Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hugo Chavez and Venezuela's rural vote

Read Francisco Toro's Latitude column in the New York Times on line here. The gist of it is that villages are Hugo Chavez's "electoral trump card" in upcoming Venezuelan elections. Here's why:
Venezuela is one of Latin America's most urban countries. But with urban politics becoming more competitive, the government's structural advantages in the countryside are looming larger and larger. In rural settings, the politics of ideology give way to the politics of patronage: the huge profits that the government reaps from the oil industry get channeled right back into the business of staying in power. While cities retain enough private industry for some to make an independent living, a huge proportion of rural livelihoods are dirtily backed by the government.
Toro goes on to explain that, under Chavez, rigid price controls on agricultural products have led to "mass disinvestment from the private rural economy over the past ten years." Fear that the government will take over farms also deters investment, and the impact on rural economies has been devastating, leaving rural residents to rely on the state--and on Chavez's goodwill.

Read more here.

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