Stefán Ásgeir Guðmundsson: Hugo Chávez – el caudillo
Hugo Chávez, the controversial president of Venezuela, has been a dominant figure on the Latin American political scene for the last 10 years. His unorthodox sense of governing along with his excessive use of strong language have been closely monitored by the world media. Despite the publicity that often surrounds him, not much has been documented about the situation in Venezuela that gave rise to Hugo Chávez and how his reign is closely intertwined with the tradition of the strongman – caudillo – in Latin American history.
After having led a failed military coup in 1992, Hugo Chávez was determined to change his country that had become stagnant and utterly corrupt within a political system, often named the Pact of Punto Fijo. Established in 1959, the system was characterized by two-party rule but had run its course at the end of the Cold War. Under the banner of the Bolivian Revolution, Hugo Chávez has embarked on a transition towards a state-oriented economy, leaving behind the neo-liberal model. Although elected democratically as president in 1998, his particular caudillo-style of governing is evident and shows us the deep roots the caudillo has in Latin American culture. This is also a sign of the weakness of democratic institutions in Venezuela. This article is a part of a growing body of research on these two vital issues concerning the background and political existence of Hugo Chávez.
Keywords: Hugo Chávez, Venezuela, Latin America, caudillo, Pact of Punto Fijo