Venezuela: Crowding Out the Opposition

Issue Date April 2007
Volume 18
Issue 2
Page Numbers 99-113
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The acceleration of authoritarianism in Venezuela since 2004, together with Hugo Chávez’s reelection in 2006, cannot be explained easily with functional theories. Instead, we focus on political opportunities: specifically, economic resources at the state’s disposal together with weakened institutions of representation helped crowd out the opposition. We show how clientelism and electoral authoritarianism feed each other. Together with deliberate strategies of polarization, impunity, and job discrimination, lavish spending has allowed the state to mobilize majorities and emerge undefeatable at the polls. This invincibility is, paradoxically, the reason that the Venezuelan state has become an unreliable force for promoting democracy.