The Cost of Opposing Hugo Chavez

An important new working paper by Chang-Tai Hsieh, Edward Miguel, Daniel Ortega, and Francisco Rodríguez examines whether Hugo Chavez opposition voters in Venezuela paid a price for their opposition. Between late 2002 and August 2004, more than 4.7 million Venezuelans signed petitions in favor of a recall election for Chavez despite widespread threats that signers would be punished. After Chavez’s victory in the August 2004 recall election, a list of supporters of the final petition was distributed throughout the public sector in a simple software package. Using data from household surveys, the authors determine that opposition voters experienced a 5 percent drop in earnings and a 1.5 percent drop in employment rates after their names were released. The authors also conclude that the retaliatory measures may have cost Venezuela up to 3 percent of G.D.P. due to misallocation of workers across jobs. (HT: Marginal Revolution) [%comments]

Justin Harper

Their government likes to distribute names to shame the opposition into agreeing with them, or at least not showing their opposition in public? Sounds oddly familiar...

Juan F Duque

It's funny that this paper is co-authored by somebody named Daniel Ortega, given the strong relationship between the Venezuelan and Nicaraguan presidents.


Interesting. A 5% drop in earnings doesn't sound extreme although I suspect some people lost a lot more than 5% - especially the ring leaders!

Eric M. Jones

I like Dave Barry's line: "When trouble arises and things look bad, there is always one individual who perceives
a solution and is willing to take command. Very often, that individual is crazy."

I think it can be stated as a universal truth: ALWAYS support the thug at the top.

Maybe a better question would have been "Is it better in this situation to be named something common like Jose Rodriguez, or not?"

Hey, don't send me any email about Chavez being an okay guy. I know he was better than Bush and Cheney.


The Personal Stress of Being a Rebel
Is Venezia Piccolo a city of rebels or an oily casino? Considering that the house always wins, it is unhealthy to advertise your rebel leanings. I wouldn't want to be Hugo Chavez when the house comes down on him. Not a wise move to invoke eminent domain as excuse to seize oil wells owned by the house

J. Costa

One good thing I like about Obama is that it's difficult to hate him or blame thw world problems on him. Everyone points out that "playing evil" did no good to Bush and America, but Clinton was a loved guy abroad either, I grew up in Lisbon (Portugal) and you still can read "Cllinton Fora"(Clinton Out) on the walls of Lisbon's University City complex.

Mr Chavez does not have the "evil gringo" to blame Venezuelans social problems anymore, this thug is going down soon.

George Tenet Fangirl

Could these results have an explanation with causation going the other way? I.e., people who are already experiencing downward mobility (or who are on the verge of such) would be more likely to oppose the incumbent leadership because of their economic situation. Isn't that sort of relationship par for the course in politics?

Evan Rowe

What is the cost to Chavez of facing a private and entirely aggressive and hostile media which berates him on a daily basis? This includes RCTV until their license was not renewed.

And as for cause and effect? It's clear Chavez is democratically redistributing power at least in the Rhetorical sense. Much of the information that isn't coming out of the corporate news media implies the same thing. It appears to be a messy country, but all of the Latin American nations are. In the long run, they all have to remove the traditional classism that dominates their societies.

The jury is out on the Bolivarian revolution. But as long as they are having elections that are free and open, lack intimidation, and bring democratic control over resources once dominated by only a handful of people. Then clearly, it's on the right track.

Evan Rowe

In other words, rich people getting taxes and losing power will make them look poorer after voting against Chavez. But you can't tell if that's simply a trend of the political decision made by the country.

Maybe they should look and do the same thing in 1933. People who voted for Hoover probably saw their income decline after FDR slapped the top tax rate to 91%.

See the point? Chicken and Egg.


I was one of the people to sign that list against Chavez. The cost of being against Chavez can not be understood in those terms. Back then, when the employees of the Venezuelan petroleum company backed a one month national strike against Chavez (one month!!!) Chavez explained in TV that all this people will be fired and they were fired.

Right now the cost of being against Chavez can not even be measured. By any measure it seems like everybody is with Chavez. The reason is that the cost of being against him is so high that is almost impossible, he controls everything. Can somebody tell me how many Cubans in Cuba are against Fidel?????

At this point people, especially young people, does not see any other options. It has been like this for too many years.

Regardless, thanks for reporting this. Nobody reported correctly all the efforts that were done to stop the madness that has become Venezuela.



Did anyone do a similar study of the net losses to FAA air traffic controllers who were fired and replaced by President Reagen? Their strike was motivated by economics and working conditions, but the similarity might hold for the results - if not worse!

Andrew Montes

I had thought that Chavez claims to lead the Bolivarian Revolution, socialism for the 21st century. He openly endorses redistributive policies. Presumably, the people who oppose Chavez are those who are having their wealth redistributed away - thus the correlation we see here. This is not political intimidation, it is Chavez following through on his commitments to redistribute wealth away from the rich. Though it is not surprising to see anti-Chavez propaganda in the media, the problem the US has with Chavez has nothing to do with political corruption and everything to do with Venezuela's economic policies.