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Venezuela’s Foreign Policy: Third World Strategy or Megalomania?
Critics of President Chávez view his fiery rhetoric and confrontational style as demagogic and “populist” in that it is exclusively designed to gain support among Venezuelans by appealing to nationalist sentiment. In doing so, these analysts dismiss the relevance of substantive issues. The foreign policy of the Chavez government combines “grassroots” and statist approaches but tension exists between the two. The statist approach has been conducive to cordial relations with governments of diverse ideological tendencies including that of neighboring Colombia as well as initiatives in favor of the creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). In contrast, the grassroots approach appeals directly to the people throughout the world, and specifically to leftists who in some cases are confronting the governing leaders of their respective nations. It also explains the friendly informal relations that the Chávez government maintains with nearly all the important social movements in Latin America.
Steve Ellner’s academic interest centers on organized labor and political parties in Latin America and specifically Venezuela where he has lived and taught since 1975. He earned his Ph.D. in Latin American history at the University of New Mexico in 1980. Since 1977 he has taught economic history and political science at the Universidad de Oriente in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela and for a ten year period taught in the graduate school of law and political science of the Universidad Central de Venezuela.