Bolivarianism is a mix of pan-American, socialist, and national-patriotic ideals fixed against perceived injustices of imperialism, inequality, and corruption. It is named after Simón Bolívar, the 19th-century Venezuelan general and liberator from the Spanish monarchy then in abeyance, who led the struggle for independence throughout much of South America.
Bolivarianism of Hugo Chávez
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In recent years, Bolivarianism's most significant political manifestation was in the government of Venezuela's president Hugo Chávez, who from the beginning of his presidency called himself a Bolivarian patriot and applied his interpretation of several of Bolívar's ideals to everyday affairs, as part of the Bolivarian Revolution. That included the 1999 Constitution, which changed Venezuela's name to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and other ideas such as the Bolivarian Schools, Bolivarian Circles, and the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela. Often, the term Bolivarianism is used specifically to refer to Chávez's rule. The central points of Bolivarianism, as extolled by Chávez, are:
- South American economic and political sovereignty (anti-imperialism)
- Grassroots political participation of the population via popular votes and referendums (participative democracy)
- Economic self-sufficiency (in food, consumer durables, etc.)
- Instilling in people a national ethic of patriotic service
- Equitable distribution of (South America's) vast natural resources
- Eliminating corruption
Chávez's version of Bolivarianism, although drawing heavily from Simón Bolívar's ideals, was also drawn from the writings of Marxist historian Federico Brito Figueroa. Chávez was also influenced by the Hispanic American tradition of cooperativism early in his life, such as that practiced by Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and Salvador Allende. Other key influences on Chávez's political philosophy include Ezequiel Zamora and Simón Rodríguez. Although Chávez himself referred to his ideology as Bolivarianismo ("Bolivarianism"), Chávez's supporters and opponents in Venezuela refer to themselves as being either for or against "chavismo". Chávez supporters refer to themselves as "chavistas".
Later in his life, Chávez would acknowledge the role that democratic socialism (a form of socialism that calls for democratic institutions in the economy) plays in Bolivarianism. Chávez declared his support for democratic socialism as integral to Bolivarianism, proclaiming that humanity must embrace "a new type of socialism, a humanist one, which puts humans, and not machines or the state, ahead of everything". He later reiterated this sentiment in a 26 February speech at the 4th Summit on Social Debt held in Caracas.
Other definitions and dispute
Historically, there has been no universally accepted definition as to the proper use of the terms Bolivarianism and Bolivarian within all the countries in the region. Many leaders, movements and parties have indistinctly used them to describe themselves throughout most of the 19th and 20th centuries.
People who have called themselves bolivarianos claim to follow the general ideology expressed in Bolívar's texts such as the Carta de Jamaica and the Discurso de Angostura. Some of Bolívar's ideas include forming a union of Hispanic American countries, providing public education, and enforcing sovereignty to fight against foreign invasion, which has been interpreted to include economic domination by foreign powers. An example of such a union was Gran Colombia, a block of countries consisting of Venezuela, Colombia, Panamá (part of New Granada in that time) and Ecuador.
The Colombian insurgent group, FARC has, in recent years, also considered itself to be inspired by Bolívar's ideals and by his role in the 19th century independence struggle against Spain. It has also publicly declared its sympathy towards Hugo Chávez and his Bolivarian Revolution, though none of the either confirm or deny any involvement with the insurgent group.
Several political parties in Venezuela support chavismo. The main party, directly affiliated with Chávez, is the PSUV, United Socialist Party of Venezuela, which replaced the Fifth Republic Movement (Spanish: Movimiento Quinta Republica, usually referred to by the three letters, MVR). Other parties and movements supporting chavismo include Communist Party of Venezuela, Venezuelan Popular Unity and Tupamaros.
The left-wing Fatherland for All (Spanish: Patria Para Todos or PPT), Movement for Socialism (Spanish: Movimiento al Socialismo or MAS), Radical Cause (Spanish: Causa R) and For Social Democracy (Spanish: Por la Democracia Social) initially supported chavismo, but they have since distanced themselves from it, and now oppose it.
A 2002 article in The Boston Globe said chavismo "fueled the eruption of public fury that swept the charismatic and confrontational president back into power after a group of military officers deposed him for two days in April in favor of a businessman-president," adding that the "Chavismo phenomenon has almost religious qualities."
Bolivarianism was emulated in Bolivia and Ecuador, which experienced crises of political parties. According to a 2017 study, Bolivarianism failed to spread further through Latin America and the Caribbean "in nations where political parties and democratic institutions remained functioning, and where the left and civil society valued democracy, pluralism, and liberal rights due to brutal autocratic experiences." The study also found that "the fear of Bolivarianism also led to a coup against president Zelaya in Honduras."
- Sojo, Cleto A. (Venezuela Analysis, 31 Jan 2005). "Venezuela’s Chávez Closes World Social Forum with Call to Transcend Capitalism". Retrieved 20 Oct 2005.
- Morsbach, Greg. "Chavez opponents face tough times." BBC News (6 December 2005).
- Ceaser, Mike. "Chavez followers stay loyal despite Venezuela Crisis". Boston Globe (17 December 2002). p. A33
- Torre, Carlos de la (2017-04-10). "Hugo Chávez and the diffusion of Bolivarianism". Democratization. 0 (0): 1–18. doi:10.1080/13510347.2017.1307825. ISSN 1351-0347.