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Populism Our Saviour:

Looking at Venezuela, Bolivia, and Brazil, to what Extent has

the Recent Return to Left-Leaning Populism Benefited

Latin America, and Actually Aided and Strengthened

Democracy in the Region?

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Table of Contents

Preface…………………………… 3

Introduction…………………………… 4

Chapter 1 – What’s In A Name?…………………………… 8

Chapter 2 – Chavismo…………………………… 23

Chapter 3 – Moralismo …………………………… 39

Chapter 4 – Lulismo …………………………… 55

Conclusion…………………………… 69

Bibliography…………………………… 73

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Preface

As the twenty-first century begins to establish itself, there is a current left-wing trend

among Latin American governments. In reaction to the harsh neoliberal economic

policies introduced by the neopopulists of the 1990s, a new wave of Left-leaning

Populism in Latin America has emerged to mixed reactions. America views it as a threat

to national security, while Latin America’s right-wing sees it as a crude attempt to

centralise power and avoid accountability. However, among the lower classes, Left-

leaning Populism signifies a democratic revolution that has opened up Elite Democracy

to the common voice. This confusion surrounding Populism’s implications stems from a

blanket condemnation without a true understanding of such an ambiguous concept. By

firstly untangling the true definition of Populism, and then applying it to Venezuela,

Bolivia, and Brazil, it will be possible to conduct a full evaluation of Populism’s effect on

both democracy and society. To do so, one must also make an evaluation of the regime

Populism is challenging, to gauge the extent to which its undemocratic label and constant

demonisation is deserved. I would like to thank Owen Hartley for guidance throughout

this project, Scarlett MccGwire for ensuring a clear perspective was retained, and

Tiphaine Tailleux for emotional support.

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Introduction

Latin American politics in the twentieth century have been extremely volatile,

spanning democracy, populism, and military and non-military authoritarianism.

Colonised by the Spanish and Portuguese in the fifteenth century, since independence in

the nineteenth century, Latin America has attempted to adopt North American democratic

institutions, (the Presidential system was favoured over the Parliamentary). After the

most recent series of military dictators, (begun in the sixties and for most states ending in

the eighties), the ideal of ‘democracy’1 was once more heralded as the holy grail, that

which must be obtained and kept at all costs if Latin America was to be a success like her

European and North American counter parts. This belief was not only promoted by those

native to Latin America, but by the developed world too. Their motives were distinct,

however, and a global trend begun by Reagan and Thatcher meant that Neo-Liberalism

was soon to widen the gap in one of the most socially inequitable regions of the world.

The downside of capitalism – which may have proven constructive in a regulated, welfare

state-based society – consumed each recently redemocratised nation, as democracy led by

the people for the people was handed to institutions such as the World Bank (WB) and

the International Monetary Fund (IMF), so the beneficiaries were the elite and those

abroad with vested interests. The inevitable ‘pendulum’ of politics swung once more

from right to left, rich to poor, as the anti-neo-liberal backlash ushered in left-leaning

Populism.

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Of free elections, transparent institutions, representative politicians. However, the ideal rarely matched the
implementation

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Populism is a phenomenon based on wide-spread popular support from previously

silent sectors of society, but its varied incarnations have led to much dispute: “to each his

own definition of Populism, according to the academic axe he grinds”2. The many

interpretations will be explored later, but all scholars appear to agree on the ambiguity

that surrounds the concept, leaving it – and those that practice it – extremely vulnerable

to attack. It is a concept not unique to Latin America, but certainly one they have made

their own. From Liberadores to the internationally renowned classical populists Perón,

(Argentina), and Vargas, (Brazil), Populism has played an important role in Latin

American history. However, the collapse of Classical Populism and its undemocratic

nature led many to dismiss populism as detrimental to democracy, assuming that any

return would inevitably have similar results.

Although there are negative aspects to Populism, the criteria against which it is

judged have little to do with the form of ‘democracy’ found in Latin America, which fails

to represent those it exists to serve. Therefore it is no surprise that Populism has

resurfaced. The extremely flexible nature of populism has allowed it to fill the voids left

by traditional politics – and it does not confine itself to a single ideology. The last wave

of populism before the current ‘pink tide’ was in fact a neo-liberal one, as Menem,

(Argentina), Fujimori, (Peru), and Cardoso, (Brazil), proved that the Latin American

public wanted tangible results rather than insulated power-struggles. Their successes

demonstrate what can be achieved when obstructive institutions are circumnavigated,

whilst their failures are symptomatic of the potential personal power Populism affords by

removing the checks and balances to hold a leader accountable, and therefore the

2
Wiles, Peter, A Syndrome not a Doctrine, in Ionescu, Ghita, and Gellner, Ernest, Populism: Its National
Characteristics, (London 1969), p. 166

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possibility to abuse it, as many did. What many consider the negative aspects of Populism

are not exclusive to it and transcend all forms of Latin American Politics. What needs to

be assessed is whether Populism is a tactic employed by power-hungry politicians or a

symptom of an unrepresented Latin American society that creates leaders and engenders

them with a belief that they can change the country?

Therefore to attack Populism on the grounds that the alternative would be a fully

functioning democracy would be false. If anything, by its very nature Populism actually

heightens the degree of democratization by giving previously ignored parts of society a

voice, and welcomes them into the political fold. In a European context, this may not

sound positive and be taken for opportunism, but in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Brazil –

where, as in all Latin American states, rich elites traditionally run the country – it is a

step towards a more inclusive democracy. Hugo Chávez was the first ‘populist’ to take

power in 1999, winning – as all three case studies have done – through the ballot box in

Venezuela, despite originally staging an aborted coup in 1992. His ‘Bolivarian

revolution’ supports the underprivileged in Venezuela and aims to reform the democratic

institutions to stop the strangle-hold on power by the entrenched pactist parties and allow

popular participation. Chávez has shunned Neo-Liberalism in favour of nationalisation,

(most evident in the petroleum industry), and uses state turnover to fund social welfare.

In Bolivia, the election of Evo Morales has finally given the indigenous peoples a voice

through the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), and he is now striving towards the

formation of a new constitution that will permit the indigenous population, (the poorest

section of Bolivian society), to finally have direct representatives in Congress, whilst also

having a stake in the country through land redistribution and social welfare funded by

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hydrocarbon revenues. Both Chávez and Morales are associated with the old school of

populism – redistributing wealth and nationalizing industry – which many on the right

place on par with Fidel Castro’s Socialist Cuba. However, the other case study is Luiz

‘Lula’ Ignacio da Silva’s Brazil, who unlike the two Latin American ‘pirates’ is well

liked by America and the IMF. Brazil is a less obvious example of left-leaning Populism,

but the tactics employed by Lula are classically Populist, even if his policy does not

match his rhetoric. Brazil is included to show how integral Populism is to Latin American

politics, whilst providing a contrast to less-moderate Chávez and Morales.

What must come out of this essay is the ambiguity of the term Populism, and also

why certain circles are so eager to vilify populists whilst supporting democracy to the

hilt. The three case studies should provide sufficient evidence to show that Left-leaning

Populism is attempting to bring equality to a region with the largest rich-poor divide on

the planet. What many critics fail to point out is the institutional opposition from sectors

of society desperate to cling on to the traditional levers of power at the expense of mass

involvement. Whether they can claim to be defending ‘democracy’ is disputable given its

exclusionary nature, but at the very least a voice has now been given to the silent

majority who have to be recognised as a political force by all future forms of government

– otherwise the consequence of exclusion will be felt once more.

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Chapter 1 – What’s in a Name?

Populism as a concept has been ever-present in human society. According to

Panizza, “unless we abolish the people, Populism will be here”3. It is an integral part of

politics that permits the expression of opposition, discontent with the status-quo, and

according to Laclau, “vital to the continuation of politics and history”4. However, both

the United States and the Latin American right-wing beg to differ: according to US

Southern Command, (USSC), ‘Radical Populism’ is now a threat to national security5.

Despite failing to define Populism, the “vagueness of the concept is not translated into

any doubt concerning the importance of its attributive function”6: the USSC do not define

it beyond its assumed threat of endangering of individual rights and undermining the

democratic process7. The label ‘populist’ (rightly or wrongly) is being interpreted in a

derogatory manner by many inside and outside Latin America, and is being used for

many of the current ‘pink tide’ leaders emerging south of the Rio Bravo. However,

without a plausible definition and a serious evaluation of what Populism entails, it is

unfair to smear leaders simply for calling for change, as according to Wiles, “only

perhaps social democrats can show so comparatively clean a moral record [to classical

populists]”8. Therefore, this chapter will attempt to define the essence of Populism

3
Francisco Panizza, , ed., Populism and the Mirror of Democracy, (London, 2005), p. 1
4
Ernesto Laclau, Populism: What’s in a Name?, in F. Panizza ed., Populism and the Mirror of Democracy,
(London, 2005), p. 14
5
Laura Carlsen, “Ugly Heads” and Blanket Condemnations: Protest and Populism, Counter Punch,
(9/10/2004), available at www.counterpunch.org/carlsen10092004.html
6
Ernesto Laclau, , On Populist Reason, (London, 2005), p. 3
7
Tom Barry, U.S. Southern Command Confronts Traditional and Emerging Threats, IRC Americas
Program Policy Brief, (24/7/2004) available at http://americas.irc-
online.org/briefs/2004/0407militar_body.html
8
Wiles, A Syndrome not a Doctrine, p. 171

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through an evaluation of its various guises in Latin America whilst seeing to what extent

it deserves its negative reputation. One reason for this reputation is the criteria against

which it is currently judged: that of ‘Democracy’ – another undefined term used as

casually as ‘Populism’. In order to gain a true understanding of Populism, (and also the

political landscapes of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Brazil that will be necessary in evaluating

the current crop of ‘populist’ leaders), the highly-valued ideals of Liberal Democracy

must be held up against the reality of Latin American ‘Democracy’.

How can a term so widely prescribed have such varying meanings? To answer

this question, first one must ask why there are so many variations: Populism has played

an integral part in the history of Latin America, from such Liberadores as Simón Bolívar

and Bernardo O’Higgins who freed the southern continent from the grips of the Spanish

and Portuguese Conquistadores. These valiant men rallied support to their cause, using

personal charisma and fiery rhetoric, while harnessing a continental desire for change.

That was effectively the beginning of politics, and since then Populism has served to

embody all forms of popular discontent but taken varying guises. An examination of both

the classical populist heyday, (1940s-1960s), and also its reincarnation as Neopopulism

during the neoliberal years allows comparisons to lead us to some more definitive

conclusions: Classical Populism grew from the mass urban-migration experienced during

the rise of the Import Substitution Industries (ISI)9. Politicians such as Vargas in Brazil

and Perón in Argentina tapped into the political vacuum of unpoliticised workers,

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Latin America continually found itself over-dependent on Europe and the United States of America, so
that when they cut back spending, the dependents would suffer. After an especially harmful period post-
World War II, a new protectionist policy was introduced alongside extensive government-led spending to
stimulate domestic industry enough to replace foreign imports.

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reaching out to them through new means of communications10 and bonding with them

through personal charisma and folkloric qualities11. They championed the new

immigrants’ causes, using them as a political support-base large enough to democratically

bypass the traditional unresponsive elitist parties, and implemented redistributive

patronial policies based on deficit spending12. Their success in reducing the rich-poor

divide greatly increased the support and acclaim for each populist leader and their party.

This form of structuralism was highly respected by economists such as John Maynard

Keynes, being seen as the only way Latin America would solve her underlying socio-

economic problems and achieve the standard of living experienced by the USA and

Europe13. However, by the end of the 1960s, Populism retreated and its leaders were

vilified as “demagogues who spurred excessive expectations and inflation”14.

The importance of redistributive polices to Classical Populists has ensured

subsequent definitions of Latin American Populism made by both Dormusch and

Edwards and Kaufman and Stallings have been based on economics: Kaufman and

Stallings believe all economic policies were implemented with specific personal political

goals in mind15, while Dormusch and Edwards see Populism as “an approach to
10
Populists were some of the first to harness radio and television, using them to establish and maintain
contact with their broad base of supporters, giving them a much wider scope and making them a household
name. It also gave the appearance of being cutting-edge and modern, something traditional politicians
sorely lacked. New modes of transport, such as aviation, were also employed, aiding their campaigns in a
similar fashion. See Conniff, Populism in Latin America, p. 5
11
Vargas was part of the 1930’s revolution and therefore already had public persona, but he used his image
as cowboy drinking yerba maté to appeal to the poorer Brazilians and show he was one of them. For more
information see Michael Conniff’s chapter Brazil’s Populist Republic and Beyond in Conniff, Michael L.
ed., Populism in Latin America, (Tuscaloosa, 2001)
12
A large bureaucracy was created to supply government jobs to faithful followers; neighbourhood
improvements were financed; easy loans were authorized; food was subsidised; public transport costs were
reduced; employment benefits rose; free education was supported.
13
Conniff, Populism in Latin America,p. 6
14
Demmers, Jolle; Fernandez Jilberto, Alex E.; Hogenboom, Barbara, eds., Miraculous Metamorphoses:
The Neoliberalization of Latin American Populism, (London, 2001), p. 5
15
Budget deficits to stimulate domestic demand aimed to obtain the backing of domestically oriented
business; wage increases and price controls aimed to mobilise support within organised labour and the
lower middle-class groups; exchange-rate control to reduce inflation and increase wages aimed to

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economics that emphasizes growth and income redistribution and de-emphasises the risks

of inflation and deficit finance, external constraints, and the reaction of economic agents

to aggressive non-market policies”16, ultimately precipitating its own destruction and

harming those groups it professes to help17. Although useful in their analysis, the

arguments’ focus on economics limits their definitions to Classical Populism and fails to

account for a broader definition that incorporates Neopopulism.

Populism appeared an unlikely candidate to enact neoliberal economic reforms –

as it was still associated with wealth redistribution through deficit spending – but

Neopopulism’s successful substitution of patronage with privatisation highlights

Populism’s flexibility beyond a single economic framework. The dire economic situation

left by the continent’s military governments - coupled with classical populists’ failure in

solving it18 - increased the calls at home and abroad to reform a bloated bureaucracy

plagued by corruption. The military had weakened the democratic institutions sufficiently

to render them unresponsive whilst inadvertently creating the means for Populism to

prosper19. Therefore their distance from the failing traditional political apparatus

combined with their charisma allowed them to introduce the “painful but necessary”20

anti-systemic reforms, (cutting spending, trimming the bureaucracy, privatising public

politically isolate the rural oligarchy, foreign enterprise, and large scale industrial elites. For more
information, see Robert Kaufman and Barbara Stalling, The Political Economy of Latin American
Populism, in Rudiger Dormusch, and Sebastian Edwards The Macroeconomics of Populism in Latin
America, (Chicago, 1991)
16
Dormusch, and Edwards, Redistributive Objective, p. 52
17
Through hyper-inflation and the legacy of huge debt, coupled with economic stagnation caused by a
short-fall in resources, see Dormusch and Edwards, Redistributive Objective, p. 52
18
Attempts to solve economic problems through deficit spending was a disaster, as the regimes failed to
fight the causes of inflation by “imposing costs on important sectors”, see Demmers, Miraculous
Metamorphoses, (London, 2001), p. 5
19
Through improving transport and infrastructure; socio-economic changes had disrupted the lives of the
poor and politically mobilized them; urbanization led to unemployment and underemployment outside the
government sector, therefore making it harder to regulate and organise the workforce – a prime populist
target; the authoritarian regimes had weakened bodies that could have organised the new workers
20
Weyland, Kurt, Populism in the Age of Neoliberalism, in Conniff, Populism in Latin America, p. 192

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enterprise, and raising taxes), that the Washington Consensus (WC) and its

accompanying institutions21 promised would bring prosperity. Many were hailed as

saviours for rescuing economies close to collapse22 and retained popularity for most of

their times in office23, but once hyper-inflation was ended and stability achieved – or was

no longer viewed as the most pressing problem – public priorities shifted towards

addressing inequalities and they fell from power24.

The distinct economic policies of classical and neopopulists proves that the

defining feature of Populism is political rather than economic: according to Michael

Conniff and Kurt Weyland, Populism is a political phenomenon found in the relationship

between the leader and their mass of followers. Conniff sees Populism’s main attribute as

its leader’s ability in “reaching the masses of voters, whom they convince to cast ballots

for them [through an] expansive style of election campaigning”25, shown by both

Classical and Neopopulism’s ability to harness public cross-base discontent with the

status-quo26 while charismatic leaders use elections to confer popular sovereignty among

a broad base of support27. Whereas classical populists used mass-rallies and public

21
The IMF, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation, and the Inter-American Development Bank
among others
22
Fujimori’s economic reforms in Peru were believed to averted a civil war, see Stein, Steve, The Paths to
Populism in Peru, in Conniff, Populism in Latin America, p. 116
23
Such as Menem in Argentina and Cardoso in Brazil, who both survived corruption charges due to high
popularity, see Weyland, Kurt, The Politics of Corruption in Latin America, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 9
No. 2, (April 1998), pp. 114
24
Many see the current wave of populists as the natural reaction to the harsh inequalities of Neoliberalism,
see Jorge Castañeda, Latin America’s Turn Left, Foreign Affairs, (May/June 2006), available at
http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060501faessay85302/jorge-g-castaneda/latin-america-s-left-turn.html
25
Conniff, Populism in Latin America, p. 1-4
26
Neopopulists they preyed on people’s despair with the old regime in turning “economic adversity into
political advantage”, Weyland,Populism in the Age of Neoliberalism, p. 174, whilst classical populists used
the dependence on the US and elite monopolisation of power to rally support, see Conniff, Populism in
Latin America,p. 2
27
Neopopulists introduced meagre social policies for the very poor which cost little but garnered a lot of
support, making harsh economic measures seem palatable, for more information see Weyland,Populism in
the Age of Neoliberalism, p. 175. Classical populist used state patronage to gathered support from the
working and middles classes, sometimes even recruiting three class-groups, see Torcuato Di Tella,
Populismo y Reforma en America Latina, Desarrollo Economico, Vol. 4 No. 16, (1963), pp. 391-425

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appearances to directly communicate with their public and maintain support, neopopulists

employed polls to similar ends whilst television allowed them to communicate directly

with their support base – despite it proving extremely expensive28.

However, although Populism claims its democratic legitimacy through popular

sovereignty, the anti-systemic nature of the movement and its high reliance on a single

charismatic leader has led to undemocratic labels: when compared with Liberal

Democracy – which holds the executive accountable through horizontal checks and

balances29 – Populism not only lacks accountability but also weakens existing democratic

institutions. The populist rejection of existing institutions30 centralises power and reduces

accountability outside elections, as their anti-systemic nature de-emphasises the political,

which “does not really, fundamentally matter as compared with the community”31.

Accordingly, operating within the existing political framework would only hinder their

ability to enact the people’s wishes32. The leader’s personal style discourages

institutionalisation and increases reliance from both their party – if they have one – and

their followers, whilst avoiding accountability. This renders internal democracy near

impossible and accountability to any fixed ideology even harder33. The populists’ need

28
This is what some accredit for the rise in corruption under neopopulist governments. For more
information see Taylor C. Boas, Television and Neopopulism in Latin America: Media Effects in Brazil and
Peru, Latin American Research Review, Vol. 40 No. 2, (June 2005), and Weyland, The Politics of
Corruption in Latin America, pp. 108
29
These checks on the executive are provided by the legislature and the courts, for more information on the
differences between popular sovereignty and Liberal Democracy, see Michael Coppedge, Venezuela:
Popular Sovereignty versus Liberal Democracy, Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies,
Kellogg Institute Working Paper #294, (April 2002)
30
They are associated with the old regime and therefore decretismo (ruling by decree) is often used to enact
reform
31
Donald MacRae, Populism as an ideology in Ionescu, Ghita, and Gellner, Ernest, Populism: Its National
Characteristics, (London 1969), p. 154
32
Fujimori took this further and actually dissolved congress and then arrested its members, claiming them
to be unconstitutional. He then ruled by decree for the remainder of his term. See Michael Conniff’s
chapter Brazil’s Populist Republic and Beyond in Conniff, Populism in Latin America,
33
Populist ideology is normally constructed through ‘ismo’ being suffixed to the leader’s name, such as
Peronismo and Menimismo

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for low levels of institutionalisation is shown clearly by their failure in countries where

strong parties commanded public votes and responded to their interests34.

This ability to enact sweeping change through low institutionalisation and popular

sovereignty has led Weyland to define Populism as “a political strategy with three

characteristics: a personal leader appeals to the heterogeneous mass of followers, many of

whom have been excluded from the mainstream of development, yet are now available

for mobilisation; the leader reaches the followers in a seemingly direct, quasi-personal

manner, that largely bypasses established intermediary organisations, such as parties and

interest associations; if the leader builds new organisations …they remain personal

vehicles with low levels of institutionalisation”35. Although this is the most accurate

description of Latin American Populism, it also implies that populist leaders exploit

untapped movements of public discontent in a purely selfish manner, corroborated by

Panizza who sees Populism is a “mode of identification available to any political actor”36.

However, according to Laclau, Populism does not exploit movements, Populism is the

movement37. This view is further substantiated by Laclau’s claim that once the populist

agenda is fulfilled, the movement falls away, as the original ‘internal frontiers’ that

divided the ruler and the ruled are brought down38 - the ending of ISI and the current rise

of left-leaning leaders pays homage to this fact. Therefore a distinction must be made

between those populist movements in which the leader represents the will of the people,

(which suggests a more organic occurrence), and those in which the people represent the

34
Weyland, Populism in the Age of Neoliberalism, p. 175
35
Kurt Weyland, Neopopulism and Neoliberalism in Latin America: Unexpected Affinities, Studies in
Comparative International Development Vol. 31 No.3, (1996), pp. 4
36
Panizza, Populism and the Mirror of Democracy, p. 4
37
Laclau, Populism: What’s in a Name?, p. 14
38
This relates to Gramsci’s theory of ‘organic crisis’ and its completion through a populist or revolutionary
rising. For a more in depth relation of Gramsci’s theory to Populism see Laclau, Populism: What’s in a
Name?,

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will of the leader, such as Hitler’s Nazi Germany, when a discontent is exploited for the

leader’s own ends39. Although Weyland’s definition will be the one used throughout this

essay to determine the populist nature of each regime, it must also be remembered that

the degree of Populism will “depend on the depth of the chasm separating political

alternatives”40, while a populist label will not go beyond highlighting certain political

elements of regime rather than why it arose or what its effect will be. Populism occurs for

a reason, and therefore the nature of what it has risen up against is extremely important.

Most definitions highlight the way in which Populism weakens democratic organisations

for personal gain, and ignore not only the true nature of these institutions, but also the

positive effects they may have had41. This blanket evaluation smears the reputation of

‘populist’ regimes42, and disregards the fact that Latin America is not home to fully-

functioning idealistic liberal democratic institutions. The reality of Latin America’s

Elitist Democracy is “far from perfect” 43, suffering from heavy degrees of clientalism

and corruption in an unresponsive system44.

Institutional confidence is extremely low in Latin America: in 2005, a

Latinobarómetro poll revealed that “members of parliament who represent their electors”

and “competitive party systems” were the least important aspects of democracy for South

Americans45. Tariq Ali believes this is caused by the WC’s replacement of politics with
39
Laclau, Ernesto, On Populist Reason, (London, 2005), p. 157
40
Laclau, Populism: What’s in a Name?, p. 12
41
Weyland refers to Fujimori’s legacy as an “organizational wasteland”, but Stein notes that Fujimori was
elected as a “bulwark against chaos” who succeeded in saving the country from civil war. See Weyland,
Populism in the Age of Neoliberalism, and Steve Stein, Paths to Populsim in Peru, both in Conniff,
Populism in Latin America, p. 192
42
As many are labelled ‘populist’ unfairly for simply calling for change. See Carlsen, “Ugly Heads” and
Blanket Condemnations: Protest and Populism, available at www.counterpunch.org/carlsen10092004.html
43
Weyland, Populism in the Age of Neoliberalism, p. 192
44
Ibid. p. 192
45
Informe Latinobarómetro 2005 available at www.latinobarometro.org

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neoliberal reform, which left the party-system “drained of political differences”46. Francis

Fukuyama’s “unabashed victory of economic and political Liberalism”47 has meant that

democratic institutions cease to function, as according to Colburn, “ideological

heterogeneity is needed to stimulate political choice, invigorate public participation, and

prevent collusion among the political elite”48. The implications of this are obvious as

“Latin American elites are not committed to democracy and are supportive of a system

only for as long as they can extract from it some personal benefit”49. The absence of a

viable left-wing alternative has translated into a “lack of urgency in solving trenchant

problems of poverty and social inequality” and the “inability to complement individual

initiatives with effective public policies”50. In most Latin American states the party

systems are considered the weakest link, either through their representatives’

opportunistic tendencies that weaken governments and their own internal organisation, or

through insulating themselves from public accountability51. Any reform would require the

participation of the parties themselves which would be political suicide52. O’Donnell

identifies the wave of post-military neoliberal ‘packages’ as actually weakening

democracy through reducing institutionalisation53 and leading to the Delegative

Democracy we see today54. However, although correct, this fails to demonstrate that
46
Tariq Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean, Axis of Hope, (London, 2006), p. 4
47
Francis Fukuyama, The End of History, The National Interest, (Summer 1989)
48
Forest D. Colburn, Latin America at the End of Politics, (Princeton, 2001), p. 4
49
Benjamin G. Bishin, Robert R. Barr, Mathew. J Lebo, The Impact of Economic Versus Institutional
Factors in Elite Evaluations of Presidential Progress Toward Democracy in Latin America, Comparative
Political Studies, Vol. 39, No. 10, (December 2006), pp. 1121
50
Colburn, Latin America at the End of Politics, p. 7
51
Ibid. p. 37
52
In terms of the benefits they would be renouncing
53
In its place arose clientalism, patrimonialism, corruption, and a “highly disaggregated and direct access to
policy makers”, Guillermo O’Donnell, Delegative Democracy, Helen Kellogg Institute for International
Studies, Kellogg Institute Working Paper #192, (April 1993), p. 8
54
The ‘packages’ were neoliberal economic adjustment packages to open up the Latin American
democracies to world markets and reduce the heavy state bureaucracy. However the conditions under
which they were introduced were far from perfect due to the terrible inherited situation; the world crisis in
the 1970’s and 1980’s; the terrible socio-economic situation; high inflation and economic stagnation. By

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corruption and clientalism have always been part of Latin: be it through state

interventionism, neoliberal reform, or the expensive neopopulist election campaigns, they

have continued to erode the government legitimacy and that of the political institutions55.

Venezuela was viewed as one of the strongest, “thoroughly consolidated”

democracies Latin America, but 1989-1993 saw its “deepest democratic crisis”56. The

combination of an all-pervading partyarchy locked in pactism and a presidential system

prone to stale-mate meant short-term stability but long-term disaster. AD and COPEI57,

(referred to as los partidos del status/the established parties) had dominated the party

system since the fall of Marcos Peréz Jímenez in 1958 through what became known as el

Punto Fijo58, and had “monopolized the electoral process, dominated the legislative

process, and penetrated politically relevant organisations to a degree that violates the

spirit of democracy” 59, blocking all formal and informal channels of expression. Internal

party activity was based on an “issueless power-struggle”60 leaving the President isolated

from his own party and opposition, whilst leading to impasses and constitutional

deadlocks61. The much-heralded ‘separation of powers’ was non existent: politicians took

Delegative Democracy, O’Donnell refers to the form of Presidentialism that lacked the horizontal
accountability of Representative Democracy and weakened institutionalism in the same way Populism did,
seeing accountability to institutions as “an unnecessary impediment” (p. 8). However, where it differed was
the intrinsic link between the President and his ‘package’ which would determine his success or failure
rather than a link to a specific ‘movement’. See O’Donnell, Delegative Democracy
55
Weyland, The Politics of Corruption in Latin America, pp. 108
56
Michael Coppedge, Strong Parties and Lame Ducks: Presidential Partyarchy in Venezuela, (Stanford
1997), p. 1
57
Acción Democrática/Democratic Action – who came to power as a populist party under Romúlo
Bentacourt and el Comité de Organización Política Electoral Independiente/Social Christian Democrats
58
A pact signed in 1958 that ensured both parties would continue the same policies to avoid political
instability, for more information see Coppedge, Strong Parties and Lame Ducks, Chapter 4
59
Ibid. p. 3
60
All ideological factions were either excluded from power and quickly dissolved, see Coppedge, Strong
Parties and Lame Ducks
61
The nature of the Venezuelan electoral system meant that a President could only stand for one term, so
half way through his term, factionalism broke out between those who remained loyal to the President and
those who supported the new candidate. This was highly damaging, and led to inaction and in the case of
Pérez, impeachment. See Coppedge, Strong Parties and Lame Ducks, p. 4

17
orders from their party leaders, judges were party-appointed, as were local governors.

This was the accepted status quo, as like in so many other Latin American countries an

alternative did not exist: ideology had been replaced by opportunism whilst the left

wing’s exclusion left them voiceless. No opposition meant no accountability. Elite

Democracy was acceptable to the US despite its lack of mass-participation, as once the

label of ‘Democracy’ is applied, all questions regarding the regime’s nature of become

irrelevant62.

Bolivia suffered a similar fate. According to Merille Grindle: “Bolivian political

heritage …is characterized by cyclical processes of a zero-sum conflict and consensual

political pacting” 63, while all economic and social reforms introduced since 1985 have

been “imposed through recurrent recourse to states of emergency and repressive

means”64. The turbulent transition to democracy from General Hugo Bánzer Suarez in

197865 that led to MNR-MIR66 ‘pacting’ soon succumbed to corruption and nepotism that

arise in such an insulated environment. Both parties have served as vehicles for

personalist leaders67, while the inherited ties and clientalist networks acted as “channels

62
This shown by the US Senate Commission’s view that “democracy backsliding anywhere is a threat to
democracy promotion everywhere”, Lugar, Richard G., Non-Governmental Organisations and Democracy
Promotion: Giving Voice to the People, a report to members of the United States Senate committee on
Foreign Relations by their chairman, 109th Congress, 2nd Session, December 22, 2006, (Washington,
2006), available at www.gpoaccess.gov/congress/index.html
63
Grindle, Merille S., and Domingo, Pilar, eds., Proclaiming Revolution: Bolivia in Comparative
Perspective, (London, 2003), p. 377
64
Grindle, Merille S., and Domingo, Pilar, eds., Proclaiming Revolution: Bolivia in Comparative
Perspective, (London, 2003), p. 377
65
The transition to democracy took the form of a “complex cycle of disputed elections, public
confrontations, and officially orchestrated violence”, resulting in direct rule by the representatives of drug
cartels, and the collapse of public authority. See Whitehead, Laurence, High Anxiety in the Andes: Bolivia
and the Viability of Democracy, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 12 No. 2, (April 2001), pp. 6-7
66
The Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (Revolutionary Nationalist Movement) began as a political
movement in response to Bánzer, whilst the Movimiento Izquierda Revolucionario, (Revolutionary Leftist
Movement) was formed in 1971 as a revolutionary offshoot due to ideological differences
67
Grindle, Merille S., and Domingo, Pilar, eds., Proclaiming Revolution: Bolivia in Comparative
Perspective, (London, 2003), p. 373

18
of state patronage”68. Inter- and intra-party logic dominated Congress, rendering it

“unable to build bridges to wider society” and void of internal democracy69. What is

known in Bolivia as democradura is a prime example of “how a transition process may

result in a polyarchy that blocks the transition to a representative democratic regime”70.

Public confidence in the political institutions has remained extremely low while contempt

for traditional politicians has soared71. The lack of public consent over the

implementation of neoliberal policies has worsened this72 and produced a “complete

divergence” between politicians and the public73. The failure of conventional channels of

expression has led to people marching through the streets in an attempt to be heard,

antagonising the situation further74. Corruption in Bolivia is endemic, perceived as an

even greater problem than unemployment75, but tolerance however, is finite, seen by the

public lynching and burning of a local mayor for misuse of public funds76. Too many

68
Salman, Ton, The Jammed Democracy: Bolivia’s Troubled Political Learning Process, Bulletin of Latin
American Research, Vol. 25 No. 2, (2006), pp. 174
69
Salman, Ton, The Jammed Democracy: Bolivia’s Troubled Political Learning Process, Bulletin of Latin
American Research, Vol. 25 No. 2, (2006), pp. 173
70
This process is further highlighted by the integration of the ADN and UCS populist parties into the party
system, despite their outspoken criticism of it. Political power once more trumped ideology or principle.
See Willem Assies, Bolivia: Una Democracía Gasificada, Revista Europea de Estudios
Latinoamericanos y del Caribe, Issue 76, (April 2004), p. 27
71
This was best demonstrated by the public’s demanded appointment of Rodriguez in place of resigning
President Mesa in 2005, (despite being third in line to take the Presidency), as he was “the only man the
demonstrators deemed trust-worthy enough” to call elections immediately. See Salman, Ton, The Jammed
Democracy: Bolivia’s Troubled Political Learning Process, Bulletin of Latin American Research, Vol.
25 No. 2, (2006), pp. 163
72
General Banzer’s successful Presidential campaign in 1997 was based on a “socially sensitive” manifesto
to help the ‘little people’, but his time in office saw poverty worsen and neoliberal policies continue
unabated, furthering the view that todos son iguales, (They are all the same),when it came to Bolivian
political parties, see Salman, Ton, The Jammed Democracy: Bolivia’s Troubled Political Learning Process,
Bulletin of Latin American Research, Vol. 25 No. 2, (2006), pp. 168
73
Salman, Ton, The Jammed Democracy: Bolivia’s Troubled Political Learning Process, Bulletin of Latin
American Research, Vol. 25 No. 2, (2006), pp. 164
74
This makes politicians act less accountably as they feel whatever they do, there will be protests. See
Salman, Ton, The Jammed Democracy: Bolivia’s Troubled Political Learning Process, Bulletin of Latin
American Research, Vol. 25 No. 2, (2006), pp. 166
75
Alquelay, Carlos, Tal Como Somos, Cambio 16, (31/1/1994)
76
Shifter, Michael, Breakdown in the Andes, Foreign Affairs, (September/October 2004), available at
http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20040901faessay83511/michael-shifter/breakdown-in-the-andes.html

19
academics assume that because Bolivia’s democratic institutions are consolidated, they

therefore function, but in doing so fail to realise their true nature in what O’Donnell

refers to as the “illusionary character” of consolidated democracies77.

‘Feckless’ Brazilian Democracy78 is distinct from both Venezuelan and Bolivian

Democracy, but equally poor. Leslie Bethell wrote in 1993 that “Brazilians are not

necessarily better off under today’s democracy than they were under less democratic or

even authoritarian regimes in the past, and would not necessarily be worse off under

some hypothetical populist and/or military regime, of right or left, or indeed some

revolutionary regime in the future.”79 The Domination of powerful political dynasties

created during the authoritarian regime is now being reinforced through clientalist voting

patterns80, whilst a plethora of political parties fight among themselves in one of the

world’s most fragile party-systems81. The reliance for votes on local mayors rather than

parties82 means there is little party-loyalty: one in five members of the last Congress

switched parties for personal gain83, while coalitions are characterised more by back room

power-broking than ideology. This severely inhibits any government’s attempts stable

democracy and almost encourages a personalist approach84. It is no wonder then that


77
According to Assies, Bolivia remains no more than a “cluster of bureaucracies and a coherent legal
system that, in the last instance, exercises the monopoly on the use of violence within a given territory”.
For a comparative evaluation of Bolivian Democracy, see Willem Assies, Bolivia: Una Democracía
Gasificada
78
The term applied by Scott Mainwaring, see ‘Brazil: Weak Parties, Feckless Democracy’, in Building
Democratic Institutions: Party Systems in Latin America, (Stanford, 1995), p. 354
79
Leslie Bethell, On Democracy in Brazil Past and Present, Institute of Latin American Studies,
Occasional Papers No. 7, University of London, (May 1993), p. 1
80
Zibechi, Raul, Lula: Between the Elite and the Movements, IRC Americas Program, (28/11/2006),
available at http://americas.irc-online.org/am/3731
81
Mainwaring, Scott, Brazil: Weak Parties, Feckless Democracy, in Mainwaring, Scott, and Scully,
Timothy R., Building Democratic Institutions: Party Systems in Latin America, (Stanford, 1995)
82
This was further enshrined by the 1988 constitution which increased the decentralisation of fiscal
spending, but failed to allocate its use, providing huge funds for local officials to use for clientalism and
patronage. See Leslie E. Armijo, Mass Democracy: The Real Reason that Brazil Ended Inflation?, World
Development, Vol. 33 Issue 12, (December 2005)
83
Parliament or Pigsty? The Economist, (8/2/2007), available at www.economist.com
84
Leslie Bethell, On Democracy in Brazil Past and Present, p. 2

20
Brazilian confidence in democracy and those that partake in it is rock bottom: according

to an opinion poll by Vieja, Brazil’s biggest newsweekly, most Brazilians believed

representatives in Congress to be “under worked, self-serving, and dishonest”85, whilst

Latinobarómetro demonstrates the political fatalism among Brazilians who view the most

important aspect of democracy as the guarantee of an income rather than free elections

and responsive politicians86. Fatalism has similarly infected attitudes towards corruption,

shown by the Brazilian proverb ‘rouba mas faz’ (he steals but he gets things done)87.

Adolf Berle, former-US ambassador to Brazil, once remarked that the best way to

achieve successful democracy is to “learn it”88, something the USA and other vested

interests appear unable to allow Latin America to do: the imposition of policies through

conditional loans not only undermines the government enacting them but also the notion

of democracy as a popular institution. However, while the Brazilian political system

continues to serve those who profit most from it, change seems a rather exerted effort.

Therefore, in viewing what the United States heralds as functioning Liberal

Democracy, it is possible to see that the criteria against which we judge Populism is

flawed. It is attacked for weakening democracy, but is this the democracy we want to

defend? Is this the democracy that Latin Americans deserve? It is possible to see not only

why Populism arose, but why it continues to do so: in each country, an unresponsive

political system riddled with corruption and controlled by the few has muted the voices of

its people. Traditional channels to express discontent – or even a varied opinion – are

blocked, and promises of change are continuously broken. In the next chapters, an
85
Parliament or Pigsty? The Economist, (8/2/2007), available at www.economist.com
86
Informe Latinobarómetro 2005 available at www.latinobarometro.org
87
Weyland, The Politics of Corruption in Latin America, pp. 115
88
Leslie Bethell, On Democracy in Brazil Past and Present, p. 16

21
evaluation of the current regimes in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Brazil will assess to what

extent they are populist, but more importantly, what impact they have had on their host-

nations. Before dismissing them as negative and harmful to democracy, it is necessary to

weigh up both positive and negative aspects of the regimes in all areas, (not just their

effect on democracy), to fully appreciate their impact, deciding conclusively whether

Populism deserves its negative label.

22
Chapter 2 – Chavismo

Until 1978, the trickle-down effect from oil profits provided sufficient benefits for

people not to scrutinise Venezuelan democracy89. However, the end of the prolonged oil

boom and its associated benefits saw the extreme economic polarization of society and

the true nature of an unresponsive elite-oriented political system unable to resolve

increasing inequalities. The 1989 Caracazo90 in reaction to President Pérez’s US-

prompted neoliberal reforms showed both people’s lack of support (later demonstrated by

two attempted coups in 1992) and the absence of channels to express discontent91. Pérez

was impeached in 1993 not because of public demand, but his lack of congressional

support by breaking with the traditional parties92. However, the Caldera-led ‘government

of impotents’ (as the 17 party coalition was referred to on the streets) that replaced Perez

failed to halt the downward economic spiral, contributing to a 66.7% rise in poverty by

199593. After beating a former Miss Universe to the presidency94, Chávez entered Mira

Flores on 2nd February 1999 on a platform of opening up politics, fighting corruption, and

ending poverty. However, many were worried that the election of a non-Punto Fijo

89
Bernard Mommer, Subversive Oil, in Steve Ellner and Daniel Hellinger, Venezuelan Politics in the
Chávez Era: Class, Polarization and Conflict, (Colorado, 2003)
90
A spontaneous violent uprising in Caracas in response to the tax raises which ended bloodily in army
intervention and the imposition of Marshall Law, see Daniel Hellinger, Political Overview, in Steve Ellner
and Daniel Hellinger, Venezuelan Politics in the Chávez Era:Class, Polarization and Conflict, (Colorado,
2003), p. 31
91
Similar policies were introduced in Argentina and Peru without violent uprisings occurring, see Michael
Coppedge, Strong Parties and Lame Ducks, p. 160
92
Ibid. p. 8
93
The economy also went into free-fall, as 10 national banks consumed 12% of the country’s GDP in
attempting to avoid bankruptcy, Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean, p. 57
94
AD and COPEI sponsored Irene Lailin Sáez Conde, a former Miss Universe winner, as their Presidential
candidate as their own candidates lacked credibility. Surprisingly enough, until Conde joined AD and
COPEI, she was ahead in the polls. For more information see Hellinger, Daniel, Political Overview, in
Ellner and Hellinger, Venezuelan Politics in the Chávez Era, p. 37-8

23
candidate signalled the end of Venezuelan democracy, especially when combined with

the personalism of Populism. The opposition rejected Chávez as a populist buffoon95.

However, a serious analysis of Chavismo and its consequence for Venezuela is needed to

evaluate whether Populism is the evil portrayed96.

General Hugo Chávez Frías clearly meets the established definition of a populist –

although his likening to Hitler by Donald Rumsfeld and Mussolini by Michael Shifter97

appears somewhat hysterical98. He is a personalist leader, who earned his reputation

through the failed 1992 coup, and now appears to direct the Bolivarian Revolution single-

handedly through his top-down style of government99. Chávez holds a mass of loyal

followers, who have supported him through six successful elections and “poured down

into the streets [of Caracas]”100 in support after learning of the 2002 coup against him101.

The charismatic linkages – heightened by institutional failure – are also evident, shining

through in successive speeches and rallies, much in the style of the classical populists102.

95
Coppedge, Michael, Venezuela: Popular Sovereignty versus Liberal Democracy, Helen Kellogg
Institute for International Studies, Kellogg Institute Working Paper #294, (April 2002), p. 7
96
Vicente Fox and Enrique Iglesias (Inter-American Development Bank President) claim “populism is
rearing its ugly head in Latin America”, and urge businessmen to “support socially responsible market
economics to halt populist and demagogic proposals that divert us from the true route to development”,
taken from Carlsen, Laura, “Ugly Heads” and Blanket Condemnations: Protest and Populism, Counter
Punch, (9/10/2004), available at www.counterpunch.org/carlsen10092004.html
97
Michael Shifter, In Search of Hugo Chávez, Foreign Affairs, (May/June 2006), available at
http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060501faessay85303/michael-shifter/in-search-of-hugo-ch-vez.html
98
Unlike Nazism, Chavismo represents the will of its followers rather than using Jews as scapegoats for
economic problems, see Laclau, Ernesto, On Populist Reason, (London, 2005), p. 157
99
Wilpert, Gregory, The Meaning of Twenty-First Century Socialism for Venezuela,
Venezuelanalysis.com, (11/2/2006), available from www.venezuelanalysis.com
100
Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean, p. 10
101
His followers appeared so loyal that when Chávez’s supposed presidential replacement entered Mira
Flores, a young Bugler refused to play the Presidential march, claiming the President was not present. See
Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean, p. 62
102
Chávez also stresses his common background to reinforce his image as a ‘man of the people’. For more
on charismatic linkages, see Weber, Max, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology; Translated, Edited, and
With an Introduction by HH Gerth and C Wright Mills, (Oxford, 1958), p. 245

24
Chávez maintains a direct link with his followers through Chavismo103, spread through

public appearance and his television show, ‘Alo Presidente’104, while avoiding any

specific ideological trappings105. His Fifth Bolivarian Republic, (MVR106) is less a

political party and more a “heterogeneous political grouping”107. In such a polarised

society, rejection of the status-quo was a pre-requisite for the movement’s origination as

MBR-200108, but it is continuously exploited by Chávez, who lays the blame for

Venezuela’s woes squarely at the door of the traditional political classes, the USA, and

the other oligarchs who controlled Venezuela, uniting the poor – his main constituency –

behind him109. Nationalised oil plays a large role in this, being used to foster Pan-Latin

Americanism through subsidised deals to poorer nations, and providing the financial

clout to challenge the regional hegemony of the United States110. Patronage through

petroleum-profits fights poverty in a style reminiscent of Robin Hood, remaining loyal to

his lower class base rather than becoming bourgeois by courting the middle and upper

classes111. This – as well as a more secure financial base that avoids deficit spending and

103
His own political movement combines militarism, nationalism, socialism, and ‘Bolivarian unity’
104
Shifter, In Search of Hugo Chávez, available at
http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060501faessay85303/michael-shifter/in-search-of-hugo-ch-vez.html
105
Chávez’s ideology is of “a Socialism of the twentieth-century, which is based in justice, in liberty, and in
equality”, but never fully defined. Taken from Frías, Hugo C., Linking Alternatives II Conference, Vienna,
(13/5/2006), whole speech available at www.gobiernoenlinea.gob.ve
106
Movimiento Quinta República – the V replaces Fifth
107
Shifter, In Search of Hugo Chávez, available at
http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060501faessay85303/michael-shifter/in-search-of-hugo-ch-vez.html
108
The movement which staged the failed coup in 1992 with Chávez at its head. For more information see
Julia Buxton, Economic Policy and the Rise of Hugo Chávez, in Steve Ellner and Daniel Hellinger, ed.,
Venezuelan Politics in the Chávez Era: Class, Polarization and Conflict, (Colorado, 2003)
109
In his inaugural address, Chávez called all Venezuelans “to save Venezuela from this immense and
putrid swamp in which we have been sunk during the 40 years of demagoguery and corruption”, whole
speech available at www.gobiernoenlinea.gob.ve
110
Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean receive cut-price oil, whilst on the continent, Chávez has proposed
the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA—Alternativa Bolivariana para América), as his own
free-trade alternative to FTAA, (Free Trade Area of the Americas), see Chávez Claims Victory at Americas
Summit, Associate Press, (8/11/2005), available at
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/11/08/ap/world/mainD8DOJIDG0.shtml
111
Wiles, Peter, A syndrome not a doctrine in Ionescu, Ghita, and Gellner, Ernest, Populism: Its National
Characteristics, (London 1969),

25
hyper-inflation – distinguishes him from classical populists112, although both recognise

the socio-economic problems ignored by the market113.

The dangers inherent within any populist movement are present within

Chavismo114. While the personality cult surrounding Hugo Chávez facilitates much

needed rapid change, it engenders dependency at the expense of a clearly defined

political programme or organisation115. Despite ideological assemblies at a lower level,

the debate has not permeated the governing coalition116, hindering internal democracy and

insulating Chávez from criticism117. With the planned creation of a state-party118, there is

a growing fear of “discounting democracy in the name of unity”119, further increasing the

“potential for wrong-headed policies”120. The top-down leadership, “reinforced by

Chávez’s military instincts”121, ensures little questioning of superiors and makes the

112
Wiles, Peter, A syndrome not a doctrine in Ionescu, Ghita, and Gellner, Ernest, Populism: Its National
Characteristics, (London 1969). Classical populists would typically have a support base of at two or even
three different classes, see Di Tella, Torcuato, Populismo y Reforma en America Latina, Desarrollo
Economico, Vol. 4 No. 16, (1963), pp. 391-425
113
Shifter, In Search of Hugo Chávez, available at http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060501faessay85303-
p10/michael-shifter/in-search-of-hugo-ch-vez.html
114
Centralisation of power through the cult of personality; loose ideological foundations that limit the
institutionalisation of the movement; the continuation of exclusionary clientalism and patronage, in the
same vein as the previous government, see McCoy, Jennifer, Chávez and the End of ‘Partyarchy’ in
Venezuela, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 10, No. 3, (July 1999), pp. 64-77
115
Chávez continues to preach ‘21st Century Socialism’ but fails to pin down any specifics a
116
Hawkins, Kirk, Populism in Venezuela: The Rise of Chavismo, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 5,
(2003), pp. 1151
117
Supporters have to refrain from criticism for fear of cupplying “rhetorical ammunition to the
opposition”, Wilpert, Gregory, The Meaning of Twenty-First Century Socialism for Venezuela,
Venezuelanalysis.com, (11/2/2006), available from www.venezuelanalysis.com
118
To replace the current Polo Patriotico coalition, the loose legislative group led by the MVR that holds a
majority within Congress
119
Lander, Edgardo, Those That do not Learn From History, Transnational Institute, (January 2007),
available at www.tni.org
120
Such as the 2004 ‘Social Responsibility Law’, which clamps down on ‘critical voices’. See Wilpert,
Gregory, The Meaning of Twenty-First Century Socialism for Venezuela, Venezuelanalysis.com,
(11/2/2006), available from www.venezuelanalysis.com
121
Wilpert, Gregory, The Meaning of Twenty-First Century Socialism for Venezuela,
Venezuelanalysis.com, (11/2/2006), available from www.venezuelanalysis.com

26
correction administrative policy errors extremely difficult122. The MVR are over-reliant

on Chávez, accessing democracy through his personalism rather than their own

democratic organisation123. The creation of new institutions to remedy this have failed as

they “lack objectives or permanence beyond their affection for Chávez, or are tied to the

national executive in a way that contradicts their stated purpose of generating

development from-below” 124. According to Hawkins, any institutionalisation would be

“more by accident than by design”125. The other danger within Chavismo is the

“persistence of anti-democratic political culture of clientalism and patronage”126. The use

of the ‘Tascon List’127 by the government to deny jobs and services to anti-chavistas

contradicts Chávez’s campaign promise to form a “government that will not exclude

anyone”128, undermining the rule of law and opening the door to corruption. This form of

patronage creates insulated exclusive groups and risks delegitimizing the government by

adhering to Punto Fijo principles rather than an inclusive Venezuela129.

Hugo Chávez’s election was a rejection of the established political system and

therefore a mandate for change, but construction of a new political order means first

122
Wilpert, Gregory, The Meaning of Twenty-First Century Socialism for Venezuela,
Venezuelanalysis.com, (11/2/2006), available from www.venezuelanalysis.com
123
Hawkins, Kirk, Populism in Venezuela: The Rise of Chavismo, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 5,
(2003), pp. 1152
124
Hawkins, Kirk, Populism in Venezuela: The Rise of Chavismo, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 5,
(2003), pp. 1157-8
125
Hawkins, Kirk, Populism in Venezuela: The Rise of Chavismo, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 5,
(2003), pp. 1157-8
126
Wilpert, Gregory, The Meaning of Twenty-First Century Socialism for Venezuela,
Venezuelanalysis.com, (11/2/2006), available from www.venezuelanalysis.com
127
Formulated by Luís Tascon, a National Assembly Deputy, of all the names on the recall referendum
petition. It was originally intended to ensure no chavistas’ signatures were fraudulently on the petition.
128
Wilpert, Gregory, The Meaning of Twenty-First Century Socialism for Venezuela,
Venezuelanalysis.com, (11/2/2006), available from www.venezuelanalysis.com
129
This is an extremely difficult task given the extent of polarization within Venezuelan society, and the
animosity that exists between the two sides. See Wilpert, Gregory, The Meaning of Twenty-First Century
Socialism for Venezuela, Venezuelanalysis.com, (11/2/2006), available from www.venezuelanalysis.com

27
removing the old. In electing an Asemblea Nacional Constituyente130 to draft a new

constitution, the “democratic insurance policy” 131 provided through the checks and

balances of Liberalism has been cashed in by Chávez for a “windfall of responsiveness”


132
in the form of Delegative Democracy. Some commentators worry that Venezuelans

“lost their insurance that democracy would survive in the future”133, but perhaps they

should be less concerned about the institution than those it alleges to serve. Although

Allan Randolph Brewer-Carías believed the new constitution laid “the constitutional

groundwork for the development of political authoritarianism, buttressed by regulations

that reinforce centralism, Presidentialism, statism, state paternalism, partisanship, and

militarism; with the danger of the collapse of democracy itself”134, in fact it “stayed

within the range of constitutional practices in Western Democracies”135. The ANC’s aim

was not to produce a dictatorial constitution, but to release the existing institutions from

the grip of the Partidos de Status and begin enacting the ‘Bolivarian Revolution’136. By

the time the ANC was dissolved, every check on power had been amended by a body that

was 93% Chavista: the legislature had been replaced by an ANC seven-member

130
National Constituent Assembly, or ANC, was elected in July 1999 with the Chávez-led coalition Polo
Patriotico winning 125 out of the 131 seats, see Maya, Margarita L., Hugo Chávez Frías: His movement
and His Presidency, in Ellner and Hellinger, Venezuelan Politics in the Chávez Era
131
Coppedge, Michael, Venezuela: Popular Sovereignty versus Liberal Democracy, Helen Kellogg
Institute for International Studies, Kellogg Institute Working Paper #294, (April 2002), p. 15
132
Coppedge, Michael, Venezuela: Popular Sovereignty versus Liberal Democracy, Helen Kellogg
Institute for International Studies, Kellogg Institute Working Paper #294, (April 2002), p. 15
133
Coppedge, Michael, Venezuela: Popular Sovereignty versus Liberal Democracy, Helen Kellogg
Institute for International Studies, Kellogg Institute Working Paper #294, (April 2002), p. 15
134
Allan R. Brewer-Carías, Relecciones críticas sobre la constitución de Venezuela de 1999, paper
prepared for the conference on The New Venezuelan Constitution: A New Political Model for Latin
America?, Georgetown University, (2 February 2000), available at
www.bibliojuridica.org/libros/1/48/8.pdf
135
Coppedge, Michael, Venezuela: Popular Sovereignty versus Liberal Democracy, Helen Kellogg
Institute for International Studies, Kellogg Institute Working Paper #294, (April 2002), p. 16
136
The consequence of not doing this was seen during the infancy of Chávez’s presidency by the obvious
obstructionism experienced in congress – similar to that experienced under Allende in Chile – when MVR
only held one third of the seats, see Maya, Margarita L., Hugo Chávez Frías: His movement and His
Presidency, in Ellner and Hellinger, Venezuelan Politics in the Chávez Era

28
emergency judicial committee; 190 judges had been suspended on corruption charges; the

electoral committee had been purged for the same reason; political parties had been

thoroughly rejected in the 1998 election, seeing COPEI disintegrate and AD divide,

leaving independent candidates as the only opposition in the ANC137; labour unions – so

closely tied to the two big parties – were left even weaker after their subsidies were cut.

Non-governmental checks also lost their voice, with an end to church funding due to their

vociferous opposition to Chávez’s pro-abortion stance138, whilst capital left Venezuela en

masse139. Claims of a constitutional dictatorship are unfounded as the constitution itself

favours decentralisation, while the enabling laws granted to Chávez were also available –

and abused – under the 1961 constitution 140. Although openly admitting his desire to

abolish presidential term-limits, Chávez also promised to submit any upcoming

constitutional changes to a public vote141. A high degree of militarism142 has resulted in

authoritarian labels, but according to Norden, their use has been within a government

framework “rather than [in a] traditional dictatorship”143

137
As opposition candidates ran as independents rather than in a coalition, they only receive 4.7% seats,
despite receiving 34.5% of the vote between them, Coppedge, Michael, Venezuela: Popular Sovereignty
versus Liberal Democracy, Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Kellogg Institute Working
Paper #294, (April 2002), p. 29-30
138
Coppedge, Michael, Venezuela: Popular Sovereignty versus Liberal Democracy, Helen Kellogg
Institute for International Studies, Kellogg Institute Working Paper #294, (April 2002), p. 31
139
$4billion left Venezuela between July ’98 and December ’99; factories closed; production slumped;
unemployment rose to 20%, see Coppedge, Michael, Venezuela: Popular Sovereignty versus Liberal
Democracy, Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Kellogg Institute Working Paper #294,
(April 2002), p. 19
140
Coppedge, Michael, Venezuela: Popular Sovereignty versus Liberal Democracy, Helen Kellogg
Institute for International Studies, Kellogg Institute Working Paper #294, (April 2002), p. 30
141
Kyriakou, Niko, and Markovits, Martin, Hugo Chavez's Plans, IRC Americas Program Elections
Report, (13/12/2006), available at http://americas.irc-online.org/am/3792
142
Chávez is still an officer; 1/3 regional governments are the hands of the military; unarmed militias and
‘citizen power’ underpins the regime, and according to the constitution is the ‘5th branch of the
government’, see Shifter, In Search of Hugo Chávez, available at
http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060501faessay85303-p10/michael-shifter/in-search-of-hugo-ch-vez.html
143
Norden, Deborah L., Democracy in Uniform, in Ellner and Hellinger, Venezuelan Politics in the Chávez
Era, p. 110

29
The Fifth Bolivarian Republic’s lack of accountability is the main source of its

undemocratic label, but equally at fault is the opposition’s failure to hold it to account.

The traditional parties’ response to the fractious 1998 election was undemocratic and

further weakened their position: the failed 2002 coup allowed Chávez to increase control

of the military by purging dissenters; the national strike allowed him to take control of

PDVSA, (Venezuela’s state petroleum company); his victory in the 2004 recall

referendum144 increased his legitimacy and discredited those who disputed its result145;

while the opposition’s boycot of the December 2005 National Assembly elections

allowed the Polo Patriótico to take all 167 seats146. This inability to mount a credible

opposition to Chávez has led to personal attacks and slanderous statements in the media –

the opposition’s only remaining weapon147. According to Lemoine, “the five privately

owned channels …and nine of the 10 major national newspapers …have taken over the

role of the traditional political parties”148. Rather than holding Chávez and his policies

accountable149, the opposition have demonised Chávez150 – both domestically and

internationally. The resulting polarisation not only detracts from the real issues, but
144
A presidential recall provision provided by the new Bolivarian Constitution, (no other western
democracy except Switzerland enshrines this right), activated by a petition of 20% of the registered voting
population. For more details see Q&A: Venezuela's recall referendum, BBC News, (16/08/2004), available
at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3247816.stm
145
The Carter centre monitored the referendum and “jimmy Carter declared that this was one of the freest
elections he had ever seen”. He was later abused and spat on in a restaurant in the wealthy section of
Caracas. See Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean, p. 67-71
146
Shifter, In Search of Hugo Chávez, available at http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060501faessay85303-
p10/michael-shifter/in-search-of-hugo-ch-vez.html
147
The Venezuelan media is 85% privately owned, and according to Ali, opposition comes not just the from
the domestic media, but from international associates as well, including Britain’s The Economist and The
Financial Times, whose reporting is “a preference for fantasy and wish-fulfilment rather than reporting
social reality”, see the first chapter of Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean
148
Maurice Lemoine, Dans les laboratoires du mensonge au Venezuela, Le Monde Diplomatique, (August
2002), available at http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2002/08/LEMOINE/16761
149
Shifter, In Search of Hugo Chávez, available at http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060501faessay85303-
p10/michael-shifter/in-search-of-hugo-ch-vez.html
150
Through accusing him of introducing Cuban-style Communism in Venezuela, see Kyriakou, Niko, and
Markovits, Martin, Hugo Chavez's Plans, IRC Americas Program Elections Report, (13/12/2006),
available at http://americas.irc-online.org/am/3792

30
silences moderate voices, so the opposition are part-accountable for the lack of ‘Liberal

Democracy’ in Venezuela. The 2006 general election was the first time the opposition

united behind a candidate151 and their acceptance of the result – rather than the expected

claims of fraud152 – finally bestows the Chávez government and the electoral institutions

with democratic legitimacy153.

Despite analysts’ claims of Illiberalism and comparisons with Fascism, after two

years of Chávez the Venezuelan public’s belief in democracy had improved dramatically,

despite a poor economic performance154. Elections have been noticeably fairer and more

frequent, instigating a more direct form of democracy155. An increase in participatory

democracy through local planning councils, (which redistribute resources

communally156), citizen participation in social projects, (such as locally directed

missions), and institutionalized mechanisms of accountability, (which are guaranteed in

the constitution), has been a democratic achievement to emerge from the constitution157.

151
Manuel Rosales, the governor of oil-rich Zulia, united a fractious opposition, winning 38% vote against
Chávez’s 62%. However, Chávez is still keen to exploit internal frontiers and presented opposition as
“Washington lackies”, see Hanson, Stephanie, Six More Years of Chávez, Council on Foreign Relations,
(December 2006), available at http://www.cfr.org/publication/12086/six_more_years_of_Chávez.html
152
The high number of international observers who declared the election transparent and fair left Rosales
with no option but to concede defeat, see Kyriakou, Niko, and Markovits, Martin, Hugo Chavez's Plans,
IRC Americas Program Elections Report, (13/12/2006), available at http://americas.irc-
online.org/am/3792
153
Kyriakou, Niko, and Markovits, Martin, Hugo Chavez's Plans, IRC Americas Program Elections
Report, (13/12/2006), available at http://americas.irc-online.org/am/3792
154
More people believed that democracy functioned in 2000 (28%) than in 1998 (13%) and the figure for
“not at all satisfied” with democracy dropped form 25% to 7%, Informe Latinobarómetro 2005 available at
www.latinobarometro.org
155
Although this is to be expected from a populist government as elections are the main source of
legitimacy and popular sovereignty, see Coppedge, Michael, Venezuela: Popular Sovereignty versus
Liberal Democracy, Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Kellogg Institute Working Paper
#294, (April 2002), p. 19
156
Although launched in 2001 as ‘still-born’, 2006 has seen their successful relaunch.
157
Direct Democracy is a key aspect of the Bolivarian Revolution, not only to reduce poverty but also avoid
the corrupt low-level state apparatus. See Wilpert, Gregory, The Meaning of Twenty-First Century
Socialism for Venezuela, Venezuelanalysis.com, (11/2/2006), available from www.venezuelanalysis.com

31
The military’s participation in civilian activities reduced the risk of a military coup

through fostering closer civil-military ties, while creating a more stable democratic

environment: Venezuela now has a “civilised military rather than a militarised civil

society”158. Therefore, despite the venomous labels, Chávez has not drastically changed

the constitution, nor removed the institutions’ needed for Liberal Democracy when

Chavismo ends, whilst actually increasing local-level participatory democracy. The

obvious trappings of Populism ensnare Chavismo, which may prove detrimental to the

movement, but that sacrifice may be necessary to tackle Venezuela’s harsh socio-

economic problems. That sacrifice in accountability must be compared to the difference

Chavismo has made to the lives of its supporters.

Despite an original economic downturn while a “prisoner of macro-economic

policies”159, Hugo Chávez has proven extremely shrewd in ensuring the best for

Venezuela160. The oil crisis at the end of 2002 allowed him to bring PDVSA under closer

government direction161, whilst manoeuvrings at OPEC secured a continued high barrel-

price to bankroll Chávez’s social programmes. Between 2003 and the first quarter of

2006, Venezuela saw real income rise 137%, employment halve and poverty decrease

10% according to World Bank figures162, while growth for last year was 10% – one of the
158
Even more so after Chávez purged the military following the 2002 coup, see Wilpert, Gregory, The
Meaning of Twenty-First Century Socialism for Venezuela, Venezuelanalysis.com, (11/2/2006), available
from www.venezuelanalysis.com
159
Venezuela experience a capital flight of $8billion in its first year of Bolivarianism, and was unable to
directly harness oil revenue, Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean, p. 59
160
According to Niko Kyriakou, “Venezuela has become Latin America's fastest growing economy”, see
Kyriakou, Hugo Chavez's Plans, available at http://americas.irc-online.org/am/3792
161
The management-led strike in December 2002 aimed at forcing Chávez out of office by denying him
access to Petroleum, but failed, resulting in mass-redundancies among management and workers alike. See
Maya, Hugo Chávez Frías: His movement and His Presidency, in Ellner and Hellinger, Venezuelan Politics
in the Chávez Era
162
Originally it was believed that poverty had actually increased under Chávez, but a recalculation that
included services provided rather than simply income showed it had in fact fallen, see Jainelly F. Urdaneta,

32
highest in the region163. Chávez has not alienated business, realising its necessity in a

growing economy, but is attempting to adapt capitalist traditions so sectors of society

previously abandoned by the market are included164. In its place a new ethos is emerging:

what Chávez labels ‘21st Century Socialism’, aimed at using the Venezuelan economy to

tackle poverty – a manifesto promise that Chávez is determined to keep. To replace the

endless pursuit of profit, ethical Empresas de Producción Social (Social Production

Enterprises) are being promoted: companies that “privilege the values of solidarity,

cooperation, complementarity, reciprocity, equity, and sustainability ahead of the value of

profitability”165 are eligible for low-interest credit and preference in state contracts166.

Returning the means of production to the people is a core element of Chavismo, as it not

only disseminates the idea of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’167, but allows people to be actively

involved in the running of their country and therefore have a vested interest in its future.

Cooperatives place workers firmly in control, (as it stands, 10% of the adult population

are currently co-opted through SUNACOOP, the National Superintendency of

Cooperatives168), while the expropriation of idle factories together with the unions

increases participatory economic activity169. Although the state’s new enabling powers

allow it to seize privately owned companies, rather than alienate business a more

World Bank: Venezuela decreased poverty, Panorama Digital, (31/5/2006), available at


http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1979
163
Martínez, Mariana, América Latina: balance 2006, BBC MUNDO.com, available at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/business/barometro_economico/newsid_6209000/6209207.stm
164
Shifter, In Search of Hugo Chávez, available at http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060501faessay85303-
p10/michael-shifter/in-search-of-hugo-ch-vez.html
165
Empresas de Producción Social, Siembra Petrolera, No. 1, Jan.-Mar. 2006, p.55
166
For more information, see the article in PDVSA’s corporate magazine Empresas de Producción Social,
Siembra Petrolera, No. 1, Jan.-Mar. 2006, p.55
167
Pitting the people against the greedy elites who control the means of production
168
1.5 million Venezuelans are taking part in cooperatives, which have rocketed form 800 in 1998 to
100,000 in 2005. However, these are not being pushed for the most important sectors of industry and
business, as this would exclude other sectors of society from their management, see www.sunacoop.gov.ve
169
Wilpert, The Meaning of Twenty-First Century Socialism for Venezuela, available from
www.venezuelanalysis.com

33
balanced approach is being taken by amicably increasing the state’s shareholdings in vital

industries170 whilst reserving the threat of seizure for companies who fail to meet minimal

employment standards171.

Although the large role now played by the Venezuelan state obviously defies the

‘free-market’ ethos, Neoliberalism’s failure in wealth-redistribution has left little option

if campaign promises were to be kept172. A highly contested agrarian reform bill has

allowed the redistribution of 2,262,467 hectares to 116,899 families173, while oil profits

have seen the explosion of a huge number of social programmes. The combination of oil

money ($20billion over the last three years174) and military logistics have seen the

provision of much needed services to parts of society that have been out-priced by the

market175. ‘Bolivarian Missions’, (as Chávez’s social programmes have been called),

provide free food, education, and health care to the poorest sectors of the population,

dramatically improving people’s lives176 while their participatory nature allows local
170
Amicable takeover of Venezuela's top electric company buoys markets, The International Herald
Tribune, (8/2/2007), available at http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/02/09/business/LA-FIN-Venezuela-
Nationalization.php
171
CANTV, a telecommunications company, is being threatened with nationalisation if it fails to meet sate
pension and wage standards, see Daniel Schweimler, Chávez bid for more state control, BBC News online,
(9/1/2007), available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6243299.stm
172
Neoliberalism restricts governments from developing areas where there is no corporate interest, see
Demmers, Miraculous Metamorphoses, p. xii
173
This figure was up to and including 2004, Martin, Jorge, Financial Times attacks Venezuelan land
reform: The FT's demagogy in favour of ... workers' rights?!, Hands Off Venezuela Campaign,
(14/01/2005), available at http://www.handsoffvenezuela.org/content/view/151/43/
174
Shifter, In Search of Hugo Chávez, available at http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060501faessay85303-
p10/michael-shifter/in-search-of-hugo-ch-vez.html
175
For example, the military are involved in buying and transporting large quantities of fresh produce to the
poorest barrios in Venezuela, and then selling it on at a heavily subsidised price, whilst soup kitchens in
Caracas feed millions every day.
176
Missions are a joint venture between civil society and the military, whereby oil profits provide the
capital, the military provide the logistics, and civil society provides the personnel. They cover every aspect
of social reform, from education to health to indigenous rights. So far 1 million children in Venezuelan
shanty towns receive free education; 1.2 million illiterate adults can read and write; secondary education
has been made available to 250,000 children whose social status previously excluded them; 9 new
university Campuses functioning by 2006, with more under construction. See Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean,
p. 70

34
communities to construct their own societies177. The military-civilian link is not new in

Venezuela178 and Chávez’s concerted effort to include the military has not been entirely

successful: while aiding the building of public works and infrastructure, charges of

corruption and fears of politicisation have marred their positive efforts179. Oil is being

used in a similar way internationally through payment-in-kind dealings: supplying Cuba

with oil has seen the arrival of 14,000 doctors to run the medical clinics established under

Barrio Adentro180. Chavista redistribution policies are not anti-market, but rather aim to

compensate for its discrepancies, making them more ‘social democratic’ than

‘socialist’181. Chávez has succeeded in maintaining an artificially high price for oil so he

can use the revenue for social programmes, but is it sustainable? According to Nelson

Merentes, Venezuela’s Finance Minister, for the first time ever the 2007 budget will

receive more income from taxation than oil revenues by clamping down on tax-

evasion182. To prevent over-reliance on future oil revenue, $29 on every barrel goes

towards a reserve, already worth $60 billion, held as a security in the event of a sudden

down-turn in the market. This caution is a marked change from the somewhat frivolous

nature of the classical populists, and shows Chávez is thinking beyond personal power

177
Rather than being imposed from above, Missions are directed by citizens through health committees,
land committees, education task-forces etc., see Wilpert, Gregory, The Meaning of Twenty-First Century
Socialism for Venezuela, Venezuelanalysis.com, (11/2/2006), available from www.venezuelanalysis.com
178
During the mid-1960’s, the military were also involved in development and “extensive civic action
operations”, see Norden, Deborah L., Democracy in Uniform, in Ellner and Hellinger, Venezuelan Politics
in the Chávez Era, p. 104-5
179
Whilst taking part in the construction of schools, hospitals, and setting up medical clinics, millions of
dollars were paid to non-existent companies. See Norden, Deborah L., Democracy in Uniform, in Ellner
and Hellinger, Venezuelan Politics in the Chávez Era, p. 105
180
A mission established in 2005, for more information, see www.barrioadentro.gov.ve
181
Wilpert, The Meaning of Twenty-First Century Socialism for Venezuela, , available from
www.venezuelanalysis.com
182
New programmes Evasión Cero, (Zero Evasion), and Contrabando Cero, (Zero Contraband), will mean
that income from taxation will reach 53% of the budget, whereas previously Venezuela was losing 13.2%
of its GDP through corruption and tax-evasion, Associate Press, Congreso Aprueba Presupuesto, La
Prensa, (15/12/05), available at
http://mensual.prensa.com/mensual/contenido/2005/12/15/hoy/negocios/435668.html

35
towards a Venezuelan future. The Missions are also coming under scrutiny, their

professionalism and longevity being questioned due to their volunteer-based structure.

While this is not ideal, until highly qualified professionals, (like the Cuban doctors), are

willing to help183, voluntary help and military contributions are the only option. On a

positive note, all parts of the community become involved, breaking through the

traditional barriers of hierarchy. All actions are aimed at reducing societal inequality

whilst increasing grass-roots control of the economy, and also maintaining a strong state

to ensure that the people are protected from the dangers of Neoliberalism. In breaking

away from the ‘sway’ of private capital, Chávez has not only steered the Venezuelan

economy and its people toward a better place, he has done so ethically, ensuring

Venezuelan profits are seen by Venezuelan people.

Although Chavismo deserves its illiberal label, Chávez is the symptom rather than

the cause of popular discontent184. The ‘Liberal’ label of Venezuelan Democracy has

blinded many commentators who fail to realise that “Liberalism has been sheared of its

close association with Egalitarianism”185; instead it denotes an insulated elitist political-

system obstructive to change, that would have hindered the enactment of an electorally

ratified program of change. The persistence of some commentators to focus on

Liberalism when assessing Chávez obstructs an evaluation of non-liberal democratic

credentials and of his manifesto fulfilment. As Chavismo gains legitimacy through

popular sovereignty, it is in Chávez’s interest for democracy to continue, while

183
Which they so far have not been, shown by the Venezuelan doctor’s refusal to treat patients referred by
Cuban doctors, see Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean, p. 68
184
Shifter, Michael, In Search of Hugo Chávez, available at
http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060501faessay85303-p10/michael-shifter/in-search-of-hugo-ch-vez.html
185
Colburn, Latin America at the End of Politics, p. 1

36
maintaining election promises has restored people’s faith in the institution186. He has not

only “reinvigorated and rejuvenated democracy”187, but Chávez has had a significant

impact on combating poverty; two major manifesto pledges. By empowering the poor as

an electoral force, Chávez has ensured poverty is a permanent part of both the political

agenda and his political success: the opposition can only regain power by abandoning the

free market in the solution of socio-economic problems, something they appear incapable

doing188. However, there is a possibility that through “the persistence of an anti-

democratic culture of patronage and personalism”189 the movement becomes the very

thing it set out to destroy. This is why it is imperative that the opposition re-enter the

political arena to hold Chavismo accountable, as Chávez has “shown the direction in a

very blunt inefficient manner, but now done, others can go through in a more effective

and inclusory fashion”190.

186
Venezuelans gave the second highest number of positive answers in 2005, (only after Uruguayans), in a
recent poll by Latinobarómetro in which they were asked if they believed their political leaders listened to
them, Informe Latinobarómetro 2005 available at www.latinobarometro.org
187
Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean, p. 21
188
Manuel Rosales campaigned on a platform of free-trade without providing a serious solution to poverty,
see Kyriakou, Niko, and Markovits, Martin, Hugo Chavez's Plans, IRC Americas Program Elections
Report, (13/12/2006), available at http://americas.irc-online.org/am/3792
189
Wilpert, Gregory, The Meaning of Twenty-First Century Socialism for Venezuela,
Venezuelanalysis.com, (11/2/2006), available from www.venezuelanalysis.com
190
Shifter, In Search of Hugo Chávez, available at http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060501faessay85303-
p10/michael-shifter/in-search-of-hugo-ch-vez.html

37
Chapter 3 - Moralismo

Bolivia is a tale of two nations: the mineral-rich Andean west, dominated by

indigenous peoples – synonymous with poverty191; the gas-rich eastern lowlands,

dominated by wealthy white-European descendants. Despite holding the largest gas

reserves in the Southern Cone, Bolivia remains one of the poorest states in Latin America

– the “proverbial beggar seated on a golden bench”192 – as the majority of a population

that is 79% indigenous fail to benefit.193 Neoliberalism – coupled with a collapse in

world-market prices for primary commodities – exacerbated the inevitable polarization

and entrenched Bolivia’s existing socioeconomic situation: the American Jeffrey Sachs’

‘great neoliberal experiment’ introduced in 1984 equated to “sheer plunder”194, as

Bolivia’s top 20% inherited 30 times that of the bottom 20%, leaving it the second most

unequal country on the continent195. The poor privatisation of YPBF196 (Bolivia’s state

gas company) robbed the state of its primary income source, while mining was deemed

unprofitable and shut-down, with disastrous consequences for the indigenous

populations197. Not only did Neoliberalism fail to bridge the immense gaps left by the
191
This has reached such proportions that the Ministry for Peasant and Agrarian Affairs has been replaced
by the Ministry for Ethnic and Indigenous Affairs, see Gustafson, Bret, Paradoxes of Liberal Indigenism:
Indigenous movements, state processes, and inter-cultural Reform in Bolivia in Maybury-Lewis, David,
ed., The Politics of Ethnicity: Indigenous Peoples in Latin American States, (Harvard, 2002), p. 268
192
Willem Assies, Bolivia: Una Democracía Gasificada, p. 30
193
Thorpe, Rosemary, Caumartin, Corinne, and Gray-Molina, George, Inequality, Ethnicity, Political
Mobilization, and Political Violence in Latin America: the Case Studies of Bolivia, Guatemala, and Peru,
Bulletin of Latin American Research, Vol. 25 No. 4, (2006), pp. 454
194
Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean, p. 89
195
Ibid.
196
A deal made in 1996 saw Bolivia sign over 82% of all profits to foreign investors, see Gretchen Gordon,
Bolivia’s Nationalization by Decree, Americas.org, (10/4/2007) available at
http://www.americas.org/item_26927
197
The closing of the mines led to huge unemployment and urban migration among the western indigenous
populations, resulting in the explosion of informal labour and urban unemployment, see Ton Salman, The
Jammed Democracy: Bolivia’s Troubled Political Learning Process, Bulletin of Latin American

38
market, but in failing to acknowledge the vertical nature of Bolivia’s horizontal

differences, it gave poverty an indigenous face198: according to Zoomers, “as long as the

majority of the indigenous groups continue to be excluded from the economic rewards of

Bolivian society, multi-cultural policies will not help people to become full members of

Bolivian society”199.

Despite re-election in 2002, Gonzalo ‘Goni’ Sánchez de Lozada’s failure to grasp

the volatile effects of both polarisation and an unresponsive democracy200 caused the

collapse of the established political order and the acceptance of Evo Morales as the only

alternative. Widespread public disorder201 – and the deaths of 30 protestors202 – sent “a

clear message that the traditional politicking and political style was increasingly being

rejected” 203. With a legislative majority of one for his precarious anti-Morales

coalition204, Sánchez’s attempted signing of yet another exploitative hydro-carbon

Research, Vol. 25 No. 2, (2006), pp. 164


198
This not only masked the real societal cleavages based on racial-lines, but severely deepened them, see
Thorpe, Rosemary, Caumartin, Corinne, and Gray-Molina, George, Inequality, Ethnicity, Political
Mobilization, and Political Violence in Latin America: the Case Studies of Bolivia, Guatemala, and Peru,
Bulletin of Latin American Research, Vol. 25 No. 4, (2006), pp. 455
199
Zoomers, Annelies, Pro-Indigenous Reforms in Bolivia: Is there an Andean Way to Escape Poverty?,
Development and Change, Vol. 37 Issue 5, (September 2006), pp. 1043
200
See Chapter One
201
The ‘Water Wars’ in Cochabamba saw four days of protesting and general strikes in response to water
supply privatisation and the subsequent tripling of rates, see Schultz, Jim, The Politics of Water in Bolivia,
The Nation, (14/2/2005), available at http://www.thenation.com/doc/20050214/shultz
202
In response to a proposed income tax bill to raise enough public capital for an IMF loan
203
Ton Salman, The Jammed Democracy: Bolivia’s Troubled Political Learning Process, Bulletin of Latin
American Research, Vol. 25 No. 2, (2006), pp. 171
204
The MNR-led ‘co-government of national responsibility’ was formed 25 days after the election because
of MIR’s reluctance in joining having previously avowed never to work with the MNR again. It included
all parties except those of Evo Morales and Felipe Quispe, the two indigenous party leaders from MAS and
MIP respectively, being formed as a “traditional bulwark” against those viewed as anti-systemic, see Van
Cott, Donna L., From Exclusion to Inclusion: Bolivia’s 2002 Elections, Journal of Latin American
Studies, Issue 35, (2003), pp. 756-60

39
contract205 in October 2003 plunged the country into chaos206, bringing down a

government that had “turned to tear gas and bullets to carry through unpopular

policies”207. The failure of his replacement, Vice-President Carlos Mesa – seen by most as

a democrat208 – highlights the extent to which the extreme polarization had moved beyond

compromise209. His eventual resignation in 2005 and the election of Evo Morales and

MAS (Movimiento Á Socialismo) saw the fruition of a movement born from anti-

American-guided Neoliberalism, as peasant and indigenous issues were finally included

in a pluralist political agenda for change210.

Morales is an interesting populist, for, despite his association with Hugo Chávez

and Fidel Castro, Evo treads his own path211 – a decision made from both choice and

necessity. It is difficult to judge the long-term implications of a regime so young, but in a

society so divided, Popular Sovereignty is difficult to retain. It remains to be seen

whether Populism’s natural confrontational tendencies can be sufficiently harnessed to

enact change while avoiding complete break-down. Despite the outright rejection of

205
Despite a widely-held public belief that with regards to natural resources too many concessions were
given for too little benefit, Sánchez’s new deal still under-sold Bolivian gas to Mexico and the United
States, see Salman, The Jammed Democracy, pp. 173
206
The ‘Gas Wars’ as they became known, erupted during the Presidency of Sánchez and resulted in the
death of 60 rioters and the imposition of martial law, see Webber, Jeffery R., Left-Indigenous Struggles in
Bolivia: Searching for Revolutionary Democracy, Monthly Review, Vol. 57 No. 4, (September 2005),
available at http://www.monthlyreview.org/0905webber.htm#cooliris
207
Willem Assies, Bolivia: Una Democracía Gasificada, p. 33
208
Mesa formed a cabinet independent from the party-system and attempted to act as an intermediary
between the neoliberals and the grass-roots movements on the issue of gas nationalisation, see Salman, The
Jammed Democracy, pp. 177
209
Mesa resigned in 2005 after failing to find a suitable solution to the gas question, despite formulating a
deal that would have seen 50% of the profits returned to the Bolivian government. Both sides had decided
that to compromise within the current political system would be to ignore its faults and compromise
‘progress’, Salman, The Jammed Democracy, pp. 177
210
Although Evo Morales and Felipe Quispe, (leader of the MIP, Movimiento Indígena Pachakuti or
Indigenous Pachakuti Movement), were both elected in 2002 and polled 26% of the votes between them,
(2% away from a majority), they were excluded from the governing coalition and their voices ignored, see
Van Cott, Donna L., From Exclusion to Inclusion: Bolivia’s 2002 Elections, Journal of Latin American
Studies, Issue 35, (2003), pp. 765
211
Mokhtari, Nicki, No Smooth Sailing for Bolivia’s Morales, Council On Hemispheric Affairs,
(23/2/2007), available at www.coha.org

40
‘Liberal’ Democracy, Morales acceptance of continuing democratic importance is evident

in his attempts at building a new Bolivia, something that can be assessed through how

Moralismo confronts democracy’s greatest obstacles: elite monopoly on the institutions

of power and society’s inequalities212.

Morales’ involvement in the extensive protest movements213 endow him with

many populist attributes while simultaneously providing the greatest threat to his populist

movement. His original involvement as an indigenous cocalero, (coca farmer), gives him

the necessary folkloric qualities to identify with the down-trodden214, while a career built

on leading protest marches developed the necessary charismatic qualities to head a

movement215. The movements provide a direct link to his mass of followers, channelled

through MAS – the party that he established in 1995; Morales’ history in the trade unions

distinguishes him from Chávez and reduces the personalist nature of Moralismo, holding

him accountable not only to the unions but to the movements, which are bigger than their

individual leaders. However, Morales’ and his cabinet’s trade-union backgrounds mean

they have little experience running a bureaucracy, and, according to Mason, behind the

212
This must happen before the consolidation of any democratic institutions for them to function
effectively, see Willem Assies, Bolivia: Una Democracía Gasificada, p. 5
213
They have dominated Bolivian political historyhave caused the fall of both the military dictatorship of
General Bánzer 1982 and the collapse of Liberal Democracy in 2005, see Hylton, Forest, and Thomson,
Sinclair, Revolutionary Horizons: Indigenous and National-Popular Politics in Bolivia, (London, 2007)
214
Morales actively stresses his indigenous heritage whilst emphasising the importance of Andinidad,
(Andean way of doing things) and Indinidad (Indian way of doing things), see Zoomers, Annelies, Pro-
Indigenous Reforms in Bolivia: Is there an Andean Way to Escape Poverty?, Development and Change,
Vol. 37 Issue 5, (September 2006), pp. 1024
215
Morales began marching in support of fellow cocaleros in 1985, in response to the US-encouraged coca
eradication policies. Since then has embraced all left-wing anti-government movements, leading the
protests in both the Water and Gas Wars, (even being expelled from Congress in 2002), for a full account
of Morales involvement in the protest movements, see
http://www.evomorales.net/paginasEng/perfil_Eng_sindi.aspx

41
cabinet the camarilla216 “meet, ponder, and then Evo decides”217, showing the high degree

of centralisation within government. Unlike Chávez, Morales courts the middle classes

and business interests who were also excluded during privatisation218, making Moralismo

more classical populist than Chavista. However, this broad support base (his popularity

was over 80% in the first half of 2006219) may be Morales’ undoing: the demand for

progress from left-wing protest movements could prove incompatible with more inclusive

policies, while civil unrest would damage Morales’ credibility. Despite the label of

‘socialist’, MAS lacks a coherent ideology220 and instead is used as a “vehicle of popular

discontent”221, of which Morales is not in complete control: despite his original

involvement in the protest movements, he is not their sole conductor222.

Fully evaluating the effect of Moralismo on democracy would be premature:

Morales admitted in April 2006 that “in last year’s election we only captured government

– with the Constituent Assembly we want to capture political power”223. Despite a

216
A small decision making body close to Morales consisting of Marxist vice-president Alvaro Garcia-
Linera, the Prime Minister Juan Ramon Quintana plus, it is said, one or two journalists with links to the
anti-globalisation movement, see Mason, Paul, Evo Morales: Padlocked in the Palace, Newsnight,
(5/04/2006), available at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2006/04/evo_morales_padlocked_in_the_p.html
217
Mason, Paul, Evo Morales: Padlocked in the Palace, Newsnight, (5/04/2006), available at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2006/04/evo_morales_padlocked_in_the_p.html
218
according to Carlos Villegas, Bolvia’s Energy Minister, "with the exception of a very small group of
businessmen that were in a condition to participate in a global economy, the majority of Bolivian
businesses - large, medium-sized and small - were in a situation of complete stagnation”, taken from
Monahan, Jane, Bolivia’s Nationalisation Plans in Trouble, BBC News, (17/08/2006), available at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4801233.stm
219
Political Winds, Democracy Center, (12/17/2006), available at http://www.americas.org/item_30274
220
According to Morales, MAS’s ideology is “anti-imperialist and contrary to Neoliberalism”, taken from
Miller, Jason, Imminent threats to the health of US cash cows throughout Latin America, World Prout
Assembly, (20/11/2005), available at
http://www.worldproutassembly.org/archives/2005/11/imminent_threat.html
221
Willem Assies, Bolivia: Una Democracía Gasificada, p. 32-33
222
Cocaleros, prisoners, transport workers, and miners are blockading roads and leading protests in an
attempt to pressure Morales to make-good on his campaign promises of full nationalisation of natural
resources, see Hines, Sarah, The New Shape of the Struggle: Bolivia Under Evo Morales, Socialist Worker
Online, (27/10/2006), available at www.socialistworker.org/2006-2/607/607_06_Bolivia.shtml
223
Mason, Paul, Evo Morales: Padlocked in the Palace, Newsnight, (5/04/2006), available at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2006/04/evo_morales_padlocked_in_the_p.html

42
referendum approving its formation, MAS’s failure to capture a two-thirds majority has

limited their power, and until a new constitution is produced, we can only judge the facts

before us. Although no great change has occurred in institutional operability, Morales’

victory has seen him become the first President of indigenous origin, the first since World

War II to gain an absolute majority, and the first to break the entrenched pacting224. His

election has ensured important issues like indigenous identity and poverty are finally

addressed225, as he has proven to be someone who will listen rather than “abandon

ideology in favour of systemic rewards”226. Morales’ firm anti-imperialist stance has

curbed the IMF and US Embassy’s previously-massive influence227, increasing Bolivian

sovereignty and the scope for democratic governance. Although MAS hold a majority in

the Chamber of Deputies, this is not universal, as Morales “constantly locks horns with

an opposition-controlled Senate and powerful state governors”228. The Liberalism’s

characteristic checks and balances remain, but impede progress severely: “You want to

issue a decree to help the poor, the indigenous people, the popular movements, the

workers… but there’s another law. Another padlock. It’s full of padlocks that mean you

224
Van Auken, Bill, Bolivia’s ‘Socialist’ President-Elect Morales Guarantees Private Property,
International Committee of the Fourth International, (4th January 2006), available from the World
Socialist website www.wsws.org/articles/2006/jan2006
225
These issues had been briefly addressed under Neoliberalism through ‘multi-cultural’ legislation, but
according to Bret Gustafson, ‘inter-culturalism’ legitimised the “changing expressions of social difference,
citizen identity, and hierarchical forms of participation” through which “elites seek to insulate centralized
power” from the indigenous and poor, see Gustafson, Bret, Paradoxes of Liberal Indigenism: Indigenous
movements, state processes, and inter-cultural Reform in Bolivia in Maybury-Lewis, David, ed., The
Politics of Ethnicity: Indigenous Peoples in Latin American States, (Harvard, 2002), p. 270
226
The previous populist parties that entered government in 2002 negotiated the exchange of their support
“for as many positions in government as it can wheedle out of Goni”, Van Cott, Donna L., From Exclusion
to Inclusion: Bolivia’s 2002 Elections, Journal of Latin American Studies, Issue 35, (2003), pp. 765
227
Sánchez’s income-tax bill was intended to raise sufficient revenue needed to secure an IMF loan,
whereas the US Embassy was consulted so often that it was considered another branch of government, see
Van Auken, Bill, Bolivia’s ‘Socialist’ President-Elect Morales Guarantees Private Property, International
Committee of the Fourth International, (4th January 2006), available from the World Socialist website
www.wsws.org/articles/2006/jan2006
228
Associate Press, Morales Adapts Chavismo to Bolivia, CNN.com, (6/04/2007), available at
http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/americas/04/06/morales.bolivia.ap/index.html

43
can’t transform things from the Palace… I feel like a prisoner of the neo-liberal laws”229.

Despite the discredited traditional parties MNR and MIR only receiving 17 out of 157

seats in Congress230, the opposition’s over-representation in the Constituent Assembly231

has severely limited its potential as a means to political power: MAS’s failure to win a

two thirds majority allows adversaries a decisive voice in the ratification of all clauses.

However, Morales persistent attempts to abandon the two-thirds in favour of a simple

majority232 has tarnished his reputation as a representative of all people, whiles supplying

enemies with sufficient ammunition to polarise society further233. Although traditional

politicking continues to impede a democratically endorsed mandate for change, by

encouraging displays of popular support outside of elections, Morales has demonstrated

the power of popular sovereignty in overcoming the traditional obstacles to democracy234.

Morales has not centralised state power, in spite of such fears, and while dealing with

calls for greater autonomy235, he aims to further decentralisation through increasing

revenue distribution at the price of greater accountability to the state236 – extremely


229
Evo Morales in an interview with Paul Mason, see Evo Morales: Padlocked in the Palace, Newsnight,
(5/04/2006), available at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2006/04/evo_morales_padlocked_in_the_p.html
230
Enter the Man in the Stripey Jumper, The Economist, (19/01/2006), available at www.economist.com
231
This has become a contentious issue for the indigenous and social movements as they believe they have
been excluded in an attempt to appease the Right whilst PODEMOS have been over-represented, see Hines,
Sarah, The New Shape of the Struggle: Bolivia Under Evo Morales, Socialist Worker Online,
(27/10/2006), available at www.socialistworker.org/2006-2/607/607_06_Bolivia.shtml
232
As this would give MAS control over the Assembly behind and allow its use in a similar way to the
Venezuelan ANC
233
Attempts to waive the two-thirds majority have led many middle class supporters to believe that Morales
is attempting to impose a Castro-esque regime upon the people and has turned many against him. This has
played perfectly into the hands of the opposition whose ‘fight for two-thirds’, (embodied in a hunger-strike)
has allowed them to claim to be in support of open democracy and against autocracy, see Political Winds,
Democracy Center, (12/17/2006), available at http://www.americas.org/item_30274
234
In La Paz, a MAS-encouraged country-wide march to the Senate on 28th November 2006 in support of
land reform culminated in the successful passing of a bill, see Benjamin Dangl, Land as a Centre of Power
in Bolivia, Upside Down World, (7/12/2006), available at
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/538/1/
235
Eaton, Ken, Bolivia’s Conservative Autonomy Movement, Socrates Newsletter, (Winter 2006), available
from http://socrates.berkeley.edu:7001/Publications/newsletters/Winter2006/Winter2006-Eaton.pdf
236
Morales wishes to grant Congress the power to dismiss local governors if they feel they are not
performing, something previously possible only through local elections. As they will be in charge of much

44
important given the notoriously corrupt nature of local governors237. This may prove

problematic, as Morales lacks the regional support he enjoys nationally, (MAS only

secured 3 out of a possible 9 prefectos – governor’s positions), reflecting the

geographical division that plagues the country238.

Morales’ decision to listen to the opposition – despite the populist tendency not

to239 – has only succeeded in emboldening a powerful minority240 and further fracture

Bolivia: despite a referendum on the issue decided in favour of the government, gas-rich

departments continue to call for increased autonomy241, clearly contrasting the anti-

democratic nature of opposition242 against Morales’ insistence on dialogue over

revolution243. A failure to “detach the elites from their base”244 has maintained the

opposition’s control over the levers of power, and whereas in Venezuela a fractured

opposition proved incapable of mounting a credible challenge, the ‘two-thirds majority’

debate has provided a unifying standard245. The danger of this to both progress and

public-order is most evident in Cochabamba, where intense clashes demonstrate the

larger sums of money, this new bill is hoped to reduce wastage, clientalism, and corruption, see Fear and
Mistrust, The Economist, (23/11/06), available at www.economist.com
237
Political Winds, Democracy Center, (12/17/2006), available at http://www.americas.org/item_30274
238
Enter the Man in the Stripey Jumper, The Economist, (19/01/2006), available at www.economist.com
239
Morales has maintained a steady popularity rating of 60% throughout 2006, see A Year of Evo Morales,
The Economist Intelligence unit, (2/02/2007), available at www.economist.com
240
Hines, Sarah, The New Shape of the Struggle: Bolivia Under Evo Morales, Socialist Worker Online,
(27/10/2006), available at www.socialistworker.org/2006-2/607/607_06_Bolivia.shtml
241
Led by Santa Cruz province, the six eastern provinces not controlled by MAS prefectos are all pushing
for an autonomous statute, taking their protests to the streets. Violence has erupted in Cochabamba and is
even spreading to La Paz, see Mokhtari, Nicki, No Smooth Sailing for Bolivia’s Morales, Council On
Hemispheric Affairs, (23/2/2007), available at www.coha.org
242
According to MercoPress, the “anti Morales political forces and pro market groups have neutralized the
workings of a Constitutional assembly”, see Bolivia’s Morales reshuffles cabinet and ratifies reforms,
MercoPress, (25/01/2006), available at http://www.mercopress.com/vernoticia.do?id=9722&formato=html
whilst the boycotting of the senate allowed the passing of the land reform bill, see Morales the Beautiful,
The Economist, (13/12/06), available at www.economist.com
243
This is despite the radicalisation of his own supporters and his abandonment by many middle class
supporters, see Mokhtari, Nicki, No Smooth Sailing for Bolivia’s Morales, Council On Hemispheric
Affairs, (23/2/2007), available at www.coha.org
244
Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean, p. 96
245
Political Winds, Democracy Center, (17/12/2006), available at http://www.americas.org/item_30274

45
extent of rich-poor divisions and resistance to autonomy, mirroring a break-down in

public order similar to that seen in Allende’s Chile246. However, to mitigate the possibility

of a Pinochet coup, Morales has through strengthened civil-military ties Venezuela-style,

despite some commentators fearing politicisation247. By replacing the military’s

traditional roles of fighting narco-trafficking and quelling public disorders with making

them “drivers of national development” 248, Moralismo has brought them closer to the

people and away from the traditional control of the elites, further safeguarding

democracy249.

Morales is a populist still trapped within Elitist Democracy, and therefore more

accountable than Hugo Chávez but holding far less power. Were he to gain more power

his rhetoric suggests he would fulfil his democratic revolution towards a fully inclusive

and consolidated Liberal Democracy, but until a new constitution is passed, it is difficult

to know what that might be. However, an assessment of his policies so far should permit

a greater understanding of where his priorities lie and also his direction for the future,

while also permitting an evaluation of Moralismo’s long-term effect on the conditions

necessary for Democracy.

246
Unarmed campesinos, (peasants), and Indigenous protestors took to the streets demanding the
resignation of the head of the opposition Prefecto Captain Manfred Reyes Villa, (accused of corruption and
public theft), where the Jovenes por Democracía, (Youths for Democracy), confronted them with lead
pipes, barbed wire and hockey sticks, see Mokhtari, Nicki, No Smooth Sailing for Bolivia’s Morales,
Council On Hemispheric Affairs, (23/2/2007), available at www.coha.org
247
Morales has been accused of using the military as a MAS tool, in particular critics have pointed at the
troops use in the ‘seizure’ of the gas fields, see A Hard Bargain, The Economist, (2/11/06), available at
www.economist.com
248
Mejías, Sonia A., The Alliance Between the People and the Armed Forces In Evo Morales’ Social
Transformation Project, Real Instituto Elcano de Estudios Internacionales, (22 February 2007),
available at www.realinstitutoelcano.org/analisis/1104.asp
249
Mejías, Sonia A., The Alliance Between the People and the Armed Forces In Evo Morales’ Social
Transformation Project, Real Instituto Elcano de Estudios Internacionales, (22 February 2007),
available at www.realinstitutoelcano.org/analisis/1104.asp

46
Morales’ policies of redistribution, his populist attributes250, and his public ties

with the ‘Axis of Hope’251, mean he is often viewed as socialist, harmful to business and

unsustainable in a globalised world252. However, Morales is not another Hugo Chávez,

and behind the international socialist solidarity and populist bravado253 Evo has tried to

reassure non-exploitative capitalists that Moralismo supports them254: apart from land

reform and the nationalisation of natural resources, Morales’ policies have been in favour

of business255, while through accepting the impossibility of Neoliberalism’s complete

reversal256, Morales has instead decided to apply the lessons from business to state

management257. However, the moderation promised to business may prove incompatible

with the radical changes expected by his core supporters, with dire consequences for his

administration. Although the economy has only seen “moderate growth” over the last

year, long-term growth prospects have been boosted by the establishment of a

stabilisation fund and the reversal of the public sector deficit258.

250
His anti-neoliberal and anti-American rhetoric and his indigenous cocalero background
251
A phrase coined by Tariq Ali that refers to Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia, in their struggle for
sovereignty against American imperial domination, see Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean
252
Carlsen, Laura, “Ugly Heads” and Blanket Condemnations: Protest and Populism, Counter Punch,
(9/10/2004), available at www.counterpunch.org/carlsen10092004.html
253
Such as the very public display of force in ‘seizing’ the gas fields in front of a captive media audience,
see A Hard Bargain, The Economist, (2/11/06), available at www.economist.com
254
According to the MAS government, ‘Andean Capitalism’ is the key to Bolivia’s success, see Hines,
Sarah, The New Shape of the Struggle: Bolivia Under Evo Morales, Socialist Worker Online,
(27/10/2006), available at www.socialistworker.org/2006-2/607/607_06_Bolivia.shtml, as Morales
reassures the private sector that if all business is in good faith, there will be no government intervention,
see Anon, Bolivia’s Industry, The Economist, (19/2/07), available at www.economist.com
255
Morales the Beautiful, The Economist, (13/12/06), available at www.economist.com
256
Mason, Paul, Evo Morales: Padlocked in the Palace, Newsnight, (5/04/2006), available at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2006/04/evo_morales_padlocked_in_the_p.html
257
Van Auken, Bill, Bolivia’s ‘Socialist’ President-Elect Morales Guarantees Private Property,
International Committee of the Fourth International, (4 January 2006), available from the World
Socialist website www.wsws.org/articles/2006/jan2006
258
Morales the Beautiful, The Economist, (13/12/06), available at www.economist.com

47
The nationalisation of natural resources is the corner-stone of Moralismo, both as

a display of national sovereignty 259 and to provide the funds to finance MAS’s poverty-

reduction programmes. The nationalisation of the gas fields has seen huge increases in

government revenues260, while a new 20 year deal struck with Argentina – and the

removal of an ideologue in favour of pragmatic Carlos Villegas as Energy Minister – has

sufficiently reassured business that the new terms of contract are still “very profitable for

investors”261. However, many of Morales’ core supporters are still demanding full

expropriation as the current deal is actually the one adamantly rejected by Morales and

his supporters under Mesa 262. Bolivia’s mineral resources are both possible riches for the

country263 and a symbol of the destruction of indigenous culture264, yet the government

has largely maintained its predecessors’ policies of privatisation265. Although successfully

nationalising previously-unprofitable closed pits, the government has met little success in

incorporating the larger exploitative cooperative mines that arose in response to

neoliberal closures266.

259
The immediate announcement of gas nationalisation gave foreign hydrocarbon companies, (such as
Brazil’s Petrobras and France’s Total), six months to sign new contracts or they would have their assets
seized, A Hard Bargain, The Economist, (2/11/06), available at www.economist.com
260
The new rates see gas revenue up from $400 million to $1.4 billion a year, with predicted output set to
reach $4 billion per year in four years time, see Benjamin Dangl and April Howard, Bolivia’s Dance with
Evo Morales, The Nation, (26/03/2007), available at
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/675/31/
261
Morales the Beautiful, The Economist, (13/12/06), available at www.economist.com
262
Gordon, Gretchen, Bolivia’s Nationalization by Decree, Americas.org, (10/4/2007) available at
http://www.americas.org/item_26927
263
In 2006 a doubling of world market prices saw profits from mineral sales reached $1.1 billion dollars,
but only 1.5% of this was seen by the Bolivian government, Dangl and Howard, Bolivia’s Dance with Evo
Morales, available at http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/675/31/
264
Salman, The Jammed Democracy, pp. 164
265
Hines, Sarah, The New Shape of the Struggle: Bolivia Under Evo Morales, Socialist Worker Online,
(27/10/2006), available at www.socialistworker.org/2006-2/607/607_06_Bolivia.shtml
266
Where as small mines are owned and managed by their miners, the mid-size and larger ones are
“profitable businesses that pay low taxes and employ miners to work under quite oppressive conditions for
less than their asalariado [state-paid] brethren”, Hines, Sarah, The New Shape of the Struggle: Bolivia
Under Evo Morales, Socialist Worker Online, (27/10/2006), available at www.socialistworker.org/2006-
2/607/607_06_Bolivia.shtml

48
Tackling inequality has been Morales’ main focus, and where most progress has

been made, but his lack of parliamentary power has limited policies’ full realisation.

Increasing wages and subsidising the poor have been the key weapons in the President’s

personal fight against poverty267. Doctors and teachers have seen salary increases while

the minimum wage was raised 50%, but this still excludes the 65% of the population in

informal work268. Energy prices have been heavily cut for lower-income groups, while

Cuba has provided doctors for free medical care and transplanted its illiteracy program

Yo Sí Puedo, (Yes I Can), which plans to help 1.2 million people learn to read and

write269. The military, with training and financial support from Venezuela, are also

helping through the construction of infrastructure and the provision of medical care270.

However, the state’s “weak implementation capacity” has stopped revenue increases

being translated into public spending, distancing some middle class supporters who have

become disenchanted by underperformance271.

Historically, land ownership is a key issue in Bolivia – the main cause of the 1952

revolution – and a large source of inequality, as 70% of productive land is owned by 5%

of the population272. If Morales’ plans to redistribute 13% of Bolivia’s surface area to

267
Morales has led by example, cutting his own wage by 57% and declaring that no cabinet member can
earn more than him. The savings are to be used to hire more public school teachers, see Associate Press,
Bolivian president slashes salary for public schools, USA TODAY, (28/01/2006), available at
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2006-01-28-morales-salary_x.htm
268
2007 Index of Economic Freedom, The Heritage Foundation & The Wall Street Journal, (2007),
available at http://www.heritage.org/research/features/index/country.cfm?id=Bolivia
269
Boletín Electronico, available at the MAS official website, www.mas.bolivia,org
270
The military are involved in medical and dental services, administering treatments for parasites, giving
vaccines, distributing vitamins, building roads and civil engineering works, as well as environmental
projects, see Mejías, Sonia A., The Alliance Between the People and the Armed Forces In Evo Morales’
Social Transformation Project, Real Instituto Elcano de Estudios Internacionales, (22 February 2007),
available at www.realinstitutoelcano.org/analisis/1104.asp
271
A Year of Evo Morales, The Economist Intelligence unit, (2/02/2007), available at
www.economist.com
272
Benjamin Dangl and April Howard, Bolivia’s Dance with Evo Morales, available at
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/675/31/

49
28% of its population) are successful273, he will have succeeded where the revolution

failed274. However, despite government reassurances that land redistribution will be

limited to local residents, staunch opposition remains among the eastern districts – where

the majority of idle land seizures will occur – who fear the resulting migration will lead

to social disorder and overwhelm resources275. Hugo Salvatierra, Minister for Rural

Development, has told reporters that there would be no confiscation for “anyone who has

legally obtained the land and who works on it everyday and makes it productive”276.

Morales’ balancing act is a difficult one, as figures have already fallen short of their

targets277, while “many indigenous and peasant organizations have criticized the

government for limiting the distribution to low-quality publicly owned land”278. However,

at least the new plans are compatible with indigenous cultural values, unlike the previous

neoliberal ‘Ley INRA’279.

Bolivia’s first Indigenous President has finally seen the acceptance of her

indigenous identity. An emphasis on Andinidad and Indianidad (the Andean and Indian

273
The plan is to redistribute 142 million acres to 2.5 million people over the next five years, see Reel,
Monte, Morales Sets His Sights on Bolivia’s Idle Farmland, The Guardian, (2/6/2006), available at
www.guardian.co.uk
274
Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean, p. 96
275
Reel, Monte, Morales Sets His Sights on Bolivia’s Idle Farmland, The Guardian, (2/6/2006), available
at www.guardian.co.uk
276
Reel, Monte, Morales Sets His Sights on Bolivia’s Idle Farmland, The Guardian, (2/6/2006), available
at www.guardian.co.uk
277
Out of a potential 20 million hectares planned for redistribution so far, only 2.2 million have been given
out, see Benjamin Dangl and April Howard, Bolivia’s Dance with Evo Morales, available at
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/675/31/
278
Hines, Sarah, The New Shape of the Struggle: Bolivia Under Evo Morales, Socialist Worker Online,
(27/10/2006), available at www.socialistworker.org/2006-2/607/607_06_Bolivia.shtml
279
The current legislation gives land deeds to whole indigenous communities, whereas despite the tradition
of shared ownership, the 1996 ‘Ley INRA’, (indigenous land reform bill), gave deeds for entire
communities to individuals, whilst also allowing them to be sold, (often under heavy pressure from
agriculturalists), which led to the break-down of many indigenous communities, see Associate Press,
Bolivia: Congress Passes Controversial Land-Reform Law, NotiSur, available at
http://ssdc.ucsd.edu/news/notisur/h96/notisur.19961018.html#a3

50
way respectively) – in Morales’ speeches280 and the introduction of Quechua and Aymara

in schools281 – has replaced previous neoliberal pressures to homogenise282. However,

Morales must be wary of over-emphasising Indianidad and alienating those supporters

who do not lead indigenous lifestyles, seen through the government’s attempt to roll-back

catholic education in favour of Indianidad283. Within the indigenous community lie

Morales’ own cocaleros, but “the goals that seemed simple when chanted through a

loudspeaker in street marches appear more complicated when negotiated from the

government palace”284. In spite of plans to diversify coca leaf usage away from cocaine285,

coca farmers remain under heavy US pressure as Morales has not yet agreed a 2007

eradication plan with the US286. If American policy prevails and the extermination of

plots continues – as is happening in some regions287 – it would discredit both the man

who has spent his adult-life fighting US coca-eradication and the good work achieved

elsewhere. His policies have benefited the lower-income groups but also attempted to

include business and the middle classes, and although there have been failures, Morales

280
See Evo Morales Ayma’s inaugural speech, available at http://www.noticiasbolivianas.com/tr05.php
(spanish), for english excerpts, see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4638030.stm
281
Political Winds, Democracy Center, (12/17/2006), available at http://www.americas.org/item_30274
282
Zoomers, Annelies, Pro-Indigenous Reforms in Bolivia: Is there an Andean Way to Escape Poverty?,
Development and Change, Vol. 37 Issue 5, (September 2006), pp. 1025
283
Political Winds, Democracy Center, (12/17/2006), available at http://www.americas.org/item_30274
284
Benjamin Dangl and April Howard, Bolivia’s Dance with Evo Morales, available at
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/675/31/
285
Products such as shampoo, salves, and candies are produced for export, supported by Chávez who has
already purchased vast quantities, see ibid. available at
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/675/31/
286
Mokhtari, Nicki, No Smooth Sailing for Bolivia’s Morales, Council On Hemispheric Affairs,
(23/2/2007), available at www.coha.org
287
Not in Morales’ own Chapare department due to his own personal intervention, but in Yungas the policy
continues, as does the protest, see see Benjamin Dangl and April Howard, Bolivia’s Dance with Evo
Morales, available at http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/675/31/

51
has not only admitted them but shown a clear desire to amend them288 in a bid to regain

middle-class trust and negate opposition ammunition.

Morales came to power, like Chávez, on an organic nation-wide wave of

discontent with the old regime, but has so far been unable to completely change it. The

constitution will be extremely important in deciding Bolivia’s institutional future, and

also the degree to which power changes hands, but judging by what Morales has achieved

so far, his balanced approach can be commended. Issues that need addressing are being

addressed, if perhaps not yet solved, while showing other parties that wealth-

redistribution and capitalism can be compatible. Bolivia’s volatile nature and Morales’

left-wing background make this all the more impressive, as he has successfully

transformed a divisive single-issue movement into a vehicle of common interest, while

not exploiting the potential for personal power. Democracy is now a responsive organ

enacted for the people, but for it to be truly capable, opposition forces must be excluded

without being unified. It is a young regime and therefore any concrete judgements would

be premature, but Bolivia’s propensity for conflict acts as an unorthodox body of

accountability, making future extremism unlikely. 2006 has demonstrated the

consequence of too narrow an agenda, and Morales must use all his political skill if he is

to discredit the opposition, satisfy his cores supporters, and all the while retain the

support of the middle classes. Populism provides the vehicle to achieve this, but it is

Morales’ guidance that will ensure a new era of non-elitist democracy.

288
Recent cabinet-reshuffling saw Education minister Felix Patzi sacked as his plans had upset the catholic
church and a catholic population, while Interior minister Alicio Muños was replaced after the opposition
accused her of failing to curb social unrest, see Bolivia’s Morales reshuffles cabinet and ratifies reforms,
MercoPress, (25/01/2006), available at http://www.mercopress.com/vernoticia.do?id=9722&formato=html

52
Chapter 4 – Lulismo

During Brazil’s military dictatorship, industrialisation and modernisation

concentrated wealth into the hands of the few, leaving it as “one of the most unjust

societies in the world”289. Successive neoliberal governments during the 1990s

exacerbated this problem: in 2004 52.5 million people earnt less than $1.50 per day290.

Like Bolivia, Brazil is eco-geographically divided, in this case a rich south and poor

north-east, whilst horizontal inequalities are intrinsically linked to wealth291. Despite

greater economic and industrial growth than its neighbours, the country’s health and

education services have improved little in the last 50 years and only in the last ten years

has Brazil “slowly and laboriously begun to provide the basic social services that a

modern industrial society takes for granted in the 21st Century”292.

The rise of Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva is a particularly interesting example of

how repeated electoral deafeats can alter ideology: his initial defeat in 1989 to Fernando

Collor – a sleek, suave, anti-party candidate – demonstrated the importance of the media

as the neopopulist tarnished Lula’s left-wing PT, (Partido dos Trabalhadores, or

Worker’s Party) through his family-owned media company293. Although the neoliberal

‘structural adjustments’ benefited some parts of the economy beyond the reach of

government spending294, in other vital industries poor regulation ensured second rate

289
Luna, Francisco V., Klein, Herbert S., Brazil since 1980, (Cambridge 2006), p. 209
290
Weisbrot, Mark, and Luis Sandoval, Brazil’s Presidential Election: Background on Economic Issues,
Centre for Economic and Policy Research, (September 2006), p. 2
291
Luna, Francisco V., Klein, Herbert S., Brazil since 1980, (Cambridge 2006), p. 158
292
Luna, Francisco V., Klein, Herbert S., Brazil since 1980, (Cambridge 2006), p. 91
293
Armijo, Mass Democracy, p. 24
294
The Steel industry and Telecommunications were in desperate need of investment, Luna, Francisco V.,
Klein, Herbert S., Brazil since 1980, (Cambridge 2006), p. 74

53
services and low-levels of investment295, while failing to curb Brazils endemic hyper-

inflation. In a society with a massive underclass, inflation is a key issue296, as although

Collor was impeached for corruption, his inability to solve inflation lost him the

Presidency297. Lula’s loss to Cardoso – who had gained popularity through his Plan

Real298 – in the 1994 and 1998 elections showed Lula the importance of economic

stability and began his moderation away from left-wing trade unionism. However, even

in the 2002 elections Lula continued to campaign on a traditional PT ticket, attacking a

discredited Cardoso’s anti-worker pension reforms and much of his privatisation, amid a

general acceptance that Neoliberalism would subside299. The volte-face from vowing to

reassess Brazil’s foreign debt and end inequality to making and keeping deals with the

IMF signalled the end of Lula the ideological social democrat in favour of electoral

victory300.

295
The lack of regulation when privatising the energy sector means that electricity is now rationed, while
hasty privatisation of the sanitation sector means only half of all garbage produced is ever collected, and of
this only 36% is actually treated before being dumped in land-fills or rivers, see Luna, Francisco V., Klein,
Herbert S., Brazil since 1980, (Cambridge 2006), p. 73-4
296
Although inflation is solvable among the higher-earning brackets due by ‘indexing’ of salaries, the low-
income groups are disproportionately affected, see Luna, Francisco V., Klein, Herbert S., Brazil since
1980, (Cambridge 2006), p. 216
297
In Argentina, Menem – a very similar neopopulist – was also accused of corruption charges but avoided
impeachment by retaining public support through a successful economic policy, see Weyland, The Politics
of Corruption in Latin America, pp. 114
298
An economic stabilisation policy he devised whilst finance minister for Itamar Franco – Collor’s Vice-
President – that finally curbed inflation, propelling him to instant fame and adoration by the Brazilian
people, see Armijo, Leslie E., Mass Democracy: The Real Reason that Brazil Ended Inflation?, World
Development, Vol. 33 Issue 12, (December 2005), p. 8
299
The 1999 currency crisis lost Cardoso much support, and all candidates running for election in 2002
offered left-of-centre alternatives to Neoliberalism, see Mollo, Maria D. L. R., and Saad-Filho, Alfredo,
Neoliberal Economic Policies in Brazil, (1994-2005): Cardoso, Lula, and the Need for a Democratic
Alternative, New Political Economy, Vol. 11 No. 1, (March 2006), p. 99
300
The negative effect on the economy caused by speculation, (as the markets were fearful of the
innevitable Lula government), caused a fall in Lula’s popularity and prompted him to make a promise to
maintain the current economic re-structuring programs of the Cardoso government rather than his own
policy, see Mollo, Maria D. L. R., and Saad-Filho, Alfredo, Neoliberal Economic Policies in Brazil, (1994-
2005): Cardoso, Lula, and the Need for a Democratic Alternative, New Political Economy, Vol. 11 No. 1,
(March 2006), p. 114

54
Tariq Ali describes Lula as a “Tropical Tony Blair”301, but whereas Tony Blair is

surrounded by a fully consolidated democracy, Lula finds himself in the weak,

unresponsive, multi-party system which encourages Populism over Democracy302. Free-

market advocators do not label Lula a populist as he advocates “socially responsible

market economics”303, but this economic definition ignores the political nature of

Populism: Lulismo is markedly different from both Chavismo and Moralismo, but by

using Populism as a political tactic rather than a tool of wealth-redistribution, it becomes

clear that while Lula may be a progressive democrat he is, if not a populist, then a serial

user of its characteristics304. From humble north-eastern roots as Brazil’s first President

without formal secondary education or degree, Lula combines his folkloric qualities with

leftist trade union rhetoric305 to ensure a mass of loyal followers through charismatic

linkages306, even “seeking to take over Nelson Mandela’s [foreign statesman] mantle”307.

His reach extends across the ‘losers’ alliance’ – those traditionally excluded by

301
Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean, p. 35
302
There is little collective responsibility when conflicts with Congress are inevitable due to an over-
abundance of ideologically inconsistent parties, see Leslie Bethell, On Democracy in Brazil Past and
Present, p. 15
303
Vicente Fox and Enrique Iglesias, taken from Carlsen, Laura, “Ugly Heads” and Blanket
Condemnations: Protest and Populism, Counter Punch, (9/10/2004), available at
www.counterpunch.org/carlsen10092004.html, who see populism as “any deviation from the free-trade
norm”, ibid.
304
The reason this has not come to light before is that the right do not want to smear a free-marketeer with
such a venomous and divisive label, as is occurring in Venezuela and Bolivia where the label ‘populist’ is
being used by the opposition to rally support and alienate governments from their supporters, see Carlsen,
Laura, “Ugly Heads” and Blanket Condemnations: Protest and Populism, Counter Punch, (9/10/2004),
available at www.counterpunch.org/carlsen10092004.html
305
Lula rose to politics through the unions, heading the Steel Workers' Union of São Bernardo do Campo
and Diadema, and then forming the PT with fellow left-wing union leaders and intellectuals, see Profile:
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, BBC News, (30/10/2006), available at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/5346744.stm
306
Lula received the highest ever percentage for any Brazilian President, and his popularity at the start of
2007 has reached 71% despite a damaging corruption scandal, see Bulldozer Required, The Economist,
(4/01/2007), available at www.economist.com
307
Morais, Lecio, and Saad-Filho, Alfredo, Lula and the Continuity of Neoliberalism in Brazil: State
Choice, Economic Imperative, or Political Schizophrenia?, Historical Materialism, Vol. 13 No. 1, (2005),
pp. 2029

55
Neoliberalism308 – but his core supporters are the very poor: low-cost immediate

gratification policies ensures their continued support, despite failing to address the causes

of poverty309. Lula’s original reliance on PT grass-roots movements for support has been

replaced by his use of television to communicate directly with his core-followers, relying

on them only at election time310. Despite the corruption scandal in 2006 which discredited

a large number of PT politicians, Lula’s recent re-election shows that people hold Lula

rather than the PT responsible for economic stability, whilst the removal of many PT

Ministers close to Lula enhanced his degree of personalist leadership311. The ideological

trappings that populists avoid were shed as “coming to power was more important than

adherence to the program”312. Although the PT were seen as the most ideologically

coherent party in Brazil313, when Lula walked up the ramp to the Presidential Palace in

January 2003, he “had no clear programme for tackling the serious social problems or the

anti-democratic nature of the Brazilian state”314.

308
The Poor; the landless; workers; the church; capitalists who had had enough of Cardoso, all voted for
Lula, but it was less strategic and more tactical move in favour of change, see Lecio Morais, and Saad-
Filho, Lula and the Continuity of Neoliberalism in Brazil, pp. 2008
309
Schemes such as the Bolsa Familia, (Family Grant), give money directly to 11 million grateful families,
see Steve Kingstone, Brazil’s Poor Feel Benefits of Lula’s Policies, BBC News, (18/09/2006), available at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/5301240.stm
310
Taylor C. Boas, Television and Neopopulism in Latin America, p. 5
311
Peter Flynn, Brazil and Lula, 2005: Crisis, Corruption, and change in Political Perspective, Third
World Quarterly, Vol. 26 No. 8, (2005), pp. 1260
312
Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean, p. 36
313
Luna, Brazil since 1980, (Cambridge 2006), p. 35
314
Sue Branford and Hilary Wainwright, The Lesson from Lula, The Guardian, (21/12/2005), available at
http://www.guardian.co.uk/brazil/story/0,,1671807,00.html

56
Lula’s reluctance to challenge the previous regime distinguishes him from the

other members of the ‘pink-tide’315, as despite vehemently rejecting Cardoso’s policies

when campaigning, he has failed to confront Neoliberalism’s grip on the country316.

Lula’s fear that his PT base would not provide him with sufficient support to be elected317

– especially in the face of the inevitable economic disruption of a PT mandate318 –

allowed him to believe that slow incremental market-driven changes could eventually

produce equality319. Morais has diagnosed Lula with ‘political schizophrenia’, outdoing

the right with his economic policy while holding the leftist political ground320, or perhaps

a “Tropical Blair to Fernando Cardoso’s Thatcher”321. However, can Lula really be a

populist when the key element of enactment change through popular discontent is

missing? Laclau points out that perhaps this is not the question we should be asking, and

instead should acknowledge that Populism is existent in all politics322, indispensable in

conferring popular sovereignty to Latin American delegative democrats. Rather than

blanket vilification or blind acceptance, each left-leaning regime needs an individual

assessment of its effect on both democracy and society. Does keeping the old political

system make it more democratic and will this aid democracy long-term? Is it possible to

fulfil the left-wing promises which brought power without changing the system? These

questions can be answered through an examination of Lulismo.

315
Branford and Wainwright, The Lesson from Lula, available at
http://www.guardian.co.uk/brazil/story/0,,1671807,00.html
316
Mollo, and Saad-Filho, , Neoliberal Economic Policies in Brazil, (1994-2005), p. 98
317
Lula had already lost three elections, all to neopopulists, and all on a PT ticket, see Armijo, Mass
Democracy, p. 24
318
This is evident from the market speculation and drop in popularity during the run-up to his election, see
Mollo and Saad-Filho, Neoliberal Economic Policies in Brazil, (1994-2005), p. 113
319
Despite failing to do so in any country where the IMF has been instrumental in the implementation of
economic policy and restructuring, see Stigliz, Joseph, Globalization and its Discontents, (New York 2002)
320
Lecio, and Saad-Filho, Lula and the Continuity of Neoliberalism in Brazil, pp. 2029
321
Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean, p. 36
322
Laclau, Populism: What’s in a Name?, p. 11

57
Lula is considered a democrat because he operates within the current ‘Liberal

Democracy’ in Brazil, and has maintained the IMF policies of economic reform

associated with ‘Liberalism’. This leaves two problems: first, the current political system

in Brazil is hardly democratic323; second, the IMF and other Washington Consensus

organisations are neither democratic nor accountable institutions, being appointed rather

than elected and influenced by big-business lobbyists in the “dictatorship of capital”324.

Lula’ and the PT’s actions in Congress have not been democratic either: Lula’s Chief of

Staff, Jos Dirceu, ran “a sophisticated criminal organisation” to buy votes in congress325;

police caught aides in Lula’s Workers’ Party trying to buy a dossier to “smear an

opposition candidate in the Party of Brazilian Social Democracy”326; a slush fund has

been created to fund expensive election campaigns327; while suspicions also exist over

missing funds from the Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) program328. The continual shifting

coalitions made and then broken on a single-issue basis exemplify Lula’s democratic

credential: while he may have held them sufficiently together to govern, it was through

buying votes and altering the political agenda on which he was elected329.

The anti-democratic centralisation of power and subsequent lack of accountability

associated with Populism are key features of Lulismo. His progressive distancing from

Petismo, (PT’s ideology) has seen the party splinter, with those against the dilution of

323
See chapter 1
324
Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean, p. 2
325
Parliament or Pigsty?, The Economist, (8/2/2007), available at www.economist.com
326
Associate Press, Brazil’s President Faces Run-off as Scandal Grows, CBC News, available at
http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2006/10/01/brazil.html
327
Branford and Wainwright, The Lesson from Lula, available at
http://www.guardian.co.uk/brazil/story/0,,1671807,00.html
328
The government claim the discrepancy was from funds being diverted to finance debt, but most assume
it was to buy votes, see Caitlin Hicks, , The ‘Fome Zero’ Programme – Brazil’s Losing Struggle to Help
the Hungry: Lula’s Leadership Fading, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, (July 26, 2005), available at
www.coha.org
329
Parliament or Pigsty?, The Economist, (8/2/2007), available at www.economist.com

58
ideology expelled330. Within government, numerous ministerial turnovers and a lack of

coherent administrative policy has weakened the PT’s national credibility331, instead

concentrating power with Lula and his ability to “choose a safe path based on the

political backing he manages to acquire”332. High unemployment – begun under Cardoso

and continued under Lula – has weakened the PT’s traditional working class base by

destroying the trade unions, thus removing the institutional accountability and internal

democracy so important in consolidated political parties333. New institutes established

specifically to recommend changes are ignored334 and the “practice of involving members

[has] eventually [been] abandoned”335. Despite failing to keep his campaign promises of

tackling systemic poverty, crime, and violence336, Lula’s continued popularity and re-

election demonstrates how political accountability is eclipsed by economic stability337.

‘Lula the democrat’ refers less to his adherence to democracy and more to his ability to

govern.

As this is Lula’s final term in office, what then is his legacy, as ambivalence in

reforming democracy leaves an uncertain future? According to Cristovam Buarque, a

PDT senator and Lula’s former Education Minister, Brazil needs a revolution338. Despite
330
Among others, Heloisa Helena de Moraes Carvalho was expelled and has since established PSOL,
(Partido Socialismo e Liberdade or Socialism and Freedom Party), even running in the 2006 Presidential
race, see Weisbrot and Sandoval, Brazil’s Presidential Election, p. 1
331
Luna, Brazil since 1980, p. 35
332
Marcio Pochmann, taken from Zibechi, Raul, Lula: Between the Elite and the Movements, IRC
Americas Program, (28/11/2006), available at http://americas.irc-online.org/am/3731
333
Branford and Wainwright, The Lesson from Lula, available at
http://www.guardian.co.uk/brazil/story/0,,1671807,00.html
334
Rebecca Bloom, and Stephanie Hanson, Brazil Voters Chart Steady Course, Council on Foreign
Relations, (30/10/2006), available at
http://www.cfr.org/publication/11832/brazil_voters_chart_steady_course.html
335
Branford and Wainwright, The Lesson from Lula, available at
http://www.guardian.co.uk/brazil/story/0,,1671807,00.html
336
Cristovam Buarque, Enough Already of Pretending Brazil Doesn’t Need a Revolution, Brazzil
Magazine, (27/2/2007), available at www.brazzil.com
337
Bulldozer Required, The Economist, (4/01/2007), available at www.economist.com
338
Cristovam Buarque, Enough Already of Pretending Brazil Doesn’t Need a Revolution, available at
www.brazzil.com

59
Lula’s personal popularity, under his government confidence in Congress has been

further undermined: the public’s desensitisation to corruption has allowed 12 government

supporters “caught out in misdeeds” to remain in the legislature, while those that were

expelled are working their way back in339. This can only encourage the public’s fatalistic

view that all parties are the same340 – particularly as Lula campaigned against corruption

and was seen to hold high moral standards. Congress’s ‘unresponsive’ label has also

worsened in the face of rising crime levels341, as citizens blame politicians for not doing

enough to protect them342, while the inevitable heightening of class-based tensions affects

social cohesion343. Lula will leave a centre-left void that the PT cannot fill – if the 2004

federal elections are indicative344 – as while formerly a tool with which the left-wing and

its associated unions345 could pressure government, “they now face the reality that this

custom-built instrument stands before them bent and corroded”346. 2004 showed the cost

of abandoning social-democratic middle-class supporters, as the electoral defeats were

“symptomatic of the loss of a social group that has been enormously influential in

339
Parliament or Pigsty?, The Economist, (8/2/2007), available at www.economist.com
340
Colburn, Latin America at the End of Politics, p. 38
341
The police have been powerless to stop the recent wave of attacks in Sao Paolo by the First Capital
Command – an organized crime network controlled from within the city’s jails – despite knowing in
advance where and when the attacks are going to take place, see Hanson, Stephanie, Brazil’s Powerful
Prison Gang, Council on Foreign Relations, (September 2006), available at
http://www.cfr.org/publication/11542/
342
Bloom, Rebecca, and Hanson, Stephanie, Brazil Voters Chart Steady Course, Council on Foreign
Relations, (30/10/2006), available at
http://www.cfr.org/publication/11832/brazil_voters_chart_steady_course.html
343
Steve Kingstone, Crime Concerns of Brazil’s Voters, BBC News, (26/09/2006), available at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/5316170.stm
344
PT won only 83 out of a possible 513 seats in the House of Representatives, (4 years ago they held 91),
witnessing a 22% loss in the south and a 23% loss in the south-east. In the Senate the situation was worse
as the PT secured only 11 seats out of 81. This means they will no longer control any of the big three state
of Sao Paolo, Rio de Janeiro, or Minieras Gerais, see Zibechi, Raul, Lula: Between the Elite and the
Movements, IRC Americas Program, (28/11/2006), available at http://americas.irc-online.org/am/3731
345
PT’s traditional political allies were The CUT (Central Única dos Trabalhadores - Central Worker’s
Union), and the MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – Landless Workers Movement),
346
Hilary Wainwright, The Brazil They Want, The Guardian, (27/11/2006), available at
www.guardian.co.uk

60
shaping the political ideology of the PT and that plays a key role in the connection

between the working-class poor, the social movements, and their political expression

within the state”347. By destroying the PT, Lulismo has robbed Brazilians of political

choice – a key feature of democracy – while forcing the left to remain loyal to the ‘lesser

evil’, begrudgingly uniting behind him to fight the right348. While Lulismo has not aided

or strengthened democracy, it is necessary to examine its benefit to society to see how

‘socially responsible market economics’ can tackle inequality.

Lula’s adherence to Neoliberalism has seen contrasting results: during his first

four years he channelled $13 billion dollars towards alleviating poverty, yet the banking

sector “reaped its highest profits in history”349. Public opposition to high inflation is so

great that Lula has even exceeded IMF targets in the name of economic stability350.

However, the anti-inflationary mechanism of preserving high interest-rates – ensuring

greater wealth-accumulation for the rich351 – also maintains an artificially high exchange

rate, hurting exports and flooding the market with imports, therefore heavily stunting

growth352. Ironically, Brazil’s success in cutting foreign debt – a core aim of IMF policy

– was caused by the Real’s devaluation in 2002 which stimulated exports353. The IMF’s

preference for short-term macro-economic stability has ruined long-term growth and,

more importantly when tackling inequality, limits available capital for both future

347
Morais and Saad-Filho, Lula and the Continuity of Neoliberalism in Brazil, pp. 2034
348
This was shown through 2006 election reaching a second round, as many on the left originally voted
against Lula, but fully endorsing him once the options were between him and Geraldo Alckmin, a
neoconservative, see, Rosa M. Marques and Paulo Nakatani, The State and Economy in Brazil, Monthly
Review, (February 2007), available at http://www.monthlyreview.org/0207marques.htm
349
Zibechi, Lula: Between the Elite and the Movements, available at http://americas.irc-online.org/am/3731
350
Mollo, Neoliberal Economic Policies in Brazil, (1994-2005), (March 2006), p. 115
351
Zibechi, Lula: Between the Elite and the Movements, available at http://americas.irc-online.org/am/3731
352
Weisbrot, Brazil’s Presidential Election, p. 2
353
Luna, Francisco V., Klein, Herbert S., Brazil since 1980, (Cambridge 2006), p. 76

61
investments and poverty-alleviation354. Whereas both Chávez and Morales used their

states’ natural resources to fund projects to help the poor, the control of capital in Brazil

has not allowed Lula to do the same with Petrobras, (Brazil’s state oil company),

regardless of the government’s 55% share355. Despite ‘re-education’356, Petrobras’s main

achievement from oil self-sufficiency has been to reduce transport costs for the middles

classes through lower fuel prices357, while also helping to strike international trade

agreements358.

Lula presides over one of the world’s most inequitable countries (the ratio of

earnings from the top 10% to the bottom 10% is 68:1, compared to 15.9:1 in the USA359),

yet there has been little redistribution in wealth: low growth rates360 and little foresight

have seen holistic rather than preventative policies: the Bolsa Familia – Lula’s flag-ship

poverty-reduction program – gives financial support to 44 million families, provided their

children attend school and receive the necessary vaccinations, and while it has

contributed to “the largest decrease in inequality in Brazil in 30 years”361, it is infact an

amalgamation of previous Cardoso policies362. However, the programme itself fails to

354
Bloom and Hanson, Brazil Voters Chart Steady Course, available at
http://www.cfr.org/publication/11832/brazil_voters_chart_steady_course.html
355
Francescki,, Brazil’s Lula, Popular but not Populist, VOA News, (May 2 2006), available at
www.voanews.com
356
In a speech given on 14th June 2006 at the opening of the Rio de Janeiro Petrochemical Complex, Lula
claims “Petrobras was told by I don’t know which government to care only for oil prospection”, and since
arriving in power has changed their policy, see Pimental, Carolina, Brazil’s Lula: ‘Dear Petrobras, Stop
Thinking About Yourself’, Brazzil Magazine, (14/6/2006), available at
http://www.brazzilnews.com/content/view/6640/53/
357
McCarthy, Brazil Nears Oil Independence, available at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?
storyId=5358623
358
Pimental, Brazil’s Lula: ‘Dear Petrobras, Stop Thinking About Yourself’, Brazzil Magazine,
(14/6/2006), available at http://www.brazzilnews.com/content/view/6640/53/
359
Weisbrot, Brazil’s Presidential Election, p. 3
360
Growth for 2006 was 2.8% and is not expected to rise significantly, see Martínez, América Latina:
balance 2006
http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/business/barometro_economico/newsid_6209000/6209207.stm
361
Bloom and Hanson, Brazil Voters Chart Steady Course, available at
http://www.cfr.org/publication/11832/brazil_voters_chart_steady_course.html
362
Weisbrot, Brazil’s Presidential Election: Background on Economic Issues, p. 2

62
tackle the causes of poverty: by giving handouts rather than investing in job creation,

housing, or the provision of basic services, the schemes lead to further reliance rather

than empowerment363. Other projects have also fallen short of expectations: Fome Zero

had its budget cut by a third, leaving it with “more bark than bite”364; while Zero Sed,

(Zero Thirst), and Luz para Todos, (Light for Everyone), “fell well short of

expectations”365.

Employment generation has been a great obstacle, as limited advances have failed

to surpass the Cardoso government as any increases have been negated by population

increases366. The average wage has actually decreased 9% since Cardoso367, and although

the minimum wage has been raised 19%, it fails to cover informally employed workers

who out number those in formal employment three to one368. State pensions – something

passionately defended by Lula in opposition369 – are now being lowered with future plans

for privatisation370. Ironically, the more investment Lula attracts, the more efficient

industry becomes, and the fewer the workers needed371. Education remains a pressing

issue, but aside from Bolsa Familia little is done to ensure children remain in school:

while 95% of children enrol, one third finish and of those one sixth do so with the

minimum qualifications372. As Bolsa Familia only provides 6% of the minimum wage to

363
Kingstone, Brazil’s Poor Feel Benefits of Lula’s Policies available at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/5301240.stm
364
Hicks, The ‘Fome Zero’ Programme, available at www.coha.org
365
Ibid. available at www.coha.org
366
Weisbrot, Brazil’s Presidential Election: Background on Economic Issues, p. 8
367
Mollo, Neoliberal Economic Policies in Brazil, pp. 111
368
Luna, Brazil since 1980, p. 199
369
Ibid., p. 198
370
Marques, Lula and Social Policy: In the Service of Financial Capital, available at
http://www.monthlyreview.org/0207marques2.htm
371
Luna, Brazil since 1980, p. 151
372
Buarque, Enough Already of Pretending Brazil Doesn’t Need a Revolution, available at
www.brazzil.com

63
supplement a large family, children are often forced into employment373. Illiteracy has

decreased 374, but is not being tackled sufficiently; by 2020 Brazil will have reached the

literacy levels that Argentina achieved in 1990, while studies by CEPAL show that by

2010 even Bolivia will have a higher literacy rate375.

Land Redistribution is another unfulfilled promise, as, despite PT’s close ties with

the landless movements, most feel Lula has “cosied up to the agricultural elite that owns

nearly half of Brazil’s farmland”376, placing profitable agribusiness before land reform377.

Lula claims to have fulfilled this promise, but the quarter of a million landless families so

far re-housed have been moved to public land or pre-existing settlements rather than the

promised expropriations378, leading to independent seizures and conflict379.

Hopefully Lula will acknowledge this failure as “Brazil’s social and economic

problems are too severe, and too deeply ingrained, to be resolved by spontaneous market

processes”380. Although some former allies believe Lula’s second term will be an

opportunity to “promote a serious debate of ideas, political projects, and class

struggles”381, this will not happen outside a neoliberal framework as Lula has promised to

373
Weisbrot, Brazil’s Presidential Election, p. 8
374
In 1950, half the population were illiterate; by 1980, that figure had fallen to a quarter, see Luna, p. 189
375
Press Release: Progress in Brazilian Education, CEPAL Review Nº 73, available at
http://www.eclac.org/cgi-bin/getProd.asp?
xml=/prensa/noticias/comunicados/1/6431/P6431.xml&xsl=/prensa/tpl-i/p6f.xsl&base=/prensa/tpl-i/top-
bottom.xsl
376
Kingstone, Lula under fire over land issues, available at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/5313590.stm
377
Hilary Wainwright, The Brazil They Want, The Guardian, (27/11/2006), available at
www.guardian.co.uk
378
Kingstone, Lula under fire over land issues, available at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/5313590.stm
379
Luna, Brazil since 1980, p. 134
380
Mollo, Neoliberal Economic Policies in Brazil, (1994-2005), pp. 119
381
Zibechi, Lula: Between the Elite and the Movements, available at http://americas.irc-online.org/am/3731

64
further existing policies by cutting spending382, while politically, he is being forced

further right in search of a workable coalition383.

Lulismo is a phenomenon based more on opportunistic practicality than a left-

wing agenda, as neoliberal policies are sold through left-wing populist rhetoric.

According to Brazilian farmer Paulo Giacomet: “Lula tries to be all things to all men and

…ends up pleasing no-one”384. Lula’s achievements have been considerably less than

other members of the ‘pink-tide’, and Jorge Casteñeda, a free-marketeer, sees his

initiatives “as neoliberal and scantly clad revolutionary as one can get”385. By failing to

reform the political system, Lula has not guaranteed a democratic future, and rather than

opening institutions to public use, he has “transferred control of the most important levers

of accumulation to a relatively small number of financial institutions”386. Instead of

ensuring a permanent political-voice for the poor, he has shown how they can be

incorporated within the neoliberal paradigm. No sustainable improvements have been

made to people’s lives, while the reversal of foreign debt and the bolsa familia were not

of Lula’s making387. Although Morais is doubtful whether a leftist agenda can be pursued

again388, renewed energy at grass-roots level shows that “commitment to create a form of

self-regulating participatory democracy is widespread”389. Although whether a principled


382
Andrew J. Barden, Brazil's Stocks, Bonds Drop on Concern Lula to Boost Spending, Bloomberg,
(30/10/2006), available at http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?
pid=20601087&sid=aYuhj6GrYJ84&refer=home
383
Bulldozer Required, The Economist, (4/01/2007), available at www.economist.com
384
Taken from an interview by Steve Kingstone, see Kingstone, Lula under fire over land issues, available
at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/5313590.stm
385
Jorge Castañeda,, Latin America’s Turn Left, Foreign Affairs, (May/June 2006), p. 5
386
Morais, Lula and the Continuity of Neoliberalism in Brazil: State Choice, Economic Imperative, or
Political Schizophrenia?, Historical Materialism, Vol. 13 No. 1, (2005), pp. 2031-32
387
Unless one credits Lula with the economic downturn that resulted from speculation over his Presidency
before he was even elected
388
Morais, Lula and the Continuity of Neoliberalism in Brazil, pp. 2030
389
A ‘National Popular Assembly’ has arisen from open assemblies in over 200 towns and cities across
Brazil, while the left’s pioneering of local-level ‘participatory budgets’ has allowed “delegates elected by
neighbourhood assemblies [to] negotiate priorities for new investment through a set of transparent, fine-
tuned rules that are agreed annually”, Wainwright, The Brazil They Want, available at www.guardian.co.uk

65
party could succeed in Brazil is debateable, as it appears the only way to reorder the

current system would be through another charismatic populist. However, while economic

stability remains (and thus the positive evaluation of democracy) continues, a populist

revolution will not be possible. As a large country rich in resources, without an over-

reliance on “fickle financial flows”390 Brazil should be able to solve its own problems.

Although a stronger leader than Lula is needed to confront Neoliberalism391, and

preferably one who can “rely on their own social base as a counter-weight to the powers-

that-be”392, democracy is unresponsive and without crisis Populism’s great potential for

change will remain unharnessed. Lula has quite rightly been omitted from the ‘Axis of

Hope’393, and whilst some commentators question why Morales is not more like Lula,

they have failed to look beyond the simple labels of populist and democrat.

390
Mollo, Neoliberal Economic Policies in Brazil, (1994-2005), pp. 120
391
Parliament or Pigsty?, The Economist, (8/2/2007), available at www.economist.com
392
Branford and Wainwright, The Lesson from Lula, available at
http://www.guardian.co.uk/brazil/story/0,,1671807,00.html
393
Ali, Pirates of the Caribbean, p. 35

66
Conclusion

Although Left-leaning Populism is not just a demagogic phenomenon as Vincente

Fox and Enrique Iglesias would have us believe394, the potential for demagoguery is there.

However, low-level institutionalisation, high degrees of centralisation, and a weakening

of existing democratic institutions is a price that populations appear willing to pay when

the faced with Elitist Democracy. What Latin Americans have to tolerate as Democracy

is neither inclusive, responsive, nor liberal in any way beyond its institutional façade, and

when public discontent reaches such proportions that the next step is civil-war,

Populism’s ability to avert this whilst removing the obstacles to a more representative

democracy labels it a saviour. Democracy is a concept of popular governance that is

supposed to go hand in hand with national sovereignty, not a label given to institutions

that can be manipulated to serve the selfish ends of an elite minority. Neither the citizens

of North America nor Europe would tolerate the quality of democracy that their

governments currently advocate in Latin America.

Despite fears across the right-wing, Left-leaning Populism does not cause the

downfall of democracies in which its citizens are content. Even in Brazil, where

institutional confidence was rock bottom, a lack of public desire for change, (as well as

an unenthusiastic incumbent), prevented Populism from making a serious impact on the

political system. Populism feeds on crisis, rising as tensions rise, and falling as tensions

fall, and without crisis it is impotent. The reliance of populists on direct elections holds

them more accountable than many of the regimes they replace, and the way in which they
394
Carlsen, “Ugly Heads” and Blanket Condemnations, available at
www.counterpunch.org/carlsen10092004.html

67
subside once their role has been fulfilled shows their transitional nature. However, the

cleavage from which Left-leaning Populism has risen is not one that is solved easily. The

extent of inequality is and has been Latin America’s greatest socio-economic problem –

and her greatest barrier to democracy, and therefore regimes that attempt to redress this

balance, whilst disruptive and destructive in the short-term, should have a positive

democratic legacy.

Even if we accept that ‘Left-leaning Populism’, despite what it is replacing, is

anti-democratic, a comparison with Lula, a ‘progressive democrat’, can reveal that

Chavismo and Moralismo have both benefited society, aided democracy, and then

strengthened it, to a much greater degree than Lulismo will ever achieve, despite

economic stability. Chávez and Morales have redistributed wealth to the lower echelons

of society, tackling inequalities, (both horizontal and vertical), and ensuring a fairer

future for all by allowing people to pull themselves out of poverty. Lula however,

although coming to power with similar goals, has not succeeded in achieving them due to

the constraint of resources caused by IMF polices, and although he is making a difference

to the lives of the poor, he is still condemning them to poverty by refusing them the tools

with which to escape. Venezuela and Bolivia have aided short-term democracy by finally

given a voice to those previously excluded from the old political system, as the traditional

monopolies of power held by the old parties has ended. Sovereignty over natural

resources and policy direction has been restored, allowing a more independent path to be

taken that is in their own interest rather than that of foreign capital. However, Brazil is

still heavily under the sway of international institutions – especially those linked to the

Washington Consensus – whilst the traditional power-plays between the parties continue

68
unabated. If anything, the reputation of democracy has been worsened, and people are

more concerned with the economy than the state of democracy – especially now that the

left have been silenced. Under Chávez and Morales, democracy has been strengthened in

the long-term by ensuring that those previously excluded from politics and government

polices are now permanently included – even by the opposition – whilst releasing the

elite’s grip over the levers of power without damaging the institutions that will later be

used by other governments. Lulismo has unfortunately made no such change by accepting

Neoliberalism as the only paradigm within which to work, instead ensuring successive

governments are able to ignore the issues of vertical inequality that damage the base of

democracy, whilst Brazil’s institutions remain unreformed and unresponsive.

The positive work of Populism is being over-shadowed by the hostility towards it

and the same commentators who vilify Chávez applauded Fujimori: “even the destructive

tendencies of Neoliberal neopopulism may have beneficial long-term results, sweeping

away obstacles to democracy and encouraging broader-based intermediary associations to

arise, after the eventual demise of populism itself”395. However, although the same can

obviously be applied to contemporary left-leaning populists, the obvious ideological

barrier between “painful but necessary economic restructuring”396 for the sake of the

market and using Populism to tackle poverty prevents many who accept that

Neopopulism “remains a viable strategy”397 from doing so to Left-leaning Populism. The

negative labelling of populists has less to do with genuine concern for functioning

democracy, (as if it were they would have been demanding reform decades ago), and

more a fear of market economics being abandoned which would harm their interests.

395
Weyland, Populism in the Age of Neoliberalism, p. 192
396
Ibid. p. 192
397
Weyland, Neopopulism and Neoliberalism in Latin America: How Much Affinity? pp. 1113

69
Perhaps rather than disparaging Populism, the Washington Consensus should take some

responsibility: states need to develop organically rather than having institutions and

policies imposed upon them, whilst the insistence of further Neoliberal adjustments in the

face of their obvious failure can only fan the populist flames398. Vilification ignores the

issues rather than formulating a coherent response, and the insistence on the Neoliberal

model being the only viable option fails to address the very problems of which Populism

is now a symptom. It will arise wherever there is an unaddressed societal cleavage, but if

sovereign states were allowed independent governance from the narrow interests of the

elites and foreign capital that dictate politics, a more democratic and less volatile solution

to Latin America’s inequalities could be found. Until then, Long Live Populism Our

Saviour.

398
Carlsen, “Ugly Heads” and Blanket Condemnations, available at
www.counterpunch.org/carlsen10092004.html

70
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