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A Trajectory of Caudillo Press, Journalism, and the Authoritarian Dilemma in Venezuela

A Book Chapter by Ed Bracho-Polanco, published by Media and Governance in Latin America

This edited book, by Ximena Orchard, Sara Garcia Santamaria, Julieta Brambila and Jairo Lugo-Ocando, aims at bringing together a range of contemporary expertise that can shed light on the relationship between media pluralism in Latin America and processes of democratization and social justice. In doing so, the authors of the book provide empirically grounded theoretical insight into the extent to which questions about media pluralism—broadly understood as the striving for diverse and inclusive media spheres—are an essential part of scholarly debates on democratic governance.

The rise in recent years of authoritarianism, populism and nationalism, both in fragile and stable democratic systems, makes media pluralism an intellectual and empirical cornerstone of any debate about the future of democratic governance around the world. This book—useful for students and researchers on topics such as Media, Communications, Latin American Studies and Politics—aims to make a contribution to such debate by approaching some pressing questions about the relationship of Latin American governments with media structures, journalistic practices, the communication capabilities of vulnerable populations and the expressive opportunities of the general public.


A Trajectory of Caudillo Press, Journalism, and the Authoritarian Dilemma in Venezuela

By Ed Bracho-Polanco

Venezuelan journalism circa 1840 and into the 21st century—during the Chávez-Maduro era—has generally exhibited a strong partisan and polarizing tendency, more focused on militant opinion than in news production that inform and represent the people. The press and media outlets have shown a tendency to compete in the name of specific political leaders and their parties, organized within a clientelar structure, and have often experienced censorship, banning, and persecution. One could argue that the political form of caudillismo has been a defining and negative force in Venezuelans’ struggle in achieving democracy as both a political and protective device in which the people exercise their sovereignty and can be protected from their political leaders in case these commit excesses (Keane 1991 & 2009, Held 2006, Merkel 2014). Caudillismo can be characterized as a Latin American form of authoritarian populism, hidden within the edges of representative democracy, politically driven by a tendency to foster a highly affectionate and emotional bond between the leader and the people (Arditi 2007, Seligson 2007). This tends to lead to a form of pseudo-democratic or pseudo-dictatorial practice in which all political and moral legitimacy falls in the hands of a charismatic leader, a supreme “strong man,” a caudillo, who “relates directly to ‘the people’ ” (Merino 2008, pp. 68).


Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Ed Bracho-Polanco


Ed Bracho-Polanco is a lecturer in the Communication and Media Institute (CAMRI), University of Westminster. He also has 17 years of experience as tri-media journalist and editor. His research interests include media and democracy, sociology of media practice and journalism, representation in the media and in popular culture.


8 March 2021
Published By
Media and Governance in Latin America
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CAMRI | A Trajectory of Caudillo Press, Journalism, and the Authoritarian Dilemma in Venezuela - CAMRI
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