Rethinking the Venezuelan Media Presidency: Populism/Authoritarianism and “Spectacular Modernity”

Noah Zweig


This article analyzes the long tradition of Venezuelan populist and authoritarian presidents who use media to advance their agendas and promote their cults of personality. In Latin America, there is a tradition of left and right populists using “old” and “new” media to legitimate ideology. But I demonstrate how this phenomenon of the caudillismo mediático takes a sui generis character in Venezuela insofar as it is the region’s only petrostate. My twofold argument is as follows. First, although Hugo Chávez, who presided over Venezuela’s most prominent media populism, is often depicted as an outlier, he has to be understood by way of his populist democratic and autocratic predecessors, themselves beneficiaries of “spectacular modernity.” Second, because this spectacular modern media populism’s roots are in Venezuelan totalitarianism, and its realization occurred during Venezuela´s “classical” populism era, the Venezuelan media presidency is imbricated in a complex populism-authoritarian dialectic.


populism, petroleum, Latin America, Hugo Chávez, Rafael Caldera, Carlos Andrés Pérez, Venezuela

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