Günther Maihold

Foreign Policy as Provocation

Rhetoric and Reality in Venezuela's External Relations under Hugo Chávez

SWP Research Paper 2009/RP 01, January 2009, 32 Pages

Many of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's appearances on the world stage can rightly be called provocations. His verbal radicalism and regular threats to cease supplying oil to the United States make international headlines. But his rhetorical gestures cannot be dismissed as the megalomania of a "South American potentate". Venezuela possesses huge oil and gas reserves and operates a dynamic and well-calculated foreign policy that is causing increasing headaches for the United States and other countries. Although the diplomatic provocations are directed primarily towards the United States, the Venezuelan president is attempting to overturn international macro-economic and political structures through a new form of South-South cooperation. The institutions of regional integration in Latin America have come under pressure from his new parallel organizations. But Venezuela cannot live up to the new regional leadership role it aspires to. Despite its strategic energy resources, Venezuela is not yet in a position to build on its influence in South America to play an enduring leading role in the Western hemisphere and global politics. President Chávez's initiatives have turned turn out to be inadequate to establish a new international order and win long-term political and economic support of other partners (like Iranand Russia) for its interests. At the same time Venezuela is an important player for the West, and should be integrated responsibly in order to keep open channels of influence.

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