As I wrote yesterday, the idea that Hugo Chavez should have governed Venezuela more like a small Persian Gulf monarchy is nuts, but it’s also true that Chavez-era economic policy has hardly been a miracle once you put it in regional context.
Now voters are not really known for putting things in regional context. The entire Latin American region performed well during this period, and not coincidentally it was also a great time for incumbent politicians. That’s as true in Venezuela as in Brazil or Argentina or Colombia. But if you look at it from the outside, it seems that Chavez was not really able to turn Venezuela’s unusually generous natural resource endowments into unusually strong economic performance. The Venezuelan oil industry has not performed especially well, with falling output masked by high prices, and the country (like many other resource-rich nations) hasn’t succeeded in leveraging resource wealth into successful non-oil industries.