Venezuela’s PetroPolitics: Democracy over a Barrel

Monday, October 30, 2006
Venezuela’s PetroPolitics: Democracy over a Barrel
Stern Center, Great Room, 7:00 P.M.

Venezuela's Petropolitics

Issue in Context
Home of the fifth largest oil industry in the world, Venezuela has gained increasing economic and political clout in the midst of a global scarcity of oil. Venezuela’s oil policy has polarized the country’s domestic politics, culminating in the 2002 coup that nearly removed its populist president, Hugo Chavez, from office. In addition to triggering intense public debate on the home front, Venezuela’s oil politics and its effects on the country’s domestic and foreign relations have alarmed governments around the world. Despite criticism from the U.S. administration and oil CEOs, Chavez has utilized his country’s oil revenues to promote his idea of democratic socialism by creating a vast array of social programs that have boosted his popularity among Venezuelans. Chavez has also allocated oil revenues to fund an aggressive diplomatic agenda. In light of an upsurge in global terrorism, oil policy in Venezuela has dramatically transformed the country’s position in the sphere of global politics, as world leaders have linked Chavez’s actions to broader questions of national security. Pat Robertson’s controversial request that the U.S. administration “take out” Chavez demonstrates the extent to which Venezuela’s oil policy and consequent distribution of revenues have affected politics around the globe. Nations must now consider how to respond to Venezuela’s relatively newfound oil wealth in the context of a limited oil supply.

About the Speaker
Daniel Hellinger is a professor of political science at Webster University and chair of the department of history, politics, and law. He is the author of numerous books and scholarly articles about Latin American politics, including Venezuela: Tarnished Democracy and The Democratic Façade . Hellinger is co-editor of Venezuelan Politics in the Chavez Era and is a participating editor for Latin American Perspectives. Hellinger has received numerous awards and honors including the Senior Specialist award from the Fulbright Foundation in 2003. In 1990 he was a visiting professor at the Universidad Central de Venezuela. Hellinger is currently president of the Venezuela Studies Section of the Midwest Latin American Studies Association. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Rutgers University in 1976.
Related Links
Article by Daniel Hellinger
Hugo Chavez