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Since 1999, Venezuela has experienced a dramatic transformation of its political system with the coming to power of Hugo Chávez and his movement, known in Venezuela as Chavismo. Chávez has dismantled the previous political system and established neo-populist structures that rely on his personal appeal and the close collaboration of the armed forces. Chávez has relied heavily on significant support from the poor and those who felt economically and politically excluded by the “Punto Fijo system.”

President Chávez has built an impressive record of electoral victories; winning every electoral contest except one since coming to power in 1999. He continues to receive relatively high levels of support among sectors of Venezuelan society. However, there is evidence of growing discontent with high crime rates, high levels of inflation, and significant corruption in the public administration. Using data from the AmericasBarometer surveys conducted in 2007, 2008 and 2010, this paper seeks to examine the basis of Chávez’s popular support.

In general, the AmericasBarometer findings suggest that Venezuelans support for President Chávez is closely linked to the access to social programs and that as long as the government is able to fund these social programs or missions, particularly MERCAL and Barrio Adentro, it will possess an important tool to garner and sustain support for President Chávez. Our analysis, however, also indicates that evaluations of the national economic situation, more than crime or insecurity, are a key factor that could undermine support for the regime.


"The views, opinions, and/or findings contained in this report (paper) are those of the author(s) and should not be construed as an official Department of the Army position, policy or decision unless so designated by the official documentation.

Funded by the National Defense Center for Energy and Environment (NDCEE), ID W91WAW-09-D-0022, delivery order number 0616."

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