The Washington Post

Chavez’s influence wanes in Latin America
The Washington Post

Chavez’s influence is waning across the region as Venezuela’s oil-powered economy has gone bust and concerns have been raised about his governing style, which includes the jailing of opponents. “He’s not flying high like he used to even two years ago,” said Luiz Felipe Lampreia, a former Brazilian foreign minister. “I think he’s losing his capacity to influence people and to lead, even with his own friends.”

But Chavez’s retreat in the region has come as Venezuela’s economy, dampened by dwindling oil production and hampered by state nationalizations of farmland and companies, contracted 3.3 percent in 2009 and 1.6 percent last year. Billions of dollars in capital have left the country, according to recent U.N. economic data for Venezuela, and the heavy consumer spending of the past has dried up. The country’s golden goose, the oil industry, is producing 30 percent less oil than it did a decade ago, industry analysts say.

Opinion polls in Latin America also show that the president’s image has been tarnished as Chavez has resorted to a range of policies his opponents call anti-democratic, including attacking the news media and governing with decree powers. Chavez has also forged ever closer ties to iron-fisted rulers, such as Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Latinobarometro found in a February report that Latin Americans perceived Venezuela to be less democratic than other countries, assigning a 4.3 rating to Venezuela, with 10 being the most democratic.