Dragon in the Tropics: Hugo Chávez and the Political Economy of Revolution in Venezuela
Since Hugo Chávez rose to power in the late 1990s, the political, economic, social and foreign policy transformations in Venezuela set forth by his “Bolivarian Revolution” have elicited heated, polarized debates over the rise and ramifications of chavismo, his leftist ideology. By examining the interplay between oil revenues and Venezuelan institutions, Dragon in the Tropics (Brookings Press, 2011) challenges conventional accounts of the Chávez regime and provides new perspectives on its influence. Drawing on over fifteen years of experience in Venezuela and the region, Javier Corrales and Michael Penfold provide a clear account of Venezuela’s hybrid regime, one that is characterized by an unconcealed militaristic bent, heavy state intervention, and a foreign policy that is aimed at balancing the influence of the United States.
On January 24, the Latin America Initiative at Brookings hosted the launch of Dragon in the Tropics featuring Javier Corrales, co-author of the book and professor of political science at Amherst College. Jorge Castañeda, Global Distinguished Professor at New York University, provided a keynote address putting Venezuela into the larger context of Latin American politics.
Senior Fellow Mauricio Cárdenas, director of the Latin America Initiative, provided introductory remarks. Senior Fellow Kevin Casas-Zamora moderated the discussion. After the program, panelists took audience questions.
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"You have to play the long game. It’s fine to add money, but when the commitment is volatile and your funding goes up and down constantly, you can end up creating more harm than good."
"We have been in Central America for a long time. It’s not just money that has made us effective in the region — there is a lot of hard-earned experience, trial and error, and institution building that is slowly reaping results. The worst thing that could happen now is to go back to zero."
"Cutting aid to Central American countries would be a mistake, since U.S. aid dollars fund programs that reduce violence, strengthen the justice system, and encourage investment that make them more attractive places for their citizens."