Professors Alejandro Velasco, New York University, David Smilde, University of Georgia, Miriam Kornblith, Jose Molina, Universidad del Zulia will be participating in a panel discussion, chaired by UM Professor Dan Levine, on Democracy in Latin America.
Professor Jose Molina - Political Science Universidad del Zulia will present "Venezuela: ¿A low quality democracy?"
The paper argues that the first point of contention regarding Venezuela democracy is whether it still meets the minimal requirements for democracy. The government is elected, but the playing field is heavily skewed in favor of the current ruling party. In regional elections, opposition candidates that fare very well in the opinion polls have been denied participation; and opposition winning candidates have found a lot of obstacles thrown in by the national government to prevent them from properly do their jobs as governors or majors. Venezuela seems to be in a grey zone between electoral authoritarianism and democracy: a low quality democracy.
Professor Alejandro Velasco, Historian, New York University, will present "Between Liberalism, Radicalism, and Populism in Venezuela's Barrios"
Professor David Smilde, University of Georgia, Sociologist, will "Understanding Citizen Support for Hugo Chavez: Strengths and Fragility" - Smilde be using tracking polls to show that Chávez continues to enjoy high levels of support besides low levels of trust in his judgment, the actual content of many policies as well as the contents of "21st Century Socialism." The support is based on people´s contentment with social policy based on missions--especially as these have affected education and health, as well as overall economic performance. This has generated high levels of optimism towards the future among Venezuelans. However, this largely non-ideological support will be fragile when confronted by economic decline or institutional decomposition.