The Red Berets Of Hugo Chavez - Lessons For South Africa?

A year after Hugo Chávez passed away following a two-year battle with cancer, the former president of Venezuela still evokes passionate debate.  Many of his supporters, not least in Africa, still regard Chavez as a transformative leader who sought to build a more equal and socially just society in the face of formidable opposition from big business and the established global order, led by the United States. Critics argue that his leadership and policies had a ruinous effect on Venezuelan society and have led directly to the widespread civil unrest occurring daily on the streets of Caracas and other parts of the country.

The life and legacy of Hugo Chávez merits close scrutiny in Africa – and perhaps especially in South Africa – where prominent figures and some groups have sought to model themselves on his movement in order to address widening inequality and grinding poverty.

This Discussion Paper draws on extensive first-hand research conducted by the authors in Venezuela in November 2013.

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