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Inside and beyond the Petro-State frontiers: geography of environmental conflicts in Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution

By Emiliano Teran-Mantovani.

Venezuela is well known for its century-old oil economy, which has significantly shaped its social fabrics, territories, and eco-systems. Since 1999, the Bolivarian Revolution has led to important transformations in the context of the ‘Socialism of the 21st century’ project, but the extractivist model has deepened. This situation has created or intensified several ecological distribution conflicts, which have been further exacerbated by an extraordinary national crisis unleashed in the period 2013–2016. In this paper, a geography of the 20 most emblematic and representative socio-environmental conflicts in the period of the Bolivarian Revolution is presented. From a comparative political ecology perspective, this article aims to understand how power relations are expressed through territorial configurations and spatial dynamics of resistance, and what are the implications for sustainability. It is argued that a remarkable new situation of environmental injustice is occurring in this period. Despite the ‘eco-socialist’ discourse raised, the current Petro-State has updated the traditional regime on eco-systems, territories, and human bodies primarily by resorting to the assimilation of socio-environmental conflicts through a strategic distribution policy of oil rents. However, it has maintained a pattern of ecological degradation and social marginalization as an outcome of its economic development model. The current context of crisis has fostered intense territorial disputes and conditions for the emergence of new social actors, practices, scenarios, and geographies linked to underground economies and criminal bands, which complicate an already concerning scenario of unsustainability. The current extractivist model is reaching a breaking point. New commodity frontiers have become a main area of dispute.



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Environmental conflicts, Petro-State, Commodity frontiers, Venezuela, Environmental justice, Extractivism, Bolivarian Revolution, Political ecology

How to Cite

Teran-Mantovani, E. Sustain Sci (2017).


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