When the global economic crisis struck, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez gloated. The woes of capitalism, he believed, would give a boost to his brand, helping spread Chavismo throughout Latin America. Chávez, the designer of that unique ad hoc blend of personality-driven socialism and nervously semi-free markets, prophesied the imminent collapse of capitalism. He confidently promised his followers that, under his leadership, Venezuela would remain "armor plated" against recession.
Today, capitalism appears to be limping back to life thanks to generous infusions of government funding. The news for Chávez and his followers, on the other hand, looks rather dismal. Not only is the Venezuelan economy sliding down an ever-accelerating spiral to disaster, but Chávez's philosophy is rapidly losing its appeal. Chávez and a few of his ideological soulmates may remain in power, but Chavismo as an ideology is slowly dying.
In a continent where economic growth and the alleviation of poverty remain pressing needs, the Chavista model has lost its battle for regional primacy to the progressive reform policies developed by Brazil and Chile, where poverty is receding and living standards are climbing.