Chapter

Democrat or authoritarian? Democracy in Bolivarian Venezuela in comparative perspective   

Barry Cannon

in Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780719077715
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781701959 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7228/manchester/9780719077715.003.0006
Democrat or authoritarian? Democracy in Bolivarian Venezuela in comparative perspective   

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Hugo Chávez has been repeatedly accused of authoritarianism, principally by opposition leaders but also by many foreign supporters of the opposition and even amongst some on the left. This chapter explores this dichotomy between democracy and authoritarianism in the Chávez government. Chávez has sometimes been compared with another Latin American president branded as both populist and authoritarian, Alberto Fujimori of Peru (1990–2001). Both presidents have been accused of authoritarianism, yet both presidents came to power through democratic means. Both presidents also based their discourse on a celebration of the ‘people’ against a corrupt and corrupting system. Both therefore raise questions about concepts of democracy and authoritarianism within the context of populism. To facilitate the comparison between Chávez and Fujimori, this chapter uses a framework based on ideas on democracy found in D. Rueschemeyer et al. and Roald Dahl, which encompasses five key policy areas generally accepted as indicative of democracy: electoral law and practice, presidential authority and institutional autonomy, human rights, media freedom and the right to information and associational autonomy.

Keywords: Venezuela; Hugo Chávez; legitimacy; populism; democracy; authoritarianism; Alberto Fujimori; Peru; presidential authority; human rights

Chapter.  18194 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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