Consuming in times of Chavez
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Since the election of President Hugo Chávez Frías in 1999, Venezuela has changed. His socialist Bolivarian Revolution is considered an assault on the existing capitalism and imperialism. It is mainly focused at the poor sectors of society which in practise means that millions of dollars are spent to improve their situation. Income inequality has shrunk and people have access to free health care and education. At the same time middle and upper classes are being excluded. These people are struck economically as well as socially by the socialist measures, as they are deprived of previous privileges and economic freedom. This has large influences on the consumption patterns of these classes, as their financial situation has worsened. During his presidency, the society has become more polarized which has meant a larger them-us division - between Chavistas and anti-Chavistas - that encourages stereotypes and prejudice. The enlarging gaps between groups in society and the loss of their consumerist identity, makes that the construction of the middle class’ social identity has changed. People have become more defendant to remain positive about themselves and their social group. They cope with this by excluding more people into the out-groups which makes entering the in-group more difficult.