From Hugo Chavez to Nicolas Maduro, the Bolivarian Revolution has influenced the political outlook of many Venezuelan politicians, inspiring them to take an anti-imperıalist stance.
Venezuela entered a new political era when the late president Hugo Chavez came into power in 1998, a historic political event that became known as the Bolivarian Revolution.
The founder of the fifth republic movement and the United Socialist Party (PSUV), Chavez followed the revolutionary spirit of 19th-century Venezuelan leader Simon Bolivar, who fought against Spanish colonialism.
According to Chavez, the Bolivarian ideology encouraged nationalism and a state-led economy in South America.
After Chavez was elected as the president of Venezuela, he immediately introduced a new constitution that espoused a socialist economy and social policies, funded by the country's oil revenue.
Land Reform and nationalisation policies
In 2001, Chavez passed 49 laws that aimed to redistribute land and wealth from the rich or private companies to poor citizens. He tried to concentrate political and economic power on the state, much as Cuba did.
In this era, Chavez engaged in door-to-door anti-poverty activities that include food distribution, a vaccination campaign and increasing education in slum areas.
From the start of 2005, Chavez actualised land reform to eliminate large estates in favour of the rural poor. Landlords criticised him for attacking private property.
In 2006, he won the presidential election for the third time with 63 percent of the vote, a record not seen since the 1947 election.
Another important policy of late president Hugo Chavez was the nationalisation of key companies in energy and telecommunications. He first introduced a nationalisation programme in 2007 and saw his act approved by parliament.
Two leading US oil companies, Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhilips, refused to hand over their controlled areas in the Orinoco Belt to the Venezuelan government. However, the Venezuelan government later expropriated them.
In August 2008, Chavez announced plans to nationalise one of the country's largest private banks, the Spanish-owned Bank of Venezuela.
Chavez’s stand was always at odds with the US and its policies. The US saw him as a threat to American interests.
Washington has had an acrimonious relationship with Caracas for years, especially following US support for a short-lived 2002 coup against Chavez.
According to a report published by the US Army University Press: “Chavez’s plan was characterised by a hostile and confrontational posture toward the United States.”
The report also alleged Chavez had collaborated with global leaders from outside the region such as Russia.
In 2006, Chavez signed a $3 billion arms deal with Russia that included the purchase of fighter jets and helicopters in order to modernise its army.
He also signed a cooperation agreement with Russia in the fields of oil and gas. The two countries also held joint military exercises in South America and the Atlantic ocean.
Russia's well known Tu-160 strategic bomber jets landed in Venezuela in 2008 and 2013. The growing relationship between the two countries unnerved Washington.
“If the Russian long-distance planes that fly around the world need to land at some Venezuelan landing strip, they are welcome, we have no problems,” Chavez said.
Around the same time, Chavez criticised the reactivation of the US Navy’s Fourth Fleet, which patrolled around Latin America for the first time in more than 50 years.
Chavez said he feared a United States invasion of oil-rich Venezuela. To repel such advances, he said he needed to cultivate Russia as its ally.
Chavez died in March 2013, after a two-year battle with cancer, ending 14 years in power that made the socialist leader a hero to the poor and an enemy to the US.
Nicolas Maduro became a president
Nicolas Maduro, who was the vice president in the Chavez government, became the president after Chavez’s death.
Maduro follows the political line set out by his predecessor, frequently accusing US officials of trying to smear his administration.
US President Donald Trump's administration has been particularly belligerent towards Maduro, imposing sanctions on him, other senior officials and Venezuelan entities since 2017.
The Trump administration also ordered the imposition of sanctions on Venezuela’s gold industry with the aim of disrupting the country's economy.
Maduro continued good relations with Cuba, another socialist country in South America.
Cuba and Venezuela see themselves as united against what they call US "imperialism."
As well as Maduro’s stance against the US, however, oil prices had fallen by more than 70 percent by 2016, throwing the country into crisis.
Maduro has presided over Venezuela's spiral into its worst-ever economic crisis. The country is suffering from hyperinflation and a shortage of food and basic necessities.