The autocrat of Caracas

The following is an excerpt of an article published in the The Economist print edition of Aug 7th 2008

Hugo Chávez tightens the state’s grip on politics and the economy

FOR much of the past eight months, since suffering defeat in a referendum on changing the constitution, Hugo Chávez has seemed to be on the defensive. Abroad, he repaired strained relations with Colombia’s president and with Spain’s King Juan Carlos. At home, he backpedalled on unpopular measures, such as a new socialist educational curriculum and a draconian intelligence law. He met local businessmen in June and urged them to invest, in the hope that increased production would damp inflation of over 30%. But with Mr Chávez moderation rarely lasts, and he has now veered left again.

On July 31st he announced that the government would buy the country’s third-biggest bank, Banco de Venezuela, owned by Spain’s Grupo Santander. Days later, the government published 26 decrees, many of which mimic the constitutional changes rejected in the referendum. Some of them will further tighten the state’s stranglehold on the economy.


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