The election of a leftist president in Venezuela in 1998 foreshadowed what would, in the following seven years, become a wave of successes for left-leaning presidential candidates in Latin America... Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva in Brazil in October 2002, then Lucio Gutiérrez in Ecuador in January 2003, Néstor Kirchner in Argentina in May 2003, Tabaré Vázquez in Uruguay in October 2004, Evo Morales in Bolivia in December 2005, Rafael Correa in Ecuador in November 2006, and then Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, also in November 2006. While some of these moderated [towards the centre or centre-right] significantly shortly after taking office, such as Gutiérrez and da Silva, they represent a wave of left-of-center leaders whose election came as a bit of a surprise given the... disorientation within the left around the world.
Gregory Wilpert, German-American political analyst (2007).
At the start of the 21st century, Venezuela was the world's fifth largest exporter of crude oil, with oil accounting for 85.3% of the country's exports, therefore dominating the country's economy. Previous administrations had sought to privatise this industry, with U.S. corporations having a significant level of control, but the Chávez administration wished to curb this foreign control over the country's natural resources by nationalising much of it under the state-run oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PdVSA). In 2001, the government introduced a new Hydrocarbons Law through which they sought to gain greater state control over the oil industry: they did this by raising royalty taxes on the oil companies and also by introducing the formation of "mixed companies", whereby the PdVSA could have joint control with private companies over industry. By 2006, all of the 32 operating agreements signed with private corporations during the 1990s had been converted from being primarily or solely corporate-run to being at least 51% controlled by PdVSA
The pro-Chávez political...