Hugo Chavez May Be Dying, But His Authoritarian Brand is Spreading


For some time now, the authoritarian presidents of Venezuela (Hugo Chavez), Bolivia (Evo Morales) and Argentina (Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner) have been nationalizing public services, national commodities and even private businesses, increasing their respective states' influence and control over the economy.

In Argentina, since the Kirchners rose to power, there has been a take over of many public services, and other companies. Some, like Aerolineas Argentinas, which was taken over in 2008, had mayor foreign participants such as traveling company Marsans and BBVA bank (both from Spain). Others, such as the water supply companies (also nationalized in 2008) were controlled by foreign companies from Spanish and French origin.

Some weeks ago, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner expropriated YPF from the Repsol group (another Spanish company). YPF was an Argentinian oil company from which Repsol bought most of the shares, becoming known  in 1999 as Repsol-YPF. It seems as though Kirchner wants to take everything over and "give it back to Argentines," even what is not theirs.

Evo Morales has followed suit with the expropriation fever infamously popularized by Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez. In 2006, Bolivia nationalized its hydrocarbon companies and in 2008 Morales expropriated three oil companies, among them the share in Bolivian land of Repsol-YPF. Some time after, there was a renegotiation where the Spanish-Argentine company would have a certain control over its shares in Bolivia (YPFB).

Now, in 2012, after Argentina got control of YPF, Evo Morales has expropriated the Red Eléctrica Española company. The Argentine and Bolivian expropriations of the two Spanish companies occurred in less than two weeks.

Hugo Chavez is certainly the father of this trend (Cuban dictator Fidel Castro is probably the grandfather). From 2005 to 2012, theVenezuelan government has been responsible of almost 800 expropriations and nationalizations, flunking almost 500 business from Spain and other foreign countries.

It seems as though there is a strange fixation on Spanish businesses and companies. It is not surprising though, coming from Chavez, as he has made clear many times how he feels about the “colonizers.” In fact, in the XVII Ibero-American Summit celebrated in 2007 in Santiago de Chile, the Venezuelan leader would not stop interrupting the Spanish delegate as he tried to  insult Spain's preceding right wing government. 

Chavez claimed former Spanish president (Jose María Aznar) and his government were "fascist" and accused them of supporting a coup d'etat against his authoritarian government in 2002. He also said Aznar should apologize, even though the accusation had no solid base. In the end the Spanish king had to intervene literally telling him: “Why don't you just shut up?”

Because of the hidden data and the media manipulation in Venezuela, it is really hard to know how is the country actually doing and what their economic and social situations are. This could be why authoritarian leaders of other countries in the region are following up with the nationalization trend, helped by a lack of accountability and the fact that they don't  suffer the same consequences as the people of those countries.