Bolivarian Revolution

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Bolivarian Revolution
Part of Pink tide
Chavez Vive Militar.jpg
Soldiers carrying flags featuring Chávez eyes
Date2 February 1999 – present
(20 years, 3 months and 17 days)
LocationFlag of Venezuela.svg  Venezuela
CauseIncumbencies of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro
MotiveEstablishment of cultural and political hegemony [1] [2] [3]
Outcome Crisis in Bolivarian Venezuela
Coat of arms of Venezuela.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Flag of Venezuela.svg Venezuelaportal

The Bolivarian Revolution is a political process in Venezuela that was led by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, the founder of the Fifth Republic Movement and later the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). The Bolivarian Revolution is named after Simón Bolívar, an early 19th-century Venezuelan and Latin American revolutionary leader, prominent in the Spanish American wars of independence in achieving the independence of most of northern South America from Spanish rule. According to Chávez and other supporters, the Bolivarian Revolution seeks to build an inter-American coalition to implement Bolivarianism, nationalism and a state-led economy.

Venezuela Republic in northern South America

Venezuela, officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is a country on the northern coast of South America, consisting of a continental landmass and a large number of small islands and islets in the Caribbean Sea. The capital and largest urban agglomeration is the city of Caracas. It has a territorial extension of 916,445 km2. The continental territory is bordered on the north by the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Colombia, Brazil on the south, Trinidad and Tobago to the north-east and on the east by Guyana. With this last country, the Venezuelan government maintains a claim for Guayana Esequiba over an area of 159,542 km2. For its maritime areas, it exercises sovereignty over 71,295 km2 of territorial waters, 22,224 km2 in its contiguous zone, 471,507 km2 of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean under the concept of exclusive economic zone, and 99,889 km2 of continental shelf. This marine area borders those of 13 states. The country has extremely high biodiversity and is ranked seventh in the world's list of nations with the most number of species. There are habitats ranging from the Andes Mountains in the west to the Amazon basin rain-forest in the south via extensive llanos plains, the Caribbean coast and the Orinoco River Delta in the east.

President of Venezuela head of state and head of government of Venezuela

The President of Venezuela, officially known as the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is the head of state and head of government in Venezuela. The president leads the National Executive of the Venezuelan government and is the commander-in-chief of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces. Presidential terms were set at six years with the adoption of the 1999 Constitution of Venezuela, and presidential term limits were removed in 2009.

Hugo Chávez 48th President of Venezuela

Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías was a Venezuelan politician who was President of Venezuela from 1999 until his death in 2013. Chávez was also leader of the Fifth Republic Movement political party from its foundation in 1997 until 2007, when it merged with several other parties to form the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), which he led until 2012.


On his 57th birthday, while announcing that he was being treated for cancer, Chávez announced that he had changed the slogan of the Bolivarian Revolution from "Motherland, socialism, or death" to "Motherland and socialism. We will live, and we will come out victorious". [4]

As of 2018, the vast majority of mayoral and gubernatorial offices are held by PSUV candidates, while the opposition Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition won two thirds of parliamentary seats in 2015. [5] Political hostility between the PSUV and MUD have led to several incidents where both pro-government and opposition demonstrations have turned violent, with an estimated 150 dead as a result in 2017. [6] Additionally, there are claims and counterclaims relating to the imprisonment of opposition figures, with the government claiming that their political status neither impedes nor motivates prosecution for the crimes that they have been convicted of, while the opposition claims that these arrests and charges are politically motivated.

Since the death of Chavez, the revolution has gone into decline and the political and economic situation in Venezuela has rapidly deteriorated. [7]


Simón Bolívar has left a long lasting imprint on Venezuela's history in particular and South America in general.

History of Venezuela aspect of history

The history of Venezuela reflects events in areas of the Americas colonized by Spain starting 1522; amid resistance from indigenous peoples, led by Native caciques, such as Guaicaipuro and Tamanaco. However, in the Andean region of western Venezuela, complex Andean civilization of the Timoto-Cuica people flourished before European contact. In 1811, it became one of the first Spanish-American colonies to declare independence, which was not securely established until 1821, when Venezuela was a department of the federal republic of Gran Colombia. It gained full independence as a separate country in 1830. During the 19th century, Venezuela suffered political turmoil and autocracy, remaining dominated by regional caudillos until the mid-20th century. Since 1958, the country has had a series of democratic governments. Economic shocks in the 1980s and 1990s led to several political crises, including the deadly Caracazo riots of 1989, two attempted coups in 1992, and the impeachment of President Carlos Andrés Pérez for embezzlement of public funds in 1993. A collapse in confidence in the existing parties saw the 1998 election of former coup-involved career officer Hugo Chávez and the launch of the Bolivarian Revolution, beginning with a 1999 Constituent Assembly to write a new Constitution of Venezuela. This new constitution officially changed the name of the country to República Bolivariana de Venezuela.

As a military cadet, Hugo Chávez was "a celebrant of the Bolivarian passion story". [8] Chávez relied upon the ideas of Bolívar and on Bolívar as a popular symbol later in his military career as he put together his MBR-200 movement which would become a vehicle for his 1992 coup-attempt.

The Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200 was the political and social movement that former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez founded in 1982. It eventually planned and executed the February 4, 1992 attempted coup. The movement later evolved into the Movement for the Fifth Republic (MVR), set up in July 1997 to support Hugo Chávez's candidacy in the Venezuelan presidential election, 1998. The move to electoral politics took several years of intense internal debate, as many felt that the elections might be fixed to prevent an MBR-200 candidate winning. It took a nationwide survey conducted by the movement to show that it might gain enough electoral support to make victory hard to deny.

1992 Venezuelan coup détat attempts Venezuelan coup attempts of 1992

The Venezuelan coup attempts of 1992 were attempts to seize control of the government of Venezuela by the Hugo Chávez-led Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200. The first coup attempt took place on February 4, 1992, and was led by Chávez. A second coup attempt on November 27, 1992, took place while Chávez was in prison but was directed by a group of young military officers who were loyal to the Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement-200. The coups were directed against President Carlos Andrés Pérez and occurred in a period marked by neo-liberal economic reforms, which were attempted in order to decrease the country's level of indebtedness and had caused major protests and labour unrest. Despite their failure to depose the government of Carlos Andrés, the February coup attempts brought Chávez into the national spotlight. Fighting during the coups resulted in the deaths of at least 143 people and perhaps as many as several hundred.

South America in the late 1980s and early 1990s was just recovering from the Latin American debt crisis of the mid-1980s and many governments had adopted austerity and privatization policies to finance International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans. Following the end of the Cold War and the fall of the military dictatorships in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, social movements including labor and indigenous currents [9] opposed the austerity and called for debt forgiveness, sometimes resulting in clashes with the state (see Caracazo and 2000 Ecuadorian coup d'état). It was in this context that Chávez and MBR-200 (as the Fifth Republic Movement) won the 1998 elections and initiated the constituent process that resulted in the Venezuelan Constitution of 1999.



Chavismo policies include nationalization, social welfare programs (Bolivarian missions) and opposition to neoliberalism (particularly the policies of the IMF and the World Bank). According to Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan socialism accepts private property, [10] but this socialism seeks to promote social property too. [11] Chavismo also support participatory democracy [12] and workplace democracy. [13] In January 2007, Chávez proposed to build the communal state, whose main idea is to build self-government institutions like communal councils, communes and communal cities. [14]


According to the United States Army Combined Arms Center: [15]

A few year after Chávez rose to power in 1999, he began implementing a political-strategic plan he called the 'Bolivarian Revolution,' which threatened Latin American peace. Chávez's plan was characterized by a hostile and confrontational posture toward the United States, actions designed to export Chávez's autocratic, socialist model to other countries of the region, and a foreign policy that embroiled Venezuela in international-level conflicts.

Chávez was seen as a leader of the "pink tide", a turn towards left-wing governments in Latin American democracies. [16] [17] Analysts have pointed out additional anti-American, [16] populist [18] [19] [20] [21] and authoritarian-leaning traits in those governments. [18] [22]

Chávez refocused Venezuelan foreign policy on Latin American economic and social integration by enacting bilateral trade and reciprocal aid agreements, including his so-called "oil diplomacy", [23] [24] making Venezuela more dependent on using oil (its main commodity) and increasing its longterm vulnerability. [25] Though Chávez inspired other movements in Latin America to follow his model of chavismo in an attempt to reshape South America, it was later seen as being erratic and his influence internationally became exaggerated, [25] with the pink tide beginning to subside in 2009. [26]

Bolivarian missions

Missions of the Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela
Food, Housing & Medicine
Indigenous Rights, Land & Environment

The social programs (called "missions" in Venezuela) that came into being during the term of Hugo Chávez sought to reduce social disparities and were funded in large part by oil revenues. The sustainability and design of the welfare programs have been both praised and criticized. Specific examples of social programs are listed below. [27]

Plan Bolívar 2000

Plan Bolívar 2000 was the first of the Bolivarian Missions enacted under of administration of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. According to the United States Department of State, Chávez wanted to "send the message that the military was not a force of popular repression, but rather a force for development and security". The United States State Department also commented that this happened "only 23 days after his inauguration" and that he wanted to show his closest supporters "that he had not forgotten them". [28] The plan involved around 40,000 Venezuelan soldiers engaged in door-to-door anti-poverty activities, including mass vaccinations, food distribution in slum areas and education. [29] Several scandals affected the program as allegations of corruption were formulated against Generals involved in the plan, arguing that significant amounts of money had been diverted. [30]

Mission Barrio Adentro

The mission was to provide comprehensive publicly funded health care, dental care and sports training to poor and marginalized communities in Venezuela. Barrio Adentro featured the construction of thousands of iconic two-story medical clinics—consultorios or doctor’s offices—as well as staffing with resident certified medical professionals. Barrio Adentro constitutes an attempt to deliver a de facto form of universal health care, seeking to guarantee access to quality and cradle-to-grave medical attention for all Venezuelan citizens. As of 2006, the staff included 31,439 professionals, technical personnel, and health technicians, of which 15,356 were Cuban doctors and 1,234 Venezuelan doctors. The Latin American branch of the World Health Organization and UNICEF both praised the program. [31] [32] Though positive outcomes have come from the mission, there have been some struggles as well. In July 2007, Douglas León Natera, chairman of the Venezuelan Medical Federation, reported that up to 70% of the modules of Barrio Adentro were either abandoned or were left unfinished. In 2014, residents in Caracas also complained of the service despite large funding from the Venezuelan government. [33] [34] [35]

Mission Habitat

Mission Habitat's goal is the construction of thousands of new housing units for the poor. The program also seeks to develop agreeable and integrated housing zones that make available a full range of social services—from education to healthcare—which likens its vision to that of New Urbanism. According to Venezuela's El Universal , one of the Chávez administration's outstanding weaknesses is the failure to meet its goals of construction of housing. Chávez promised to build 150,000 houses in 2006, but in the first half of the year completed only 24 percent of that target, with 35,000 houses. [36]

Mission Mercal

Shoppers waiting in line at a Mercal store Escasez en Venezuela, Mercal.JPG
Shoppers waiting in line at a Mercal store
Mission Robinson of the Hugo Chavez government in Venezuela promoting the education of the Wayuu Mision robinson wayuu by Franklin Reyes.png
Mission Robinson of the Hugo Chavez government in Venezuela promoting the education of the Wayuu

The Mission involves a state-run company called Mercados de Alimentos, C.A. (MERCAL), which provides subsidised food and basic goods through a nationwide chain of stores. In 2010 Mercal was reported as having 16,600 outlets, "ranging from street-corner shops to huge warehouse stores", in addition to 6,000 soup kitchens. Mercal employs 85,000 workers. [37] In 2006, some 11.36 million Venezuelans benefited from Mercal food programs on a regular basis. At least 14,208 Mission Mercal food distribution sites were spread throughout Venezuela and 4,543 metric tons of food distributed each day. [38] In recent times, customers who had to wait in long lines for discounted products say that there were a lack of products in Mercal stores and that items available at the stores change constantly. [39] Some customers complained about rationing being enforced at Mercal stores due to the lack of products. [40] In some cases, protests have occurred due to the shortages in stores. [41]

Mission Robinson

The program uses volunteers to teach reading, writing and arithmetic to the more than 1.5 million Venezuelan adults who were illiterate prior to Chávez's election to the presidency in 1999. The program is military-civilian in nature and sends soldiers to—among other places—remote and dangerous locales in order to reach the most undereducated, neglected and marginalized adult citizens to give them regular schooling and lessons. On 28 October 2005, Venezuela declared itself a "Territory Free of Illiteracy", having raised in its initial estimates the literacy rate to around 99%, although the statistic was changed to 96%. [42] According to UNESCO standards, a country can be declared "illiteracy-free" if 96% of its population over age 15 can read and write. [43]

According to Francisco Rodríguez and Daniel Ortega of IESA, there has been "little evidence" of "statistically distinguishable effect on Venezuelan illiteracy". [42] The Venezuelan government claimed that it had taught 1.5 million Venezuelans to read, [44] but the study found that "only 1.1m were illiterate to begin with" and that the illiteracy reduction of less than 100,000 can be attributed to adults that were elderly and died. [42] David Rosnick and Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research responded to these doubts, finding that the data used by Rodríguez and Ortega was too crude a measure since the Household Survey from which it derived was never designed to measure literacy or reading skills and their methods were inappropriate to provide statistical evidence regarding the size of Venezuela's national literacy program. [45] Rodríguez responded to Weisbrot's rebuttal by showing that Weisbrot used biased, distorted data and that the illiteracy argument Weisbrot used showed the exact opposite of what Weisbrot was attempting to convey. [46]


There's not much left of the so-called Bolivarian Revolution—a socialist political process that began in 1999, headed by then-President Hugo Chávez. Endless food lines, a severe shortage of basic goods and an annual inflation rate estimated at 160 percent became the standard image of a country long considered a "petrostate." But with the price of oil as low as $35 a barrel recently, it's long been on its way to total collapse.

Haaretz , September 2016 [47]

Following the death of Hugo Chávez, his successor Nicolás Maduro faced the consequences of Chávez's policies, with Maduro's approval declining and protests in Venezuela beginning in 2014. [48] The Chávez and Maduro administrations often blamed difficulties that Venezuela faced on foreign intervention in the country's affairs. [49]

As of 2016, Bolivarian Venezuela suffered from hyperinflation and a dramatic loss of jobs and income (consumer prices rose 800% and the economy contracted by 19% during 2016), [50] widespread hunger (the "Venezuela's Living Conditions Survey" (ENCOVI) found nearly 75% of the population had lost an average of at least 8.7 kg in weight due to a lack of proper nutrition) [51] and a soaring murder rate (90 people per 100,000 had been murdered in Venezuela in 2015 compared to 5 per 100,000 in the United States according to the Observatory of Venezuelan Violence). [52]

According to Human Rights Watch

To silence critics, the government has conducted widespread arrests and other repression. Since 2014, we have been documenting the violent response of security forces to protests, with beatings and arrests of peaceful demonstrators and even bystanders and torture in detention. The Venezuelan Penal Forum, a nongovernmental group that provides legal assistance to detainees, counts more than 90 people it considers political prisoners. [53]

According to the International Policy Digest, "[t]he Bolivarian revolution is a failure not because its ideals were unachievable but because its leaders were as corrupt as those they decry", with the Bolivarian government relying on oil for its economy, essentially suffering from Dutch disease. [49] As a result of the Bolivarian government's policies, Venezuelans suffered from shortages, inflation, crime and other socioeconomic issues, with many Venezuelans resorting to leave their native country to seek a better life elsewhere. [49] [47]

Bolivarian diaspora

Following the Bolivarian Revolution, many wealthy Venezuelans have sought residence in other countries. According to Newsweek , the "Bolivarian diaspora is a reversal of fortune on a massive scale" where the reversal is a comparison to when in the 20th century "Venezuela was a haven for immigrants fleeing Old World repression and intolerance". [54] El Universal explains how the "Bolivarian diaspora" in Venezuela has been caused by the "deterioration of both the economy and the social fabric, rampant crime, uncertainty and lack of hope for a change in leadership in the near future". [55]

In 1998, the year Chavez was first elected, only 14 Venezuelans were granted asylum in the United States. In just twelve months in September 1999, 1,086 Venezuelans were granted asylum according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. [56] It has been calculated that from 1998 to 2013 over 1.5 million Venezuelans, between 4% and 6% of the Venezuela's total population, left the country following the Bolivarian Revolution. [57] Many of former Venezuelan citizens studied gave reasons for leaving Venezuela that included lacking of freedom, high levels of insecurity and lacking opportunity in the country. [57] [58] It has also been stated that some parents in Venezuela encourage their children to leave the country in protection of their children due to the insecurities Venezuelans face. [58] [59] This has led to human capital flight occurring in Venezuela. [55] [57]

In November 2018, UNHCR (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and the IOM (International Organization for Migration) said the number of refugees had risen to 3 million, most of which had gone to other Latin American countries and the Caribbean. [60]

Impact on other countries

Bolivarianism was emulated in Bolivia and Ecuador, which experienced crises of political parties. [61] According to a 2017 study, Bolivarianism failed to spread further through Latin America and the Caribbean "in nations where political parties and democratic institutions remained functioning, and where the left and civil society valued democracy, pluralism, and liberal rights due to brutal autocratic experiences". [61] The study also found that "the fear of Bolivarianism also led to a coup against president Zelaya in Honduras". [61]

Aspects of Bolivarianism were adapted by the Spanish political party Podemos. [61]

See also

Related Research Articles

Politics of Venezuela

The politics of Venezuela occurs in a framework explained in Government of Venezuela.

Bolivarianism is a mix of pan-American, socialist and national-patriotic ideals fixed against injustices of imperialism, inequality and corruption named after Simón Bolívar, the 19th-century Venezuelan general and liberator from the Spanish monarchy then in abeyance, who led the struggle for independence throughout much of South America.

Mission Barrio Adentro Bolivarian national social welfare program

Mission Barrio Adentro is a Bolivarian national social welfare program established by the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. The program seeks to provide comprehensive publicly funded health care, dental care, and sports medicine to poor and marginalized communities in Venezuela. Two features of Misión Barrio Adentro are the construction of thousands of two-story medical clinics and staffing with resident-certified medical professionals. Initially billed as an attempt to deliver a de facto form of universal healthcare, Barrio Adentro later became a way to grant access to medical care to Venezuelan citizens whose political stance the Bolivarian government deemed acceptable.

Bolivarian missions

The Bolivarian missions are a series of over thirty social programs implemented under the administration of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and continued by Chávez's successor, Nicolás Maduro. The programs focus on social justice, social welfare, anti-poverty, educational, and military recruiting. They draw their name from the historical South American hero, Simón Bolívar.

Mission Mercal is a Bolivarian Mission established in Venezuela under the government of Hugo Chávez. The Mission involves a state-run company called Mercados de Alimentos, C.A. (MERCAL), which provides subsidised food and basic goods through a nationwide chain of stores. In 2010 Mercal was reported as having 16,600 outlets, "ranging from street-corner shops to huge warehouse stores," in addition to 6000 soup kitchens. Mercal employs 85,000 workers.

Mission Robinson is one of the Bolivarian Missions implemented by Hugo Chávez in 2003. The name "Robinson" was given to the Mission in remembrance of the pseudonym adopted during his exile from Spanish America by Venezuelan philosopher and educator Simón Rodríguez (1769–1854).

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