Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


International Studies (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Bruce M. Bagley

Second Committee Member

Lilian Yaffe

Third Committee Member

Ambler Moss

Fourth Committee Member

Elvira Maria Restrepo


In 1992, Hugo Chávez led an unsuccessful coup against the Venezuelan government and gained popularity by vowing to radicalize its democracy, eradicate political corruption and bring forth social equity. Chávez won over half of the votes in the 1998 national election. Once in office, he implemented systematic changes to the country’s political machinery that undermined important pillars of democracy and strengthened the absolute power of his presidency. Many controversies surround the Chávez regime and critics argue that it represented a new form of authoritarianism that combined elements of populism, nationalism, and political hierarchy. The objective of this dissertation was to seek answers for these thorny puzzles by systematically assessing Venezuela’s government under Hugo Chávez (1999–2013) to address two research questions. First, did Venezuela experience a turn from democracy to autocracy under Chávez? Also, what were the conditions that allowed Chávez to successfully capture and sustain power? By examining the political institutions, the economic structures, the social relationships, and the role of charismatic leadership during the Chávez regime, this dissertation includes an attempt to place his form of government precisely on the spectrum between the prototypes of democracy and authoritarianism.


Hugo Chávez, Democracy, Authoritarianism, Resource Curse, Charismatic leadership, Elections, Concentration of Power, Clientelism, Populism, Neoliberalism, Check and Balances

Available for download on Thursday, November 11, 2021