Publication Date

April 2017


Robert Conn


English (United States)


Understanding the modern history of Venezuela is an excavation. Every day a new news story breaks on what is happening in the nation, every official statistic for the last 100 years is disputed, and every person asked about the country’s political, social, and economic past tells a very different story. The contrasting and often contending narratives of Venezuela’s recent history is revealing, however, as it sheds light on who the dominant voices are, how they came to receive this privilege or why they fought for it, and what their stake in the nation is. This essay differs from most literature on Venezuela as it takes a comprehensive and multidisciplinary view of the country’s modern history without choosing sides, without deploring or championing certain figures, and without having any economic, political, or even ideological incentive to shape the nation in a certain way. Although an entirely neutral narrative is not possible as certain inclusions and exclusions are inevitable, this work attempts to be as inclusive as possible by providing space to all the different sides of the debate in what is typically a highly-polarized topic. The end result is a complex tapestry of voices that takes into account the country’s current events through a domestic and an international lens, examines the scathing economic reviews from Washington and organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, considers the cries of the people from the poorest barrios in Venezuela, and attempts to capture everything in between. The different perspectives cited throughout the essay are pieced together intentionally to permit the creation of a unique narrative, but every source has a life of its own, and is conserved as such, since each has participated in the production of present-day Venezuela. This interpretation of the country’s modern history, therefore, unfolds in a way that follows how the research occurred: the current situation of Venezuela is explained through poignant recent examples, then the various causes of the country’s collapse are unearthed and examined, until eventually the reader is brought back to the present. The version of Venezuela weaved together here is a story of politics and people imbedded in an oil wealth that would bring great prosperity but eventually greater demise. Through an analysis of the last century of the country’s history, it can be concluded, first, that instead of profiting from its tremendous endowment of petroleum wealth, Venezuela has become one the nations most affected by the resource curse due to highly inefficient economic management and lack of quality state building. Second, although he is an immensely controversial figure and often condemned in the international arena, the leader of Venezuela’s socialist Bolivarian revolution, Hugo Chávez, continues to be the most important and influential figure in the nation’s modern history.



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