Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frías is probably the most controversial among the Latin American political leaders of the recent decade(s). The former coup-leader (or military rebel, depending on the interpretation by the analyst), who was democratically elected President of the Republic in 1998, is likewise a forefront figure of the current wave of Leftist transformations on the continent. This first edition of the Stockholm Review of Latin American Studies is dedicated to the topic of Venezuelan politics and society in times of Chavismo. A rather broad range of researchers from three continents have contributed with distinct points of departure and scopes of focus, with the first three articles in English and the five subsequent ones in Spanish. In the first, Daniel Hellinger employs the concept of tercermundismo to approach Venezuelan politics and society in the context of rising and developing Chavismo. Aspects of social and political inclusion and exclusion are analytically revised, as well as other relevant factors behind the popularity (and the rejection) of Chávez. Thereafter, Angel Alvarez presents a series of analytical arguments regarding social cleavages and political polarization in the context of the break-down of the ancient regime and its consequences for democracy. Rickard Lalander then emphasizes the destiny of Venezuelan decentralization since Hugo Chávez came to power. José Vicente Carrasquero addresses certain aspects of participatory democracy and social and political inclusion and exclusion respectively, and offers a balance of accounts of the first seven years of the Chávez government. José Antonio Rivas Leone contributes with an historical analysis of the crises and process of de-institutionalization of the Venezuelan party system, considering both internal factors, as the exhaustion of the traditional parties, and external, like the decentralization process since 1989. In their qualitative study, Friedrich Welsch and Gabriel Reyes approach the possible social, class and ethnical differences between the supporters and the opponents of the Chávez movement, also taking into consideration citizens auto-classified as independent. The study by Carlos Blanco constitutes a critical analysis of whether the regime as officially declared is to be considered revolutionary, or, as the author argues, rather a type of neo-authoritarianism. Likewise, both the behaviour of the government and the political opposition are reviewed by Blanco, as well as Venezuela’s relationship with the United States during the Chávez government. Finally, in the contribution presented by Oscar Reyes, the main focus is the concept of 21st Century Socialism, which in recent years has been used by analysts and by Chávez himself as an umbrella term for the present Venezuelan government.
Institute of Latin American Studies, Stockholm University , 2006. , 105 p.