New Publication: Imperialism and the Geopolitics of COVID-19 in Venezuela

Rowan Lubbock has written a new essay for Textos & Debates on the geopolitics of COVID-19 in Venezuela.

Abstract: The impact of COVID-19 in Venezuela has merely compounded an already existing health crisis within the country. Like the rest of the Venezuelan economy and society, the breakdown of the healthcare system is largely due to the legacy of class conflict and the contradictions of Bolivarian oil-dependent development policy, which finally came to breaking point with the end of the commodity super-cycle. And yet, despite the domestic sources of the crisis, the current unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic in Venezuela is inherently geopolitical in nature. Central to this story is the manner in which Venezuela’s domestic and electoral dynamics have become inextricably embedded within the ‘imperialist chain’ centred on Washington. The conflict between chavista and opposition forces, the constitutional crisis of 2017, the unilateral declaration of Juan Guaidó as ‘interim president’ in 2019, and an intensified sanctions regime are all differentially conditioned by US imperial strategy. This paper will unpack the interconnections between the domestic and international dynamics of Venezuela’s socio-political crisis, explore the ways in which COVID-19 has been weaponised by the Trump administration, and attempt to understand the prospects for radical political renewal under conditions of increasing geopolitical conflict.

The article can be found at

Upcoming events: “Spaces of Agrarian Struggle: The ALBA-TCP and the Politics of Food Sovereignty in Venezuela”

1 April 2020 2-3pm Bancroft Building 2.07

Title:  “Spaces of Agrarian Struggle: The ALBA-TCP and the Politics of Food Sovereignty in Venezuela”, Speaker Rowan Lubbock

Since its creation in 2004, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America-Peoples’ Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP) has represented a radical alternative to the dominant patterns of regionalism and social development.  Covering a range of areas of cooperation – including diplomacy, energy, medicine, education, and agriculture, ALBA has asserted its rejection of market logic and placed a renewed emphasis on progressive government policy in alliance with grassroots power. However, while ALBA has been relatively successful with regards to its social policies, particularly the expansion of medical and educational services to the popular sectors, its approach to agrarian development has encountered a litany of obstacles and tensions. The central contradiction lies in the sharp divergence between ALBA’s radical rhetoric with regards to the transition towards a more participatory-democratic ‘social economy’, and the entrenched presence of top-down decision making and bureaucratic state power. More specifically, the concrete manifestation of ALBA’s food policies all reside within the territory of Venezuela. This picture presents a fundamental puzzle: why has ALBA’s regional policy been “nationalised” under the Venezuelan state? Read through a critical Marxian lens, and drawing upon 12 months of field research, the paper will unpack the contradictory dynamics and social struggles that have marked the life span of ALBA’s food policy, and offer a prognosis on the longevity of this post-hegemonic regional space. 


Rowan Lubbock is Lecturer in International Relations and Development at the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary, University of London. His research centres on the intersections between International Relations, Latin American politics and Critical Agrarian Studies. As well as previously published in the Journal of International Relations and DevelopmentNew Political Economy, and Journal of Agrarian Change, Rowan is currently writing a book on the politics of food sovereignty within Venezuela and the Latin American regional institution of the ALBA-TCP, to be published by University of Georgia Press (Geographies of Justice and Social Transformation series).