September 1, 2000
In the 19 months since he was elected president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez has turned his country upside down, helped drive up international oil prices to their highest point in a decade and made powerful enemies at home and abroad. Washington is angered by his anti-Americanism and his dalliances with Muammar Khadafi of Libya and Iraq's Saddam Hussein. The approval of a new constitution in a referendum and his triumph in July's "relegitimization" election give Chávez great power. Instead of getting down to straightening out the economy, though, he keeps shaking business confidence already dazed by his anti-capitalist tirades and last year's 7% collapse in GDP.
Venezuela and Colombia have become two of the most dangerous places to do business in Latin America. Their financial systems are in disarray. Venezuela's Hugo Cháves and Colombia's Andrés Pastrana are taking starkly different approaches to dealing with their countries'problems.