked also framed the decisions of elite outliers. As Gates reveals, elite outliers supported Chávez despite his anti-neoliberal stance because they feared that the success of Chávez's main rival would deny them access to Venezuela's powerful oil state.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 4-6

Contents

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pp. 8-9

List of Tables

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pp. 10-11

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 12-16

This study would not have been possible without the initial support and assistance of many institutions and individuals. The Research Semester Award from the dean of the Harpur College of Arts and Sciences gave me the time to launch this project. David Smilde offered instructive comments and encouragement to push forward early on. The participants at...

List of Acronyms

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pp. 18-19

PART I Introduction

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pp. 20-21

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1 THE UNLIKELY ELECTION OF AN ANTI-NEOLIBERAL

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pp. 22-32

In 1998, Venezuelans elected a “staunchly anti-neoliberal” president (Ellner 2004, 11). During his ultimately victorious presidential campaign, Hugo Chávez, the former paratrooper and failed coup leader, “inveighed against neoliberalism and its tendency to exacerbate

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2 EXPLAINING CHÁVEZ’S ELECTION

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pp. 33-55

We cannot understand why Ch

P A R T II. Voter Support for Ch

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pp. 56-57

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3 THE ROLE OF ANTI - BUSINESS SENTIMENT

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pp. 58-77

Why would Venezuelans vote to place their nation in the hands of a presidential candidate who provoked strong opposition from the business community? The reasons why Venezuelans were willing to do so are not obvious. One might naturally assume that business leaders....

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4 THE SOURCES OF ANTI-BUSINESS SENTIMENT

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pp. 78-101

There are at least two plausible sources of anti-business sentiment in Venezuela other than Chávez’s own rhetoric. One is Venezuela’s long history of corruption scandals that implicate business (i.e., business corruption), and another is the visible, or prominent, role...

P A R T III: Business Assistance for Ch

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pp. 102-103

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5 DEPENDENT PROMINENCE AND ELITE OUTLIER CALCULUS TO ASSIST CH

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pp. 104-129

Many of the business elites I interviewed had no difficulty remembering their disdain for Chávez during the 1998 presidential election. For example, one of Caracas’s real estate barons scoffed, “I thought he didn’t have any idea about economics. And, he had three....

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6 POLITICALLY PROMINENT BANKERS AND THE HISTORICALLY ROOTED CALCULUS TO ASSIST CH

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pp. 130-150

The government's response to Venezuela’s 1994 bank crisis shaped the political calculus of a core group of the elite outliers who reportedly assisted Chávez in 1998. As described earlier, the bank crisis was the font of numerous corruption allegations against both...

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CONCLUSION Theoretical Implications of Chávez’s Election

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pp. 151-165

This book has presented new evidence regarding Venezuela’s political environment during the country’s forty years of two-party democracy (1959-1998). Using this new evidence, I have sought to explain why it was Chávez who emerged as the victor in the...

APPENDIX A. INTERVIEWS CONDUCTED

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pp. 166-167

APPENDIX B.CORRUPTION SCANDALS

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pp. 168-169

APPENDIX C.POLITICAL BIOGRAPHIES

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pp. 170-173

APPENDIX D. ELITE OUTLIERS

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pp. 174-175

NOTES

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pp. 176-193

REFERENCES

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pp. 194-209

INDEX

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pp. 210-214


E-ISBN-13: 9780822973737
E-ISBN-10: 0822973731
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822960645
Print-ISBN-10: 0822960648

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Pitt Latin American Series
Series Editor Byline: John Charles Chasteen and Catherine M. Conaghan, Editors

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Subject Headings

  • Presidents -- Venezuela -- Election -- 1998.
  • Chávez Frías, Hugo.
  • Elections -- Venezuela.
  • Venezuela -- Politics and government -- 1974-1999.
  • Social movements -- Venezuela.
  • Neoliberalism -- Venezuela.
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