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Dragon in the Tropics: Hugo Chavez and the Political Economy of Revolution in Venezuela

Dragon in the Tropics: Hugo Chavez and the Political Economy of Revolution in Venezuela (Hardback)

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Since he was first elected in 1999, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias has reshaped a frail but nonetheless pluralistic democracy into a semi-authoritarian regime --an outcome achieved with spectacularly high oil income and widespread electoral support. This eye-opening book illuminates one of the most sweeping and unexpected political transformations in contemporary Latin America. Based on more than fifteen years' experience in researching and writing about Venezuela, Javier Corrales and Michael Penfold have crafted a comprehensive account of how the Chavez regime has revamped the nation, with a particular focus on its political transformation. Throughout, they take issue with conventional explanations. First, they argue persuasively that liberal democracy as an institution was not to blame for the rise of chavismo. Second, they assert that the nation's economic ailments were not caused by neoliberalism.

Instead they blame other factors, including a dependence on oil, which caused macroeconomic volatility; political party fragmentation, which triggered infighting; government mismanagement of the banking crisis, which led to more centralization of power; and the Asian crisis of 1997, which devastated Venezuela's economy at the same time that Chavez ran for president. It is perhaps on the role of oil that the authors take greatest issue with prevailing opinion. They do not dispute that dependence on oil can generate political and economic distortions --the "resource curse" or "paradox of plenty" arguments --but they counter that oil alone fails to explain Chavez's rise. Instead they single out a weak framework of checks and balances that allowed the executive branch to extract oil rents and distribute them to the populace. The real culprit behind Chavez's success, they write, was the asymmetry of political power.

BusinessEconomicsPolitical economyHistory & PoliticsPolitics & governmentPolitical structure & processes Publisher: Brookings Institution Publication Date: 01/12/2010 ISBN-13: 9780815704973  Details: Type: Hardback Format: Books
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Javier Corrales is a professor of political science at Amherst College, USA and the author of Presidents Without Parties: The Politics of Economic Reform in Argentina and Venezuela in the 1990s (Penn State Press, 2002). Michael Penfold is professor of political economy and former dean of the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administracion in Caracas and the author of Dos Tradiciones,Un Conflicto: El Futuro de la Descentralizacion (Debate 2009).

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