The continuing clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces in Venezuela are being watched with a view toward the national interest in Caribbean and Latin American countries, most notably Cuba, which is feeling the impact of the contest for Caracas with particular intensity. The fall of President Nicolas Maduro and the end of the policies instituted by his mentor, the late President Hugo Chavez, would have strong repercussions in the region.
Even if Maduro holds on, the Chavista goal of exporting Venezuela’s “Bolivarian” revolution and bringing Chavez’s brand of “21st century socialism” to the rest of Latin America has already suffered a major blow. Venezuela has essentially lost its ability to influence regional politics to suit its agenda.
When Chavez was president, he sought to exert regional power by promoting ideologically compatible leaders in other countries and helping them once they reached office. To do this, he utilized two instruments. One was his charisma and his example. He made Venezuela a case study for Latin American leftists who wanted to wrest power from the traditional ruling class. The other tool was economic largesse.