Dragon in the Tropics

Dragon in the Tropics: The Legacy of Hugo Chávez

Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 2
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Dragon in the Tropics
    Book Description:

    This new and expanded edition ofDragon in the Tropics-the widely acclaimed account of how president Hugo Chávez (1999-2013) revamped Venezuela's political economy-examines the electoral decline of Chavismo after Chavez's death and the policies adopted by his successor, Nicolás Maduro, to cope with the economic chaos inherited from previous radical populist policies. Corrales and Penfold argue that Maduro has had to struggle with the inherent contradictions of a large and heterogeneous social coalition, a declining oil sector, the strength of entrenched military interests, and fewer resources to appease international allies, which have strenghtened the autocratic features of an already consolidated hybrid regime. In examining the new political realities of Venezuela, the authors offer lessons on the dynamics of succession in hybrid regimes. This book is a must-read for scholars and analysts of Latin America.

    Praise for the first edition ofDragon in the TropicsThis is the most objective, comprehensive and interesting book I have read on what has happened in Venezuela since Hugo Chávez took power in the late 1990s. It shows why most of the common explanations of the country's social and political convulsions are superficial and often flawed. A must-read. -Moisés Naím, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

    Hugo Chávez and his 'Bolivarian Revolution' to construct '21st century socialism' in Venezuela and reshape the international order have attracted a great deal of polarized comment: either sycophantic praise or unmitigated condemnation, neither backed up by sound data or profound analysis. Dragon in the Tropics escapes this pattern. It provides a thoughtful, perceptive, balanced but critical, nuanced and illuminating assessment, grounded in rich and revealing data, and deep knowledge of both Venezuela and of comparative politics and political economy. Highly recommended. -Abraham F. Lowenthal, Professor of International Relations, University of Southern California

    Corrales and Penfold have written a wide-ranging and thought-provoking interpretation of how Hugo Chávez has shaped Venezuelan society, and the country's regional and global role, over the past decade. The book is conceptually innovative, empirically rich, and cogently argued. Its keen insights into Venezuela's evolving political economy represent an invaluable contribution. -Michael Shifter, President, Inter-American Dialogue

    Javier Corrales and Michael Penfold are two of the most outstanding analysts of contemporary Venezuela. This accessible and clear-eyed book provides a comprehensive overview of Venezuelan politics, economics, and foreign policy over the last decade. No one interested in understanding the rise of radical populism, the distortions inherent in the oil economy, and the progressive deterioration of democratic institutions should fail to read this book. -Cynthia Arnson, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

    An engaging and comprehensive portrait of the Chávez government's key economic and political features. -Political Science Quarterly

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2594-7
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface to the Second Edition
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. 1 Introduction: The Chávez Revolution in Perspective
    (pp. 1-14)

    This book spotlights one of the most sweeping and unexpected political transformations in contemporary Latin American politics. President Hugo Chávez Frías, in office from 1999 until his death in 2013 (reelected in 2000, 2006, and 2012), transformed a frail but nonetheless pluralistic democracy into a hybrid regime, an outcome achieved in the context of a spectacularly high oil income and widespread electoral support. Hybrid regimes are political systems in which the mechanism for determining access to state office combines both democratic and autocratic practices. In hybrid regimes, freedoms exist and the opposition is allowed to compete in elections, but the...

  6. 2 Power Grabbing and the Rise of a Hybrid Regime in Venezuela, 1999–2009
    (pp. 15-47)

    How did a grassroots movement that began in 1998 as an effort to bring more democracy to Venezuela transform itself into a movement intent on empowering the executive branch above any other actor? The emergence of a hybrid regime in Venezuela cannot be explained easily with functional theories. Such arguments posit the breakdown of democratic institutions as an outgrowth of chronic crises in governability, which prompt political actors—whether in office or in the opposition—to seize and centralize power in order to cope with daunting issues.¹ Between 1999 and 2001, however, when some of the most important changes in...

  7. 3 Economic Policy and the Oil Honey Pot
    (pp. 48-71)

    Venezuela’s regime transformation took place in the context of a distinct economic background—the most spectacular oil boom in the country’s history, between late 2003 and mid-2008. Chávez’s economic policy responded swiftly to the surge in oil revenue. When he took office in 1999, his administration was fiscally conservative and even friendly toward foreign investment. But when oil prices began to rise to unprecedented levels, the regime deployed expansionary fiscal and monetary policies, coupled with a series of nationalizations and other antibusiness measures that smothered private investment.

    Accounts of Venezuela’s economic policy often fail to report these changes in economic...

  8. 4 Institutional Resource Curse: Seizing Political Control of PDVSA
    (pp. 72-98)

    Historically, oil has played an overarching role in shaping Venezuela’s political economy, and its importance did not wane under Chávez.¹ The scale and length of the oil boom following 2003 are too obvious to overlook. Thomas Friedman, in an effort to capture the link between oil and democracy across countries worldwide, argued famously that the price of oil and the degree of freedom invariably move in opposite directions.² He calls this the “first law of petropolitics” and even invokes the case of Venezuela under Chávez as a perfect example. Nonetheless, positing a causal, unmediated relationship between oil and (erosion of)...

  9. 5 Venezuela’s New Foreign Policy: Soft-Balancing and Social-Power Diplomacy
    (pp. 99-137)

    Chavismohas entailed a fundamental revamp not only of Venezuela’s political regime and oil industry but also of its foreign policy. The latter is mostly a result of the former. Regime change and an oil windfall allowed Chávez to transform Venezuela’s historical partnership with the United States into a relationship characterized by suspicion and antagonism. By the mid-2000s, Chávez’s fire-breathing anti-Americanism had become legendary worldwide, especially after his famous speech at the United Nations in 2006 declaring that he smelled sulfur following a presentation by “the devil,” George W. Bush. This acerbic anti-Americanism made Chávez one of the Latin American...

  10. 6 Hybrid Regimes and Populism in Comparative Perspective
    (pp. 138-157)

    What insights about the political economy of development can we draw from observing over a decade ofchavismoin Venezuela? In this chapter we discuss lessons learned in three broad areas. First, we summarize what we learned about the nature and actual operations of hybrid regimes—regimes that are neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic. We discuss specifically how Chávez managed to remain electorally competitive while carrying out a process of gradual political closure. Second, we focus on the issue of populism—Latin America’s long-standing practice of deploying state resources to weaken institutions that mediate between the state and society,...

  11. 7 Dragon No More: The Politics of Succession—Linkages Abroad and Factional Struggles at Home
    (pp. 158-177)

    Hugo Chávez’s sudden death in March 2013 left a mourning country with a new global revolutionary icon and a divided electorate. At the time of his death, Chávez was the Latin American leader with the greatest name recognition in the world after Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.Chavistasin Venezuela could not be prouder. But Chávez left behind an economy in disarray, along with one of the most polarized nations in the Americas, split almost in half over the merits of Chávez’s legacy. In many ways, Venezuela right after Chávez looked a lot like Venezuela in the early years of...

  12. 8 The Less Competitive, More Authoritarian Regime
    (pp. 178-203)

    The shift toward more authoritarianism is a clear hallmark of the post-Chávez period. While engaging in selective accommodation of key factions insidechavismo, Maduro took the exact opposite approach outsidechavismo: he increased repression of the opposition. The trend toward intolerance of the opposition actually started under Chávez, as we argue in chapter 1, but it worsened under Maduro. In this chapter we document and explain the heightening of authoritarianism in post-Chávez Venezuela.

    The turn toward more authoritarianism by hybrid regimes following a succession is not necessarily foreordained. A hybrid regime under a new leadership faces a choice. It can...

  13. 9 Conclusion: Hybrid Regimes and Regime Change
    (pp. 204-210)

    Chávez succeeded in creating a fairly closed political regime in Venezuela, and his supporters and successors have become more radical and entrenched. To what extent might Venezuela be able to reversechavismo’s increasing authoritarian turn, or, more broadly, find ways to liberalize the regime? We know that hybrid regimes can be stable over time.¹ We also know that they can instead soften and even democratize.² Are there any prospects for regime liberalization in Venezuela? We offer first a pessimistic view, followed by a more optimistic outlook.

    To be sure, regime collapse is not inevitable in Venezuela, in part because of...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 211-236)
  15. Index
    (pp. 237-254)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-255)