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For approximately the past one decade the political status of the Bolivian Republic in Venezuela has been meted with a lot of huge division in regard to the questions about democracy and dictatorship. This issue attracts two different camps. One claims that Venezuela is a democratic republic in that the republic enjoys free and fair elections, freedom of the press, autonomy of political parties and respect to private property. On the other camp some people claim that the republic deprives some of its people their right to free participation in election, the elections are characterized with a lot of corruption and the ruling elite is one that employs the authoritarian iron finger rule. This paper hence explores some of the views that different scholar have expressed in their works in regard to the topic at hand.
In his article Gibbs exposes the authoritarian nature in the Chavez's regime in the way it has blocked social reforms. He starts by lowering the microscope on 'struggling neoliberal democracies.' In this context he firs draws the reads attention to the fact that analyst nowadays have been concentrating on alleviation of poverty which encompasses the inequality reduction by means of careful redistribution. This has been at the expense of conducting an inquiry in regard to the overall logic that lies in 'efficient macroeconomic administration' which should take towards reforms that are market based. Gibbs therefore suggests that policies that are neo liberal should not viewed as a general structural shift in prototype rather it should be viewed from a poverty management within the prototype point of view. It from here that he delves into the Venezuelan Bolivian revolution that he cites as a representation of an assault to the neoliberal doctrines by referring to it authoritarian elements which leads him to make the reader question the Venezuelan regime control on the republics economy. President Hugo Chavez's regime has been constantly hindering this revolution through its mismanagement of the economy as it single handedly controls all decision making. This is in the consideration that the revolution has been aiming at revitalizing citizenship through constructing mechanisms that allow the public to participate in decision making especially on the part of the poor who are the majority. Recently dramatic transformation have been noted as taking place in the education and health policy since the start of decline of Chavez's ruling party. This provides evidence of lack of democracy in Venezuela in the past as the recent transformation proves that poor communities if allowed to participate indecision making can produce positive results which has never been the case in Venezuela.
In his article Corrales strives to explore the myth behind the declining regime of President Hugo Chavez's which according to him has been a very autocratic one.. Corrales starts by drawing the reader's attention to the fact that since the year 2007 President Chavez's competitive authoritarian regime has been loosing its competitive nature while becoming more authoritarian. Corrales therefore uses this article argue out the possible causes of such kind of a transformation. He notes that the key cause towards the decline of Chavez's competitiveness in his rule has mostly to do with the misappropriation of the republics economy in addition the radicalism that has been employed in suppression of opposition. The approach that the regime has taken towards the oil sector which Corrales labels as 'heavy handed' in addition to approaches towards crime which Corrales terms as 'lackadaisical' have also added more salt to the wound. Corrales paints Chavez's regime to be in a sort of a trap where by the government of this republic has been losing its homogeneity over its electorate. The government instead of looking for other way to redeem its self has taken to increasing its autocratic practice in a bid to gain its competitiveness but this has only led to the erosion of its electoral appeal in the eyes of the public. Though the democratic opposition has been often blamed for its failure in rallying credible alternative leader to Hugo Chavez, it would be fair to take into consideration that it has been facing a very uphill task in fighting a stubborn authoritarian ruler. More difficulty has been added to this battle through its abandonment by the United States as well as the international community in the recent past. But still they have produced several leaders that are otherwise popular and honest for instance the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma as well as Henrique Randoski, the state's governor who have the potential to give Authoritarian Chavez a run for it in a fair fight. The only problem has been that no body can match Chavez's crookedness when it comes to dirty politics
According to Gustavo Coronel, before being elected the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez had promised the people of Venezuela a number of things. Among his major promises was an improved state with a new constitution, fight against social discrimination and poverty, and lastly total elimination of corruption. However, nine years down the line, all the Constituent Assembly seems to have done is to address his own wishes with the destruction of all political institutions and replacing them with some kind of democracy that suits him. The elimination of poverty, social exclusion and corruption still remains a dream in Venezuela. These were the issues addressed in the article, the corruption of democracy in Venezuela (Coronel 1).
As things are in Venezuela according to Gustavo, there is a struggle between the President Chavez who would desire to hold the presidency all his life and the democracy defenders in the country. The President tried to push for a constitutional reform intending to make his reelection opportunities to unlimited number of times that this was defeated. Though he managed to appear noble in the defeat, he is definitely not a democrat and would still wish to hold the presidency all his life (Coronel 1).
According to the Gustavo, Venezuela has had a bad record in regard to the issue of corruption namely financial and political corruption in public management. In his article the author gives an elaborative history of the corruption cases that the country has witnessed, how they started and the various policies that were put in place to try and manage the situation. For example, in the early, 1800s, Simon Bolivar defined corruption as, "the Public interest violation" (Coronel 1) and as a way of controlling the rampant corruption, he introduced a death penalty for any public officer who was found to have stolen ten Pesos and above, a punishment that touched on the judges who were found to have disobeyed this decree (Coronel 1).
According to Coronel, corruption proceeded to the 20th century, with the collaborators in Juan Vincente Gomez' dictatorship practicing lot's of corruption. The Military dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez that lasted a decade from 1948 was no exception either. However, in the 1960s, the presidencies of President Romulo Bentancourt, President Raul Leoni and President Rafael Caldera allowed a period of transparency in the public wealth management and it was at this time that Venezuela stood out as a good example among the Latin American Countries (Coronel 1).
It was in the mid 1970s that Venezuela experienced a major sudden oil windfall that posed great temptations to the public officers and this was how corruption crept into the country's leadership once more. By 1980, the country had great debts with international banks and since then the corruption keeps on getting worse. President Chavez once tried to abuse the situation for his own selfish gains to alter the constitution to suit him without access and all these issues have been discussed in detail throughout the paper.
According to Roberto Briceno-leon, Venezuela has not followed as similar pattern as the other Latin American countries. The democracy as well as the economic prosperity of Venezuela was stable unlike the other countries that suffered from economic crises as and were led by military governments (Briceno-Leon 2). For example, between late 1920s and early 1980s, the proceedings obtained from oil facilitated social and economic developments, increased wages and salaries for the workers, and high business returns. These and more led to a very stable economy in the country, however, things have recently overturned and this is no longer the case. As from 1980, things changed and a disintegration of the oil model was evident, and some of the implications of this were the 1983 economic crisis, the popular 1989 revolt and the 1992 coup d'etat which paved way for the election of Caldera and Chavez as presidents of Venezuela (Briceno-Leon 4). There was loss of power for the conventional political parties with fresh social actors such as the unstructured civil society, radical left, political right as well as the military appearing and taking control of the apparatus of the state. The author of the article, Petroleum and democracy in Venezuela, argues that the profits obtained from oil have assisted in the society formation. This involves; the formation of social classes as an initiative of the government, imports dependency, state economy autonomy, dominion of state in developing the economy, and in general financing of society. The government of Chavez has continued to promote the model of being profit-oriented, populist and static and its model that has always made Venezuela to become a less sustainable country that largely depends on oil. This is the basis of the argument presented by the author that the installation of the military government and formal authority in Venezuela was as a result of the oil revenue and this was the source of democracy too (Briceno-Leon 4).
The level of democracy in Venezuela in the presidency of Hugo Chavez remains questionable based on the fact that his personal motives of holding the presidency of the country throughout his entire life came out very clearly when he tried to alter the constitution of the country to suit his personal interests. Though Chavez appears to be an autocratic leader who would wish to become the Venezuelan president for life, the country has had a history of defenders of democracy who are ready to fight for democracy in their own country. These are the people who have always tried to fight with the corruption in the country as well as the social exclusion. It is the efforts of such people that have managed to contain the desires of President Chavez and others with the similar motives to deprive the country its resources.
Going deep into the history of the country, it is evident that corruption has always been public nightmare in the country but this was happening at the expense of the public. As defined in 1813 and 1824 by Simon Boliver, Corruption was clearly a harmful vice to the members of the public whose resources were being mishandled by the selfish people in power whose desire went beyond the public interest. The country must have incurred a lot of losses as a result of the selfish nature of a few individuals who were given power and ended up abusing it.
Another issue that arises from the history of the country is that the country has had a good share of dictatorship and this could be one of the reason why the democracy defenders are fighting hand enough to ensure that the country is not dragged back there by President Chavez. During the leadership of Juan Vincente Gomez, the country must have suffered a lot based on the fact that corruption reined his inner circle a thing that repeated itself when the military took over under the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez. However, one there is one period that any of the public officials would desire that it be reintroduced into the country's leadership, it's the transparency period. President Romulo Bentancourt, President Raul Leoni and President Rafael Caldera will forever remain as Heroes in Venezuela based on the leadership that they delivered to the country. During their tenure, leaders remained accountable in their positions of managing the public wealth. The political model that was developed during this period is indeed a model that every country would like and this is the dream of the democracy defenders.
In Venezuela, democracy falls into major levels, the people who support the government of Chavez argue that based on the fact that the country conducts free and fair elections, has political parties, upholds freedom of the press, and allows right to own private property among other things. On the other hand, the supporters of democracy maintain that this is not free democracy because it has traces of autocracy in it. Their concern is that the citizens are not allowed to participate freely in the elections which themselves are conducted by corrupt officials. The leadership of the country is also conducted by authoritarian leaders and looking at the record of the nine years that President Chavez came into power, indeed, this is highly reflected in it.
Since he took the leadership of the country, President Chavez is in no doubt a non-performer and non-democrat but a very good pretender. In his inauguration as the president of the country back in the year 1999, the president promised the country that his government would not condone any kind of corruption among other promises. However, this was not a sincere promise based on the fact that immediately after being inaugurated, he took advantage and managed to redefine the state through the national assembly and managed to place himself to be above the law a position that has given him excessive powers to run the country in a kind of autocratic rule that is despised as democracy.
Through the bureaucrats which he managed to replace the former members of the supreme court and the attorney general too, Chavez has managed to blind the a good number of Venezuelan citizens who sees him as a person who does not condone any kind of corruption while in actual sense, corruption has increased in the management of public wealth more than ever. The Bolivarian Revolution issue is a plan that is meant to blind the public though it may appear promising to the public based on the fact that despite the promises made by the president when he was elected into power, none has been fulfilled to the fullest with corruption gaining some basis in the country. The truth is that President Chavez is a schemer; he can do anything to get what he wants. He proved this by privatizing the national oil company in the country and tried to control other private companies too. This clearly demonstrates that the social/dictatorship that Bolivarian Revolution was based on has no democratic basis as many would be deceived to believe so. To prove that Chavez is not the person he claims to be, during his presidency, there are three major areas in which corruption has emerged. One is grand corruption that have been conducted with full conscious of the president and most of these have cost the people of Venezuela huge amounts of money. The other is the buriacratic corruption as a result of the leaders he implanted to replace the former judiciary and this was conducted at the governments level of bureaucracy. Lastly, the third type of corruption is the systematic corruption and this has been taking place in between the private sector and the government.
However, the blame that the country continues to be ravaged by grave corruption cannot be solely rested on President Chavez and his government. The issue of corruption has been there for a very long time in the history of Venezuela. The country has had much of its resources misused through corruption deals. The country has run into numerous debts as a result of a bad history of corruption that goes beyond the leadership of Chavez and this is the reason why the whole issue cannot be totally be blamed on him and his government. As a result it's hard to establish whether the social reforms are indeed the best thing for the country of Venezuela as well as its citizens. In this case the people of Venezuela have also had their share in the kind of corruption that has rocked their country and as a result they should try to do their best to eliminate corruption from the society a thing that may pose a major challenge to the government as well as other communities who do not have this kind of problem.
The oil industry played a major role in the reintroduction of corruption back to the country after it had been initially eliminated. This is an industry that can serve the country very well based on the fact that it contributes a third of the country's GDP and more than half of the revenue of the government. If only corruption is eliminated from the industry, the country would perform very well in terms funding major developments in the country.
At this juncture I hold no doubts that Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez's and his regime is one that since it came to power has been characterized with a lot of dictatorship. One might be tempted to wonder as to how a leader who has been democratically elected all over sudden turns out to be a dictator. But looking at President Chavez's unending period of rule the answers lie all there. Just the other day Hugo Chaves won his way through to corrupting the constitution by after under his manipulation a reform on the constitution was passed that will allow allows a president to seek indefinite re-elections. This was a move that was aimed to ensure that he remains in power as long as his wits and dictatorial schemes can allow to corruptly win elections. He even went ahead to promptly declare his candidacy in the coming 2012 elections while jokingly brags about serving the republic till he is 95 years of age which has not been met with smiling faces.
Defendants and diehard loyalists of Chavez have often been quick to point out the changes that he has effected in the imperfect democracy of Venezuela since he came into power in 1998. For any one who cared to observe the election that brought him to power, he had handily won his presidency by waging campaigns against the previous order's unaccountability and corruption and which had neglected the poor majority that comprise Venezuela. Though there was a transition in ceremonial leadership nothing much has changes I regard to method of rule in fact it can only be said to have grown worse.
The way in which Chavez won power is not of any interest, the problem has been how he has held this power. Hugo Chavez's journey towards dictatorship set foot immediately approximately ten years ago when he was sworn in a constitution which he pledged to destroy immediately. By this he became a progenitor of a series of strongmen in Latin America who have been elected in power but end up abusively using their popular mandate in the destruction of the country's constitutional order. His recent bid for political immortality is only a tip of the iceberg. Many are the international journalists who dutifully make irascible reports on how Chavez has been confounding his opposers while turning out loyal throngs who have been very eager to retain their colorful leader in his political seat. Few are those who make reports on how he hand picked the electoral council that had received orders to 'cook' his results or expose his abuse of state purse and power which he uses to bully opposition, muzzle out the independence of the media not to mention buy loyalty from millions of Venezuelan's who rely on his corrupt regime to get jobs.
In the eye of a casual observer one might get tempted to credit to Chavez for his submission of his decisions to popular referenda. But this is neutralized by campaigns that are state financed after ten years of authoritarianism, violence and manipulation that has disintegrated the democratic institutions in Venezuela that are weak already. Chavez has been riding high through out the entire oil prices elevation period Sabado pp 1) forging an intensely combative, ideological as well as intolerant regime that has been brandishing polarizing rhetoric in the incitation of class warfare while abusing state tools in suppression and prosecution of his opposing enemies.
Since he came into power, Chavez autocratically in a systematic way concentrated the states power under what he called the 'Fifth republic movement.' Among his initial acts in getting into power was to draft a new constitution which belittled balances and checks as well as consolidating all state powers in his hands. His national assembly allies are known to place public ministries not to forget the courts in the control of Chavistas and mandated adoption of measures which harass the media in addition to his political opponents. In the year 2005 presidential elections, Chavez had blocked the National Assembly's control which prompted opposition parties to boycott the electoral process. More than 75 % of voters in Venezuela were barred from voting after the electoral council that was made up of Chavez's loyalists declined from following the steps that were necessary in guaranteeing an election process that was free and fair.
Another issue that cannot be ignored is the way that the security forces of Chavez's regime routinely utilize excessive and indiscriminate force I the suppression of political demonstrations while they blind against violence when it is perpetrated by supporters of Chavez. Some of his opponents have been reported to have been exposed to torture and extended unlawful detention. This is not in any way an extension of democracy. Documentations have been released by international human rights organizations portraying deaths of innocent bystanders who fall victim of the excessive force used by Venezuelan Security forces. Evidence has also been produced towards the existence of a 'Bolivarian Circle' (Gibbs pp 269) network which runs national wide and consists of armed thugs who consistently attacks the political opponents of President Chavez. Criticisms have been forwarded by the Inter American Human Rights Commission on the failure of the state in the prosecution of hundreds of cases which are of extrajudicial killings in nature. This is in addition to the states failure in making investigations on death squads that are operant in the republic.
According to complains of the Amnesty International, the regime is very quick in meting out 'swift justice' to those it considers its political enemies whereas the pattern of alleged abuse by security forces acting for the government have been going unpunished (Gibbs pp 278). The appointment of judges are made on the basis of political loyalty to Chavez's party otherwise cases of weeding out of impartial judges has not been an extra ordinary event. By use of both legal and violent means the Chavez regime media organizations as well as individual reporters have been silenced in a bid to reduce coverages of views that are dissident and also for the production of self sponsorship. Virtual elimination of popular channels that incriminate the Chavez's regime has been a common phenomenon. This has been happening to any media that the regime considers to be unfriendly to its supremacy. Their news programming, opinions and national reporters have been subjected to detentions, hassles under baseless accusation on made up offences (Sabado pp 1).
The rule of law under Chavez's regime has been destroyed and replaced by an imposed crony socialism which has borne sweeping consequences in regard to the quality of life enjoyed by Venezuelan residents. The city of Caracas has been turned into a murder capital as police spend most of their time wadding of Chavez's political foes at the expense of resident's security. The Venezuelan oil company that is state run is packed with political hacks that have proven to very inexperienced. Under their steering the oil company's production cost has continued to soar high while the oil prices have increasingly continued to drop (Gibbs pp 275). The company which was once recognized for its might is now reported to be in huge arrears to Venezuelan crucial contractor. The republic heavy reliance on imports on consumer goods, capital and market controls that are heavy handed has led it to suffering shortages even on food lines. With the prices of oil having drastically dropped over the past few months, the profligate spending that Chaves has been making on projects that are deemed wasteful at home and abroad has been consuming the currency reserves of the republic at a rate that is very unsustainable.
Signs are already evident that the above woes are already eating up on the fabric of the popularity of Chavez. In the year 2007 Chavez could not hide his humiliated defeat following a reform initiative in the constitution that was sweeping. The military forced him to accept this result but he was allowed permission to hide the losses extent. Just lately, last year to be precise, despite having massively abused the resources of the state in backing his chosen candidates, state and municipal elections were won on crucial regions such as Caracas the capital went to the opposition which won by margins that were too wide for his office to ignore or defy. Official mobs have barred some of these leaders to assume office with their jurisdictions being stripped off their power and resources.