Venezuela:  Democracy, Development, and the Bolivarian Process

                                                Soc 214 Professors Rose and Koont



S. Koont                                                                                  S. Rose

Landis 1                                                                                  CSC – 239 W. Louther 3rd                                                  

x1841                                                                                      x1244

                                                                                                Office Hours M 2-3:30

                                                                                                                       W 10:30-noon

Fall ½ credit; Winterim in Venezuela into Spring ½ credit.


Course Description


This course will provide both an historical background and a first-hand exposure to the new model of participatory democracy, endogenous development, and regional integration that is evolving in contemporary Venezuela.  With a focus on contemporary issues, this course offers a brief history of Venezuela in the context of Latin and North American history, and then focuses on the Bolivarian process. Through background readings, lectures, and film on the history and contemporary social, economic, and political realities of Venezuela, the course will situate the Bolivarian experiment in the contemporary trajectory of Latin American democracies that are facing the failure of neoliberalism to provide relief from deep poverty and inequality, environmental devastation, and debt bondage.  Through interviews with government officials, Venezuelan academics, political party leaders, trade unionists, journalists, human rights organizations, cultural workers, community organizers, and visits to urban and rural sites of the new government: “misiónes” in education, health care, economic development and cultural recovery, students will have the opportunity to talk with a number of people and pursue service-learning projects..


The service-learning component of this course will take place during the January term. In the morning we will be visiting various sites, interacting with people and listening to lectures, having group discussions… In the afternoons students will be working at a particular site so that they are able to establish relationships with community partners and be engaged in valuable service-learning projects. Groups of approximately 3-4 students will be working in the afternoon on one the following projects:


1)      Organic farming and sustainable development – this will involve working in the fields, gardens, and in one site, with a milk cow cooperative – many of these are newly established gardens and cooperative farm projects that enable communities to become less reliant on the larger coffee plantations that require that people work further from home.

2)      Literacy Project with the Elderly – this involves teaching reading (which will require students who are at least the upper intermediate level of Spanish). In addition to the literacy program is a cooperative kitchen where elderly women come together to cook – it’s a kind of soup kitchen but the women themselves do the cooking, learn more about nutrition, and are provided with the food.

3)       Rural schools – one of the new missions provide full-day schooling now for children from elementary through the secondary level (school used to be only ½ day and many left after 3rd grade). Our students will be working with the children and teachers on projects determined by the teachers. This may involve some teaching of English, art projects, athletic activities, and even working in the fields! which these young people do one afternoon a week.

4)      Almas de las Casas Project – the Housewives Project – that covers a number of areas including a pension for housewives, micro-enterprise grants, and domestic violence issues. I am going to be exploring the possibility of bringing the Clothesline Project to the community – at the least, the director of the program in Sanare is interested in seeing our documentary “Clothesline” and discussing logistics.

5)      Possibly the Women’s Cooperative Bakery and the Recycling Cooperative – these were visited (June 2005) but a specific discussion about the possibilities of students working with them were not discussed at the time.


Academic work in the fall and on-site will prepare students to do both interviews and service-learning projects. Readings, films and discussion will give them a background on the recent history of Venezuela, contemporary issues involving the Bolivarian Process…. Their final papers for the fall will be a research paper that integrates the readings and presents a proposal for their projects for the January term.




Fall: Research paper and proposal for research and service-learning project while in Venezuela – with interview/conversation questions appended.

January: Active Participation and Field Journal – Data, Analytical, and Reflective Journal

Spring: Final Project – may be a 15-20 page paper or video documentary with a shorter paper that integrates the work you have done throughout the course. This will include readings, information gathered during your field work and service-learning projects, and reflections on your experiences.


The service-learning projects are central to this course – for it is people’s participation in the various missions that characterize the power and objectives of the Bolivarian Revolution. The best way for students to begin to understand what’s happening among the impoverished classes of Venezuelan society is to become actively involved with them. Many people, estimates are 70-80% of Venezuelans, and especially young people, are involved in what is called (in the U.S.) participatory democracy or action research.  At the same time students are gaining a better understanding of the Bolivarian process, the motivations of people working in these projects, and the strengths and limitations of the new missions, they are building relationships with people and giving back to the communities which are teaching them so much. Even though 10-12 afternoons represent a short period of time (though roughly equal to the time commitment of most service-learning courses across a semester), our students can show that Americans are interested, willing to listen and to learn, and to offer what they can of their own skills and energy to projects that are important to Venezuelan communities. Copies of any video documentaries made would be given to our community partners. Venezuelans are very active in participating in and creating new forms of communication. Both local radio programs and video productions are documenting what is going on at the barrio level. Venezuelans are quite receptive to working with students to tell their stories about daily life, community participation, and the Bolivarian process. Perhaps, however, the greatest benefit to the host community and various organizations is that American students will see and experience first hand what is going on at various levels in the missions and communities in Sanare and then be able to tell other Americans about their experiences. This is especially important given the current economic and political context, the questioning of and resistance to neoliberal economic policies in many countries in Latin America, and current U.S. policies and statements in relation to a number of countries in Latin America.




Chavez, Hugo  and Marta Harnecker. Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution: Hugo       Chávez Talks to Marta Harnecker.  New York: Monthly Review Press, 2005.


Freire, Paulo. Trans. By  Myra Ramos. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. NY: Continuum

            Press, 2000.


Gott, Richard. Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution.  NY: Verso, 2005.


Hellinger, Daniel. Venezuela: A Tarnished Democracy. Westview, 1992 (On pdf files on



Márquez, Patricia. The Street is My Home: Youth and Violence in Caracas. Stanford:

 Stanford University Press, 1999.


Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela


Articles & Excerpts on BlackBoard CourseInfo



Boue, Juan Carlos  Venezuela: The Political Economy of Oil.  Oxford:

          Oxford University Press, 1993.


Castenada, Nora. Creating A Caring Economy. Philadelphia: Global Women’s Strike.



Collins, Sheila D.   “Breaking the Mold? Venezuela’s Defiance of the Neoliberal

Agenda,” New Political Science, Vol. 27, No. 3 (September 2005): 367-395.


Coronel, Gustavo.  The Nationalization of the Venezuelan Oil Industry.  Lexington, Massachusetts: Lexington Books, 1983.


DeLong, Seth.  Venezuela’s Agrarian land Reform: More like Lincoln than Lenin,”


Dinges, John. “Soul Search.” Columbia Journalism Review. Issue 4: July/August 2005.



Farmer, Paul. Ch. 5 on Liberation Theology from Pathologies of Power: Health, Human

 Rights, and the New War on the Poor. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.


Feder, Ernest. The Rape of the Peasantry: Latin America’s Landholding  System. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1971.


Fuentes, Federico.  Venezuela: Land Reform Battle Deepens,”`&dont=yes.

          (originally published in:  Green Left Weekly, New South Wales,  Australia, October 12, 2005.


Fox, Michael.  Venezuela’s Cooperatives Take First Steps Towards National Cooperative Movement,” .


Guevara, Aleida. Chávez: Venezuela and the New Latin America. NY: Ocean Press,

 2005. Excerpts: 1-6; 33-59.


Kirby, John.  Venezuela’s Land Reform: Progress and Change,”  Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, Vol. 15, No. 2  (May 1973), pp. 205-220.


Lendman, Stephen.  “New Estimate of Venezuela’s Total oil Reserves Makes It the Grandest of Grand Prizes for US,”


McBeth, B. S.  Juan Vicente Gomez and the Oil Companies in Venezuela, 1908 – 1935.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983.


Piniero Harnecker, Camila. “The New Cooperative movement in Venezuela’s Bolivarian Process,” .


Randall, Laura.  The Political Economy of Venezuelan Oil.  New York: Praeger, 1987.


Partial List of Other Texts & Materials  (Many of these are on BB)


The Carter Center.  The Carter Center and the Peacebuilding Process in Venezuela, June   2002-February 2005.


The Carter Center.  Observing the Venezuelan Presidential Recall Referendum:       Comprehensive Report, February 2005.


Coronil, Fernando.  The Magical State: Nature, Money, and Modernity in Venezuela.          Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.


Chávez, Hugo Friás. The Fascist Coup Against Venezuela, Speeches and Addresses             December 2002-January 2003, 2nd ed. augmented.  Havana: Ediciones Plaza,      2003.


Ellner, Steve and Daniel Hellinger (eds.). Venezuelan Politics in the Chávez Era: Class,

 Polarization and Conflict. Boulder: Lynne Reinner, 2004.


Gindin, Jonah. “Chavistas in the Halls of Power, Chavistas on the Street,” NACLA Report        on the Americas, 38, No. 5 (March 5, 2005).


Golinger, Eva. The Chávez Code: Cracking U.S. Intervention in Venezuela (Havana:           Editorial José Martí, 2005.


Gould, Carol.  Globalizing Democracy and Human Rights.  Cambridge: Cambridge   University Press, 2004.


Goumbri, Olivia Burlingame (ed.).  The Venezuela Reader: The Building of a People’s

            Democracy.  Washington, DC: EPICA, 2005.


 Latin America is Far From Rejecting Democracy,” Financial Times, August 2, 2004. 


Latin American Perspectives, Issue 141, Vol. 32, No. 2, March 2005.


Latin American Perspectives, Issue 127, Vol. 29, No. 6, November 2002.


Lijphart, Arend.  Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-  Six Countries.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.


Slim, Hugo and Paul Thompson.  Listening for a Change.


United Nations Development Programme, Democracy in Latin America: Towards a Citizens’ Democracy, available at:


Selected articles from Venezuela Analysis

Selected articles from ZNet.  http://www.zmag.


Wilpert, Wilpert.  Venezuela’s ‘Other Path,’” Dissent, Spring 2005, pp. 21-24.




Chávez, Venezuela and the New Latin America. A Documentary by Aleida Guevara and Ocean Film. 2004.


The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.  Filmed & Directed by Kim Bartley & Donnacha O Briain.  Produced in association with the Irish Film Board.


Talking About Power: Global Women’s Strike. Director Nina Lopez. 2005.


Guest Speakers for Fall:

Ambassador Alvarez, 19 September 2006.

Daniel Hellinger  30 Oct. 2006.

Also invitation out to Selma James.[i]


Course Objectives


  • To introduce students to the unique form of democracy taking shape in Venezuela, to explore the content of its realization, including criticisms raised by its detractors, and to provide opportunities for students to compare and contrast it to American representative democracy


  • To expose students to BolivarianVenezuela’s approach to social and cultural development and to provide them with opportunities to observe, participate in, and assess the model’s operational viability.


  • To provide students with an understanding of Venezuela’s approach to domestic economic development, to provide them with opportunities to observe, participate in, and assess its operational viability, and to compare and contrast it with the neoliberal model.


Student Learning Outcomes


Students should be able to:


  • Demonstrate an understanding of the key events, turning points, and concepts involved in the historical, political and economic development of contemporary Venezuela that help to explain the rise of Hugo Chavez to power.


  • Critically compare/contrast and assess Venezuela’s “participatory democracy” with American representative democracy.


  • Demonstrate an understanding of and sensitivity to the social and cultural dynamics of contemporary Venezuela—pervasive poverty and deep class and racial polarization; changing male/female relations; the assertion of heretofore subordinated ethnic groups and their struggle for political and media representation; “revolutionary” promises coming up against entrenched bureaucracies; the fear of U.S. imperialism. 


  • Demonstrate an awareness of the benefits and problems associated with Venezuela’s approach to economic development: its reliance on oil as the engine of economic growth; the challenge of rebuilding its devastated rural economy; the need for and the problems associated with land reform; the emphasis on cooperatives and co-management; its approach to environmental protection.


  • Demonstrate an understanding of the foreign policy objectives of the Chavez government, the ways in which they challenge the objectives of U.S. foreign policy, and critically assess the emergence of Venezuela on the world stage and its implications for global realignment.


  • Demonstrate an ability to integrate the major sources of information and analysis on contemporary Venezuela, as well as information from on-site visits, interviews, and service-learning projects in a final research project. 



Requirements                                                             Due Date                    Weight

1. Paper          (15 pages)                                           11/21                           65          

2. Prospectus (3 pages) with questions                     11/21                           15

3. Class Participation including BB discussions       -----                             20


Note: You can hand in two separate documents for 1 & 2 – or integrate them into one document (worth 80%)


Preliminary Schedule


8/29       Intro to Course – Current Debates (8:30-10) discuss times

              Film: Chávez, Venezuela and the New Latin America. A Documentary by                                 Aleida Guevara and Ocean Film.2004.

                BB: Guevara, Chavez Excerpts: 1-6; 33-59.


9/5       Venezuelan History: Nineteenth Century; Agrarian reform up to 1970

            All on BB:

BB: Hellinger, Ch.2

BB: Kirby, pp. 205 -220

BB: Feder, pp.3 – 18. 46 – 68, 239 -253


9/12     Venezuelan History: Twentieth Century; Oil up to Nationalization

All on BB:

BB: Randall, pp. 19 – 38

BB: Hellinger, Ch. 3, pp 47 – 81

BB: Coronel, pp. 3 – 17

BB: Boue, pp. 3 – 17

BB: Recommended: McBeth, pp. 1 - 69


9/19     Chavez & Harnecker, Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution, pp:9-45;

105-163; 170-177.

             Gott, Intro 1-56, 63-70

             BB:  Dinges, ”Soul Search”

             Film: The Revolution Will Not be Televised – Inside the Coup

**7:30 Ambassador Alvarez Evening Presentation (required)                   


9/26     Oil Post-Nationalization

All on BB:

Hellinger, pp. 121 – 198

Boue, pp. 17 – 30

Coronel, pp. 77 – 93. 257 – 272, 275 – 283

      Randall, pp. 39 - 62       


10/3     Poverty, Inequality, Resistance & Violence

             Marquez, At Home in the Streets


10/10   Gender & the Bolivarian Revolution

 Talking of Power Documentary

             Missiones – Bolivarian Circles

BB: History of Women and the Bolivarian Process

BB: Marquez, “What do ‘the People’ Think?” in Ellner & Hellinger

            BB: Paul Farmer, Ch. 5 on Liberation Theology & Structural Violence from

                     Pathologies of Power

BB: Nora Castenada – A Caring Economy Excerpts


Fall  Break


10/24   Chavez Era Economy: oil & agrarian reform; cooperatives

Chavez-Harnecker, Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution: pp 105 – 119

BB: Lendman

BB: Pineiro Harnecker

BB: Fox

BB: DeLong

BB: Global Exchange “Land Reform in Venezuela

BB: Fuentes


10/30    Evening Lecture: Author and Guest Speaker: Dan Hellinger

10/31    Q&A with Hellinger 8:30-9:30am   


11/7      Sustainability

             Gott, Part V: 143-216; 223-274


Week:     Interview & Video Workshop

11/12      Preliminary Research and Interview Questions Due by Monday before class


11/14       Excerpts from Listening for a Change on Fieldwork and Interviewing

          Read: BB Listening: 1-10; 61-84; 134-156

          Venezuelan Documentaries


Week     Final Papers & Prospectus Due

11/21     Student Presentations (start at 8am)


Begin Student Presentations re: Papers and Ideas for Venezuelan 

Fieldwork Oil, Economy, Agriculture, Bolivarian Revolution, and Media


11/21   Final Papers & Prospectus Due by 4pm in D219

             (We will accept papers until the beginning of class on Tuesday

  December 5th)


11/28     Student Presentations

Women’s Rights/Empowerment/Domestic Violence/Health Care/Music/Bolivarian Revolution



12/5   Discussion of Venezuelan Elections/Final Logistics Handout

 Student Presentations 8am

Education/Youth, Street Kids

Please read Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed over break J!    


Dickinson Winterim in Venezuela to Spring Break



Jan. 2-18 2007


Jan 2Tu            Fly to Caracas

Jan 3We           Caracas

Jan 4 Th           Caracas

Jan 5 Fr           Caracas

Jan 6 Sa           Caracas early departure to Barlovento – Hotel Barlovento

Jan 7 Su           Barlovento

Jan 8 Mo         Barlovento early departure to Sanare (`4am J)

Jan 8-15          Sanare (El Cerrito)

Jan 15              Sanare early departure to Choroni

Jan 15-17        Choroni

Jan 17 We        Caracas Jan 18 Th        Fly Caracas-Philly


During this time please keep field journals of your impressions, observations conversations,

interviews, data…. You will be asked to be responsible for detailing one day’s encounters/experiences for our Venezuela Blog J while we are in Venezuela and then a 3- page reflection piece and either a photo essay/slide show or an op-ed (approximately 600 words – 1 ½ pages) upon return to campus. Your final papers/projects for the course will be due March 6th, 2007 just before spring break. The grading is as follows:


Final Fall Papers                                                                             35% (combo grade for 4)

Winterim (participation, reflections, & op-ed/photo essay)         30%

Final Spring Projects (which can build on fall papers)           35%



Spring Schedule


Tu Jan 23        No Class – but work on your 3-page reflection pieces and hand in any

                        stray tapes and CD copies of photos for processing and web site.


Tu Jan. 30       Debriefing & 3-Page Reflections Due These can be typed excerpts from your journals. Discuss these and where-to-from-here with your projects.


Tu Feb. 6th      Photo Essay or OP-Ed pieces due – (if latter, please bring 3 copies to class so we can peer-review  them. See notes on How to Write an Op-Ed posted on BB under Course Assignments).


Tu Feb. 13      Resources for Final Paper – web workshop

Small group and Individual Meetings re: Final Projects (Sign-Up for

Meetings). Final Photo Essay/Op-Ed pieces Due (1 hard copy and 1 electronic copy due by 4pm. You can drop hard copy off either at my box in CSC or Denny). Work on Final Projects/Papers.


Tu Feb. 20      Small Group & Individual Meetings (Sign-Up for Meetings). Work on Final Projects/Papers.


Tu Feb. 27      Group Presentations


Women’s Issues

Health Care


Tu March 6    Group Presentations


Agriculture & Sustainable Farming

Music and Media


Final Papers Due by 4pm to my box in CSC (one hard copy and one electronic copy please)


Formal class ends at spring break but we will want to meet at least two more times – one to view any final video documentaries and/or web projects which will take a bit longer to finish. We may well want to turn this into a late afternoon or evening function depending on people’s schedules. And we may decide as a class that we want to present some of our work to the larger campus community (?) Finally Charlie Hardy may be coming to campus to do a lunch book-reading and signing on April 25th.



All over the Western Hemisphere, and particularly in South America, nations are transforming themselves. Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay have newly elected governments that are rejecting the idea that Latin societies have to be characterized by extreme economic inequality and political repression.  Their leaders, who represent a variety of center-left political parties, are committing themselves to programs that will serve the needs of the majority of their citizens, with particular emphasis on providing work, education, and social services for the poor and the marginalized.  But nowhere is this transformation more advanced than in Venezuela, where over the past six years President Hugo Chavez has initiated a peaceful, democratic movement called the “Bolivarian Process.”


President Chavez has gained notoriety in Washington for his outspoken criticism of the Bush Administration’s attempts to interfere with internal Venezuelan politics, and for his distaste for the conservative version of “free market” economic development that the United States has been promoting for the past thirty years.  Most Latin American leaders today feel that the North American agenda has not benefited their nations at all, and consequently they approve of Chavez’s ideas and independent stance even though they may not be ready to adopt his populist rhetoric.  In particular, they admire Venezuela’s array of practical and progressive reforms, which are delivering education, healthcare, nutrition and employment opportunities to poor and low-income working people, 75%-80% of the population, whose needs and aspirations were consistently neglected in the past.


Over the past six years, large majorities of the Venezuelan people have continued to vote in support of the Bolivarian political process on eight different occasions. This has allowed Chavez’s allies to control the national legislature and the governors’ offices. But more impressive than their electoral success is the high level of popular participation among the majority of people at the grassroots level.  A million and a half  illiterate people have learned to read, and millions more who stopped their education prematurely are going back to finish high school and college.  People in poor city barrios and rural communities have organized themselves into active neighborhood health committees and, with the assistance of thousands of doctors from Cuba, now have access to free primary health care.


In the economic realm, the government is helping to provide low-cost food markets, employment in small and medium businesses, and the construction and rehabilitation of houses.  These projects, like the health committees, are succeeding because citizens are organizing themselves to work for change with their neighbors.  As a result, Venezuela has embarked on a number of ambitious experiments designed to give the poor, generally estimated to be 70% to 80% of the population, ways to participate in their own emancipation from poverty.  New programs of public health care, education, and employment training are reaching millions of citizens in the poor barrios of the cities and in the countryside.  These are largely participatory efforts: citizens are expected to take an active role in organizing their own neighborhood health committees, building their own housing, engaging in cooperative farming, or returning to school for more advanced education.  


In short, this is an especially interesting time for students to visit communities in Venezuela, for they can observe  - and to some extent participate in  - various kinds of social and political organizations that are in the process of creating themselves from the bottom up, at the grassroots level. While in Venezuela, students will engage in such activities as conducting interviews, making video documentaries, and participating in service-learning projects.  In Caracas, but primarily in Sanare, the students will visit and talk with a range of people who live in the barrios, are involved in the cooperatives (sustainable agricultural projects, woman’s bakery, recycling, etc.), teach at the university and in the rural schools, and work with the lay catholic movement – this is one region where liberation theology is still thriving. Through coursework that will precede our trip to Venezuela, students will be prepared for these visits – for asking intelligent, complex questions and for engaged listening.  They will also have the opportunity to follow media accounts of the elections that are scheduled to take place in Venezuela in November/December of 2006.


January - Spring 2007 – ½ credit course that integrates the work done during the winterim. Students will be required to keep a field journal that involves collecting data, analyzing conversations, lectures, interviews; and reflecting on what they are experiencing and learning. There will be systematic opportunities for students to reflect on their service-learning projects – both during January while they are in process – and once they return to campus.

[i] U.S. Speaking Tour:  October 2006 – Women: Creating a Caring Economy in Venezuela
Selma James - activist, author, strategist and critical thinker – is international coordinator of the Global Women's Strike, bringing together actions and initiatives in over 70 countries with the theme "Invest in Caring Not Killing" ( < ).  The Strike demands that military budgets be returned to the community, starting with women, the primary
care givers everywhere.  Selma James's many publications include the 1972 feminist classic The Power of Women and Subversion of the Community and the just-released Creating a Caring Economy: Nora Castañeda and the Women's Development Bank of Venezuela.  She is founder of the International Wages for Housework Campaign and widow of the West Indian historian CLR James, and now lives in London, England.