ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Polarisation and Prospects for Social Harmony in Venezuela

The polarisation which has marked Venezuelan politics needs to be overcome if Hugo Chavez wants his agenda to succeed in his new term as president. However, that can happen only with the lessening of poverty and inequality and the empowerment of the black, mestizo and other non-white groups.

In the wake of Hugo Chávez’s fifth consecutive win in the recent Venezuelan national elections after 14 years in office, many have been asking about the possibilities for ending the ongoing polarisation that has characterised Venezuela in recent decades. Chávez himself has pledged to bring about a “national reconciliation” that would heal the rifts that have divided Venezuelan society. But a realistic assessment of whether this could happen requires some analysis of why and how polarisation has occurred and what steps could be taken to overcome it.

One of the main reasons for political polarisation has been the differences in economic strategy between Chávez and the opposition. Beginning in 2001, Chávez diverged from the free market policies pursued by his predecessors. He nationalised strategic sectors of the economy, enacted land reform, and promoted state production of food and consumer items. This has produced strong reactions from economic and political elites who were set on a path of privatisation prior to Chávez’s arrival.

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