The relationship between immigration policies in Venezuelan history, the development of racism, and the election of President Hugo Chávez Frías in 1998-2012
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 16:21 by Fidelina Maria Cooper
Venezuela is one of the most racially mixed countries in Latin America and has been described for more than a century as a place where all races are welcome. However, this mentality was tested on December 06, 1998, when Hugo Chávez Frías became "the first non-white president in the majority non-white country's history" (MacLeod 2018, p.9). It follows that from the perspective of this study, Chávez's election, as well as social conflicts post-election, exposed doubts about this presumably racially egalitarian democracy. Scholars like Corrales (2005) have accused Chávez of polarizing the country with his radical political changes. Likewise, studies such as MacLeod's (2018) have blamed the Western media for manipulating Chávez's image and presenting him as a divisive figure. However, polarization and racism in Venezuela before Chávez have not been studied in sufficient detail. This thesis argues that racism and polarization were pre-existing conditions generated by the country's colonial past as well as immigration policies put in place long before Chávez's election, that were then exposed clearly during his government. The aims of this study are to investigate: 1. How did the immigration policies historically implemented by the Venezuelan government play an important role in the development of class and racial division? 2. Had these policies already divided Venezuela into two groups before the election of Chávez, and did this impact the support for Chávez in the 1998 election, as well as in consecutive elections in 2000, 2006, and 2012? The first part of this research will analyse discourses put forth by historians and experts in the field of race and migration history, as well as including an auto-ethnographic approach. The second part will compare data related to ethnic identities through their own identification with certain ethnic categories from the most recent Venezuelan census (2011) to voting trends obtained from the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) (National Electoral Council). This research attempts to add to additional evidence to claims for the history of racism in Venezuela as a significant possible cause of polarization after Chávez's election -- abstract.