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Electing Chavez (Paperback)

The Business of Anti-neoliberal Politics in Venezuela

Imprint: University of Pittsburgh Press
Series: Pitt Latin American Series
Pages: 208
ISBN: 9780822960645
Published: 30th April 2010
Casemate UK Academic

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Venezuela\u2019s Hugo Ch\u00e1vez was the first anti-neoliberal presidential candidate to win in the region. Electing Ch\u00e1vez examines the circumstances that facilitated this pivotal election. By 1998, Venezuela had been rocked by two major scandals—the exchange rate incidents of the 1980s and the banking crisis of 1994—and had suffered rising social inequality. These events created a deep-seated distrust of establishment politicians. Ch\u00e1vez\u2019s 1998 victory, however, was far from inevitable. Other presidential candidates also stood against corruption and promised a clean break from politics as usual. Moreover, business opposition to Ch\u00e1vez\u2019s anti-neoliberal candidacy should have convinced voters that his victory would provoke a downward economic spiral. In Electing Ch\u00e1vez, Leslie C. Gates examines how Ch\u00e1vez won over voters and even obtained the secret allegiance of a group of business \u201celite outliers,\u201d with a reinterpretation of the relationship between business and the state during Venezuela\u2019s era of two-party dominance (1959-1998). Through extensive research on corruption and the backgrounds of political leaders. Gates tracks the rise of business-related corruption scandals and documents how business became identified with Venezuela\u2019s political establishment. These trends undermined the public\u2019s trust in business and converted business opposition into an asset for Ch\u00e1vez. This long history of business-tied politicians and the scandals they often provoked also framed the decisions of elite outliers. As Gates reveals, elite outliers supported Ch\u00e1vez despite his anti-neoliberal stance because they feared that the success of Ch\u00e1vez\u2019s main rival would deny them access to Venezuela\u2019s powerful oil state.

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