Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

Chávez's succession

The legacy of the former president quickly crossed the Atlantic to find advocates chiefly in France and Spain

Ideas and doctrines cross frontiers and hybridize. The name may be the same, but not necessarily the content. For some time Gaullism remained faithful to its "certain nebulous idea of France," but ended by merging with the right wing pure and simple. Neo-Zapatism is now practically forgotten because its progenitor, Comandante Marcos, has gone on to other things. The succession to the former president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, has much to do with the space-and-time mobility of Chavism in its Bolivarian or 21st-century-socialist form.

The legacy of Chávez in terms of redistribution of wealth, empowerment of society's underdogs and anti-US diatribe quickly crossed the Atlantic to find advocates chiefly in France and Spain. The philosopher and former revolutionary Régis Debray was a defender of neo-Zapatism in the 1990s, and more recently Ignacio Ramonet has most vigorously defended the Chavist way. In Spain a small but active nucleus exists in the universities, who see in the Bolivarian leader the resurgence of a new, exportable brand of leftism.

The natural habitat of Chavist propagation is in Venezuela's two major Bolivarian partners: Ecuador and Bolivia

In Venezuela itself, the strength of Chavism is such that even the opposition candidate in the recent presidential elections, Henrique Capriles, very narrowly defeated by Chávez's adjutant, Nicolás Maduro, saw fit to assimilate some aspects of Chavism in his campaign, promising to maintain or even improve the social work of the Cuban "missions." But the natural habitat of Chavist propagation is in Venezuela's two major Bolivarian partners: Ecuador and Bolivia. Both the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, and of Bolivia, Evo Morales, resort heavily to Chavist rhetoric. This, however, is not essential to their continuance in power. The former won by a landslide in the February elections, while the latter secured the Constitutional Court's green light to run for a third term in 2014.

None of the Ecuadorian president's actions can, strictly speaking, be described as the construction of socialism, but rather of modernizing reformist nationalism. There is a difference between Chávez and Correa. The Venezuelan was anti-Western, and especially anti-American, while Correa pays lip service to both causes. He is not anti-Spanish, and it is likely that only the hard downpour that starts when the scarecrow to be challenged is Washington has induced him to don the raincoat of Chavism. But the State Department is confident that he is not made of the same stuff as the late president. The case of Morales is even touchier. It is possible that the communalism of pre-Columbian life, as exalted by the former coca-farming leader, foreshadowed some sort of agrarian collectivism. But the icon of Bolivar is hard to fit into the indigenous pantheon, because in indigenous eyes the Liberator is no more than a member of the white Spanish settler class who, whatever his good intentions, wished mainly to free that class from the domination of Spain, leaving the Indian and African mixed-race population out in the cold. Chavism was impossible to transplant into the Altiplano because the revolution, or whatever you want to call it, was based not on a change of productive structures but on an emotional reversal of Venezuelan society, of virtually unrepeatable national characteristics.

The Bolivarian bloc has diminished considerably in recent years. In 2009 Manuel Zelaya of Honduras was ousted, as was Fernando Lugo of Paraguay last year. Both were on the periphery of Chavism. It is also hard to see Maduro as a full successor to his mentor. In 2013 there have been presidential elections in Ecuador, Venezuela and Paraguay, and between now and 2019 the whole of Latin America will have new legislatures and governments. In the words of Daniel Zovatto, the next six years "will be decisive in determining the solidity of the legacy left by Chávez, as well as the succession, if any, to his position at the head of the movement." As of now, this "anti-imperialist left" bloc amounts to no more than Chávez and a good deal of water.

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