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Hugo Chavez, the U.S., and Latin America in the United Nations

- March 6, 2013

Hugo Chavez was, to put it mildly, no fan of U.S. foreign policy. One of his favored outlets to express those views was the United Nations General Assembly; most famously his 2006 speech in which he called George W. Bush the devil. Below is a graph that depicts the “dynamic ideal point estimates” of the United States, Venezuela, and some other Latin America states based on their vote choices in the UN General Assembly. It is based on a paper Michael Bailey, Anton Strezhnev and I will present at the upcoming MidWest political science conference (sorry not done yet). Here is a brief illustration that may help with the methodology (or see this article). Our goal is to provide historically comparable estimates of the positions of states on a dimension that captures conflict over acceptance of the Western U.S. led liberal order.

In the early days of the UN, Latin American states were reliable allies of the U.S. Most Latin America states gradually moved away from the U.S. with the exception of Cuba, which shifted abruptly after its revolution. Hugo Chavez moved very quickly towards Cuba’s ideal point after taking power in 1998. He was joined there by Nicaragua (after the Sandinista came to power) and also Bolivia (not shown). This has created a somewhat bi-polar situation within Latin America; with some countries (like Argentina and Chile) quite a bit closer to the U.S. than others. Historically, Latin American countries have often voted together (with the exception of Cuba). This is all fairly well-known but I thought this graph captures the dynamics well and puts Chavez in some historical and comparative context.

For those interested: I plot the same graph below the fold with the traditional way of computing voting similarities between countries (S-scores or simple percentages of agreement with the U.S.). You’ll see that those obscure some important differences among Latin American countries.