The Economic Legacy of Hugo Chávez


Although it is too soon to assess late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s political legacy, we argue that taking an economic perspective allows for three important conclusions to emerge: (1) his rise to power can be largely explained by the abysmal economic performance of his predecessors; (2) the consolidation of his rule is partly the result of spectacular increases in private consumption generated by wildly expansionary policies in the context of price and exchange rate controls; and (3) Chavez passed away leaving his political heir holding the bag of financial excess and his countrymen at large the much heavier legacy of paying the price of his political success.

About the Authors

Foto_SantosMiguel Angel Santos was the head of the Macroeconomic Policy Team for presidential candidate Henrique Capriles in the Venezuelan elections of 2012. He has more than twelve years of executive experience doing business development and corporate finance in Latin America, working for large family holdings, multinational companies, and investment banks. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Center of Finance of Instituto de Estudios Superiores en Administración (IESA) in Caracas and writes a weekly column at El Universal, Venezuela’s oldest nationwide newspaper. Angel holds two MSc degrees, in economics and finance and in specialized economic analysis, both from Universitat Pompeu Fabra, and has also earned the right to use the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 11.09.15 AMRicardo Villasmil was head of Public Policy of during Henrique Capriles’ bid for the Venezuelan presidency in 2012. He is Professor of development economics at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello and of macroeconomics at the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración (IESA), as well as a private strategy consultant. He is a 2014 Mason Fellow from Harvard University and holds a PhD in Economics from Texas A&M University and an MBA from IESA.

He is a currently an Edward S. Mason Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a PhD in economics candidate at Universidad de Barcelona.


The authors would like to thank Ricardo Hausmann and Richard Cooper for their thoughtful comments, as well as Emily Conrad for superb editing. The usual disclaimers apply.

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