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The Missionary Politics of Hugo Chávez

  • José Pedro Zúquete (a1)
Abstract

Through the application of an analytical model categorized as “missionary,” this article examines the cultural and political-religious frames that sustain the leadership of Hugo Chávez. It demonstrates that missionary politics is a forceful presence in today's Venezuela, and should be understood as a form of political religion characterized by a dynamic relationship between a charismatic leader and a moral community that is invested with a mission of salvation against conspiratorial enemies. The leader's verbal and nonverbal discourses play an essential role in the development of such a missionary mode of politics, which seeks to provide the alienated mass of underprivileged citizens with an identity and a sense of active participation in national affairs. This study argues that purely utilitarian and materialistic explanations of Chávez's leadership fail to capture these soteriological dynamics in his movement.

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