Venezuela's defence diplomacy under Chávez and Maduro (1999-2018)

Kruijt, Dirk (2020)

CITATION: Kruijt, D. 2020. Venezuela's defence diplomacy under Chávez and Maduro (1999-2018), in Liebenberg, I., Kruijt, D. & Paranjpe, S. (eds) 2020. Defence diplomacy & national security strategy : views from the global south. Stellenbosch: SUN PReSS, doi:10.18820/9781928480556/05.

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Between the 1950s and the late 1980s, Venezuela’s economy and welfare attracted many migrants. An economic crisis, subsequent mass uprising and riots, and brutal repression by the armed forces was a watershed. Mid‑career officers conspired; one of them, Hugo Chávez, a Lieutenant-Colonel staged a coup that failed (1992). Imprisoned and amnestied, he founded a political movement, won the presidential elections and took office in 1999. Chávez and Castro became revolutionary brothers-in-arms. Venezuela supported Cuba by subsidised oil, Cuba provided military and intelligence experts, and medical and literacy personnel on a massive scale, around 50,000 in 2013. Chávez launched an extraordinary pro‑poor reform programme, the ‘socialism of the twentieth century’. Meanwhile, he strengthened the armed forces both numerically and budgetarily, buying Russian and Chinese equipment. He also created militias of armed civilians up to 365,000 members. Gradually the military occupied more strategic positions as cabinet ministers or supervisors of state institutions. Chávez death in 2013 coincided with the fall of the oil prices, dramatic budget cuts, mass demonstrations, and mass outmigration, in the context of a galloping inflation and a polarised society. His successor Maduro governs by decree (there are two contending parliaments) and turned nearly all significant cabinet and top administrative positions in the public sector and the nationalised economy to the military, his staunch allies.

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