Hugo Chavez claimed that his government was "Bolivarian"

Wiki sayeth:

The “Bolivarian Revolution” refers to a leftist social movement and political process in Venezuela led by Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, the founder of the Fifth Republic Movement (replaced by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela in 2007). The "Bolivarian Revolution" is named after Simón Bolívar, an early 19th century Venezuelan and Latin American revolutionary leader, prominent in the Spanish American wars of independence in achieving the independence of most of northern Latin America from Spanish rule.

Is that claim of Chavez's government/revolution being "Bolivarian" true?

E.g. are the specific policies and ideas and government details of Chavez's government similar in any/many/all/no ways to Bolivar's?

  • 2
    Should this be on Politics?
    – Sklivvz
    Mar 8, 2013 at 20:41
  • @Sklivvz - I'm uncertain... I'd like a more rigorous skeptics style fact-backed-up answer to this (since the question stemmed from a question asked on politics recently in the first place). Preferably backed up by some poly sci or economics research.
    – user4012
    Mar 8, 2013 at 20:48
  • You're not going to get a definite provable scientific answer to whether some political movement is similar to some other movement. Much better off on Politics. Mar 9, 2013 at 16:51
  • Bolivar's revolution was around 1820. Before Marx and all those puppies. Whatever crap Chavez and Maduro have made out of it came 160 years later so it hardly seems fair to blame Bolivar for it (even if marketing dept. mighta flagged that as good idea to Chavez). Feb 12, 2021 at 4:42

2 Answers 2


A Bolivarian revolution would have to bring a bolivarian system of government.

Simón Bolivar himself said:

The most perfect system of government is the one that produces the greatest possible happiness, the greatest degree of social safety, and the greatest political stability.

Simón Bolívar: Essay written for the Angostura Congress, 1819

So, it seems that History will one day have its say, maybe in a couple of decades or more, about whether the revolution started by Hugo Chavez, was a bolivarian revolution, or not.

  • 3
    Your reference to happiness is the "Happy Planet Index", which tries to weight in eco-friendly, low environment impact countries. I do not think Bolivar was thinking about that kind of "happiness". And this is a bit strange that a state whose main ressource is petroleum is well ranked for ecology by the way.
    – Frédéric
    May 23, 2017 at 18:36
  • 1
    In general, people consider the pollution where the petrol is burnt. That's why country such as Norway are not considered as huge greenhouse gas emitter.
    – fedor
    Feb 11, 2021 at 16:29
  • History has had its say: "in 2013, food consumption ... actually decreased. By March 2016, 87% of Venezuelans were reportedly consuming less due to the shortages they faced. As of 2016, the average Venezuelan living in extreme poverty lost nearly 19 pounds due to lack of food. In March 2017, a basket of basic grocery items cost four times the monthly minimum wage and by April, more than 11% of the children in the country suffered from malnutrition. By 2018, more than 30 percent of Venezuelans were only eating one meal per day."
    – Just Me
    Feb 11, 2021 at 17:51

In Latin America, the progressive processes that started with Chavez in Venezuela, and others mostly in the 00s are referred to as a "second independence". The idea is that even if Bolivar (and others) were able to get independence from foreign powers, that "freedom" was all but an illusion in real terms. Yes, countries had votes every four years or so, plenty of parties to choose from, separate institutions of the state, etc., but the actual power (in material terms, in terms of who controlled public opinion, who had access to education, health care, etc.) were in the hands of the few. The Bolivarian aspect of the venezuelan process is to try to get in place a government that puts the power back in the hands of the majority of the population.

On another note, a fundamental tenet of Bolivar's thought was the idea of unification. The governments of the region (both left and right even, starting with Chavez) have come to recognize that coming together as a group to find common positions, and ultimately to negotiate with the US or Europe as a block, is not only a desirable position, but a necessary one when there are such huge imbalances of power. There were attempts at unification before, but these were mostly commercial. The acknowledgment that unification should be on the basis of culture, common language, values, economic interests, common history, etc., starts with Chavez, Unasur, etc. and is probably closer to Bolivar's ideal.

EDIT: Some data, as requested in the comments, comparing some indicators in 98 (year Chavez came into power) to 2013 (year the original question was asked):

  1. The poverty headcount ratio (as % of population) at national poverty lines: in 98, 49%; in 2013, 29.4%.

Infant mortality rates (deaths per 1,000 live births):

1998, 19.9%; 2013, 14.9%


  1. Cepal has slightly different data for data (probably measured poverty in different terms?):

Poverty: 1999, 49.4%; 2013, 32.1%. Extreme poverty: 1999, 21.7%; 2013, 9.8% http://interwp.cepal.org/cepalstat/Perfil_Nacional_Social.html?pais=VEN&idioma=english

  1. % of population aged 15-19 who completed primary education:

2000, 89.2%; 2013, 95.7%.


  1. Support for democracy (% of people who agreed with statement "democracy is preferable to any other form of government")

1998, 60%; 2013, 87% (highest in all of lat am)

Satisfaction with democracy (% of people who reported being satisfied or very satisfied with the functioning of democracy in Venezuela)

1998, 35.45; 2013, 42.4%

How fair is wealth distribution (% of people who agreed with statement "wealth distribution is fair or very fair")

2013, 43% (second highest in lat am)



  • -1 Seems extremely at odds with the reality of the Venezuelan situation when the question was asked, let alone 2021. Venezuelans are all over South America, having fled their paradise. Dont confuse, justified, criticism of rather high inequality in South America with any kind of beneficial outcome from Chavez's policies. If you have actual data points besides your opinions, feel free to provide sources. Feb 12, 2021 at 5:26
  • That this "freedom was all but an illusion in real terms" is what the anti-aparthied freedom fighters realised after they forced aparthied to be abandoned in South Africa in the early 90s. One of their mistakes, as they acknowledged, was to focus on politics and leaving economics aside. Personally, I see that as no mistake, as first the politics has to be won and then to win an independence from the ruling paradigm of market-led neoliberalism and win an economic democracy. Feb 13, 2021 at 21:04

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