The state and civil society in socialist Venezuela
Gill, Timothy M
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Since the 1980s, the US has provided material and technical support, or democracy assistance, to political parties and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) throughout the world. Two theoretical perspectives have governed analysis of this phenomenon, including a neo-Tocquevillian and a neo-Marxist perspective. These two perspectives, however, contain several theoretical blindspots that require rectification. To provide a more robust theory of US democracy assistance efforts, I have selected Venezuela as a case study. As a result of previous theoretical shortcomings, I have developed a neo-Weberian perspective. Similar to the neo-Tocquevillian perspective, this perspective recognizes that the US mainly promotes US-style liberal democratic policies in the countries that it operates, and, similar to both perspectives, this perspective recognizes that US democracy assistance primarily flows to the Venezuelan opposition. Unlike the neo-Tocquevillian perspective, this perspective recognizes that the US has provided assistance to actors that have not always pursued democratic measures, and it recognizes that a multiplicity of legitimate forms of democratic politics exist, including the radical and participatory politics that the Venezuelan government has promoted. Unlike the neo-Marxist perspective, this perspective can make sense of the select instances in which the US has funded actors that have worked with and commended the Venezuelan government. Most importantly, this perspective asserts the centrality of US officials’ ideological motivations, and shows how these officials understand the Venezuelan government in colonialist and racist terms. This perspective asserts that these understandings of the Venezuelan government serve as the basis and justification for US democracy assistance endeavors in the country. Finally, I examine the Venezuelan government’s passage of anti-NGO legislation in 2010. I argue that while the Venezuelan government sought to pass a highly restrictive form of anti-NGO legislation that would prohibit foreign funding for all NGOs in 2006, it stalled this legislation due to influence from several foreign countries and international groups. In 2010, following the Venezuelan government’s consolidation of relations with an anti-US nexus of countries, the Venezuelan government successfully passed a less comprehensive piece of anti-NGO legislation that prohibits foreign funding for political parties and political NGOs.