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chavez - Steven Vidor Professor Andy Baker Political...

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Steven Vidor Professor Andy Baker Political Science 3032 15 November 2007 Oil and the Undermining of Democracy in Venezuela The rise of Hugo Chavez's system of government, heavily centered on hyperpresidentialism and socialist redistribution, has coincided heavily with the large increase in oil prices over last ten years. Chavez's economic success has allowed for him to move towards more authoritarian rule, away from this weak form of democracy, and will continue to do so as long as oil prices remain stable. The current close ties of the performance legitimacy to the Venezuelan government to its ability provide social expenditures derived from primarily from oil revenue has created a situation that will continue to threaten the stability of Venezuelan democracy. However, decreasing production in Venezuelan oil is moving towards a decrease in revenue. When this happens over a prolonged period of time, it is predictable that Chavez will lose legitimacy from the lower classes that support him as he is unable to provide for them through his programs. This, combined with the already existing anti-Chavist elite, will send the country into a sure state of chaos of revolts as groups combat for power. In short, the closely tied politics of oil to the government will lead to an undermining of democracy, regardless of whether revenues are high or low. Democracy is a concept based on popular sovereignty through free and fair elections. The new Venezuelan constitution, although highly centralized, did provide this main function. The major rallying points for the new, Chavez-backed, Venezuelan
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Constitution were the social programs associated with the Bolivarian Revolution (Gibbs, "Business As Usual"). Supported largely by the lower-class masses, this form of government was founded with a legitimacy based in its ability to provide a means of social relief. Such large reforms, however, cannot be done simply by policy change; much funding is needed in such a transition. Venezuela's role as the one of the worlds largest exporters of oil in a period of price increases over the past ten years, has allowed for the Chavez-formed government to maintain its legitimacy (Glimpsing the Bottom of the Barrel). Oil funding has made implementation possible for social programs ranging
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