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Latin American Politics Essay

Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias is the current president of Venezuela and was born on 28th July, 1954. He is a leader who advocates for democratic socialism in his country and for Latin American Integration. He openly attacks the policy of globalization, neo-liberalism and opposes most of the foreign policies of the United States. The president is very popular and respected at home for he is able to keep the promises he made to his people for example to fight poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy and other related social ills that affected citizens.

His personality and policies evoke a mixed reaction from different nations some in the Latin American region and others from abroad. Some support his ideologies while others criticize them and a good example is the United States government which refer him as a threat to the Latin America’s democracy. The reason behind this is that he tries to implement some modalities that would promote regional integration and cooperation among the Latin American nations and especially the Latin’s poor nations.

This essay is going to look at how Venezuela’s foreign policies under the directions of Hugo Chavez have changed overtime. The paper will also give a brief overview of the life of Hugo Chavez and then proceed to discuss how his policies have benefited the Venezuelans back at home and affected other nations. The paper will be concluded with a recap of the key points that have been discussed. The last page of this paper is a list of the references that have been consulted, properly formatted in accordance with MLA style.

After Chavez won in 2004’s referendum, he promised to uplift the living standards of his people under a program that was dubbed as “Bolivian missions” something that proved to be successful because it was favoured by the increase in oil prices. Through this, he was able to gather billion of dollars as foreign exchange which he used to boost his country’s economy which reached 9. 3 in 2005. (Painter) Venezuela’s economy mostly depends on the oil it produces.

Since 1920 up to the present day, the profit that is accrued from oil exports has led to the growth and development of this nation more than one would have imagined for example the size of Caracas city doubled in the 1920-1936 period and tripled in 1940s. Despite the fact that the country exports a lot of oil to other nations, half of the population are very poor and live in slums and that is why Chavez has dedicated his efforts to eradicate poverty in his nation and to reduce the high rate of inequality that has continued to affect citizens.

Currently half of the Venezuela’s population live in urban cities while the other half is in rural slums where they live in abject poverty (Mora and Hey 78) Chavez has always been trying to boost relations with other Latin Americans in a bid to achieve regional integration in fact this is one of his key foreign policies, a goal that he started to pursue after the 1997’s Summit of the Americas. Venezuela has been very vocal in advocating for the lifting of sanctions that have been imposed on Cuba and other ‘Multi polar’ ties that are imposed on other developing countries.

Although Venezuela has not been enjoying warm relationship with United States, it has never experienced the military, political and economic sanctions that are imposed on other nation perhaps because of its oil producing capacity. (Painter J. ) Venezuela occupies a strategic position as far as the superpowers’ interests are concerned and the reason for this is that is supplies oil to these countries in large quantities something that made it to be ranked among the biggest oil producers in the world.

Despite the fact that it was one of the primary oil suppliers to US and a role model to other Latin American nations US has never recognised the role it plays partly because of its aggressive foreign policies. Although U. S and Venezuela have not been good very friends, Venezuela continues to export oil to United States. Their relationship is from time to time affected by other factors and adding salt to the injury was the 2002’s attempted coup that led to the temporarily removal of Chavez from office with an assistance from US government something that US government denied.

(Isbell) The reason why US sponsored this coup was that the Latin American oil producing countries were extending their business relations to Cuba contrary to what US would have liked. US wanted the sanctions it had imposed on Cuba to remain but its efforts were undermined by Chavez’s move to sell oil to Cuba in a bid to maximize his capital. For this reason US wanted Chavez to be removed and replaced with another one who would not interfere with the sanctions that had been imposed.

Venezuela apart from starting business relations with Cuba it signed a business deal with it to increase its oil sale to Cuba something led US to deny Hugo Chavez a visa to go to its country. (Elliott) Venezuela in reaction to this started to openly oppose US policies especially after the 200’s coup attempt for example, Venezuela voted against US’ claims in the United Nations meeting that there were human rights violations in Iraq, Libya and Cuba. It also opposed the sanctions that were intended to be imposed on Peru in 2002 by the United States in respect to the agreement that was reached in Quebec’s summit.

As if this was not enough, Venezuela criticised and opposed what US referred to as ‘Plan Colombia’ designed to fight the sale of narcotics in the region. The plan was to allow free antinarcotics over flights in the Latin American region, a move that was opposed because of its US military nature which was likely to cause regional conflict. (Mora and Hey 159) The US relations with Venezuela reached its worst point after the 2001 New York bombings. The US government had vowed that it would fight terrorism completely and war was waged against Afghanistan.

The Venezuelan government criticised this move arguing that terrorism cannot be fought with terrorism. They shown pictures of young children who had been killed by US bombs. As their relations continued to worsen, the US government was trying to improve this relationship. The US even denied having participated in the 2002’s attempts to swap Chavez with Pedro Carmona. The only motivating factor for the United States to do this was to ensure that there was continued flow of the commodity they heavily relied on, the oil and that their power would be felt in the Latin America and especially by Fidel Castro.

(Mora and Hey 155) Chavez was also been vibrant in rescuing the oil prices especially when they were on the decline in 1998. He liaised with other OPEC members and held a crisis meeting to solve the problem of the decline in oil prices. His efforts were duly paid because after this meeting the price per barrel shot up something that made his power to felt in the world. (Lotta) Although there is lot hegemony from the US government, Chavez has never allowed US government to take control over his country.

He visited the OPEC countries in 1999 and specifically the Libyan and Iraq leaders Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein respectively in his trial to his business ties. In 2001 Chavez visited the Asian countries to share his support on communism both in Russia and China but this was not all that he wanted because for was trying to look for new business partners. Although he was doing this he never failed to acknowledge that though his country was at verbal war with US, it was its key oil supplier. It acknowledged this especially after it stopped to give oil subsidy to the Cuban government. (Elliot et al)

In his move to improve and extend his country’s foreign policies to Asian and European countries, he killed the democracy that was enjoyed at home by Venezuela’s institutions. At the same time as democratic institutions declined, the warm relationship that had existed between other regional Latin countries was lost. His aggressive pursuance of foreign policies was counter productive as it made him forget the issues that needed immediate address back at home, “foreign policy did not contribute to the provision of adequate responses to the most urgent domestic economic and social needs” (Mora and Hey 160)

Although he is criticised and demonized by many people, the way he has impacted this nation is much more than what other leaders had done. He is accused of perpetrating corruption but all in all, he is different from others in that his foreign policies have led to the increase in oil prices and to the improvement in living standards. He channelled more dollars on the fund that is used to help the less privileged in the society. Many argue that were it not for his ability to make oil prices rise he would not be in power.

The argument is that Chavez can only remain in power if will be able to ensure that the price of oil will remain high. At the moment, Hugo Chavez is trying to look for new market for his oil in the Asian and western countries. This move is meant to expand Venezuela’s business relations while at the same time punishing US for pursuing aggressive goals towards it. Chavez according to Lotta R. (2007), “the third track of the oil program is to restructure Venezuela’s external trade relations away from dependence on the US as a market and source of investment capital and technical expertise.

” Venezuela alone exports about 12% of petrol to United States and thus it contributes to the power that US exerts to the world. It is said that this is about half of its production and that is why it is looking for other buyers. Already the country is holding talks with Chinese and Russia governments to sell oil to them. It is also planning to sell oil to India but the problem is that Venezuela does not have its own port and is thus required to put a pipeline to pass through Columbia to china.

Another problem is that China does not have money that is needed to refine Venezuela’s sulphur rich oil unlike in US where are special refineries meant for refining Venezuelan oil. Though most of foreign policies are economically focused, in 2005 he stopped buying arms from United States and looked for alternative sources, he started to buy them from Brazil Russia, Spain and China something that added strain to the relationship that had existed between Venezuela and US.

He also asked all the US military personnel who were active in the service to move out Venezuela. Since he took power, the price of oil per barrel has risen from 10 US dollars to 78 US dollars. This figure would be more than this were it not for the fact that Venezuela’s oil is sold a bit cheaper due to its high percentage of sulphur impurities however, its oil has remained as competitive as that of other OPEC countries. The sharp increase in oil prices could largely be attributed to his success in politics for example, he was able to win the majority’s support.

Chavez is trying to establish market for his oil in countries that are not in good relations with United States such as Iran, Russia and Belarus, “Chavez used every opportunity to disparage the United States and seek to forge solidarity with a number of states at odds with Washington” (Hanson). Political experts argue that unless Chavez devise new ways of maintaining high oil prices then his regime will soon come to an end. It is for this reason that he is trying to establish new markets. Experts see this move as a threat to the survival of US as a world power but this might not necessarily be true.

These experts have mixed views on this for example, John Hopkins, a professor dismisses Chavez’s rhetoric as something insignificant while others warn that his move should not be underestimated as he has widespread support in Venezuela. In reality, Chavez is not a threat to US but all he wants is to widen his economic base and that is why he is having many trips across the world so that he would broker more economic cooperation among other oil producers. He is also trying to secure himself a seat in the United Nations Security Council a move that is vehemently opposed by the United States.

In response, the US imposed some sanctions against Venezuela especially on arms importation citing the reason that Venezuela was not supportive on terrorism war. (Kozloff, 98) It is argued that if Venezuela would stop selling oil to US, oil price would shot up almost with at least 11 dollars per barrel. Some are underestimating his potential to become a world power but they should consider how the rise in oil prices in the last few months has made him popular both in his country and world wide.

He used that money to foster his programs, to forge and to booster commercial ties with other nations. At the moment he (Chavez) is threatening that he would stop supplying U S with oil. (Kozloff, 99) In his foreign relations, Chavez advised other OPEC members to cut their supply so that the price of oil would increase. Although international flights to US were banned, he decided to drive from Iran to Iraq and as a result of this; the price of oil reached $25 per barrel in 2004 something different from how it was prior to this period and all this was happening when he was the president of OPEC.

The upsurge in prices was also as a result of his efforts to look for other oil consumers and especially in the developed nations such as china, India and even Japan. These nations use a lot of oil leading to its shortage. To counter this move, the US government is referring him as a “negative force” and is even trying to urge Chavez neighbours to isolate him. (Elliot et al 26) The foreign policies of Hugo Chavez have greatly impacted on Venezuelans and the country at large.

Chavez using the money that is got from increased oil prices to fulfil the promises that he made to his people under the mission he dubbed as Bolivian Mission. He has significantly improved the living standards of his people for example he reduced poverty, malnutrition and illiteracy. His foreign policies have been widely criticised by the western nations and more specifically the US particularly due to its move to extend its business relations to the Asian countries such as China and India and other Latin American nations that are not in good terms with US.

Work Cited: Elliott, K. Ann, Hufbauer, G. C. and Schott. Economic Sanctions Reconsidered Peterson Institute, 2007 Kozloff N. Hugo Chavez: Oil, Politics, and the Challenge to the U. S. Palgrave Macmillan. 2006. Kelly de Escobar, J. , Kelly, J. and Romero, C. A. The United States and Venezuela: Rethinking a Relationship. Routledge, 2002 Isbell, P. Hugo Chavez and the Future of Venezuelan Oil: The Resurgence of Energy Nationalism (ARI) 2007. Available at http://www. realinstitutoelcano. org/wps/portal/rielcano_eng/Content?

WCM_GLO BAL_CONTEXT=/Elcano_in/Zonas_in/International+Economy/ARI+14-2007 Lotta, R. Hugo Chavez Has an Oil Strategy… But Can This Lead to Liberation? 2007. Available at http://revcom. us/a/094/chavez-en. html Painter J. Is Venezuela’s oil boom set to bust? 2008. Available at http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/americas/7694757. stm Mora, F. O. and. Hey, Jeanne A. Latin American and Caribbean Foreign Policy. Rowman & Littlefield, 2003


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