As president, Hugo Chavez lavished millions from this country’s oil boom on his home state of Barinas.
But boom has turned to bust, the economy is in shambles and the love affair is over.
Similar sentiments are being heard around the continent, where political dynasties are falling or under intense pressure and where protests and social unrest are on the rise.
In Brazil, legislators have begun an impeachment proceeding against President Dilma Rousseff, as scores of other political leaders have become embroiled in a huge corruption scandal.
In Ecuador, protesters angry at President Rafael Correa have taken to the streets to demonstrate against budget cutbacks necessitated by vanishing oil revenues.
And in Argentina, President Mauricio Macri was inaugurated last month after surging to a surprising win against the candidate of the Peronist party of his predecessor, Cristina Fernandez. His victory ended 12 years during which Fernandez or her late husband, Nestor Kirchner, occupied the presidential palace.
The strains are being felt most keenly by leftist governments, but analysts say that something other than ideology is at work here. South America saw robust growth in the century’s first decade, thanks to a historic boom in the value of raw materials and other commodities that are sold to the rest of the world.
High prices for oil, natural gas, coal, copper, gold, silver, bauxite, soy beans and other products led to steady growth, a sharp drop in poverty and an expansion of the middle class throughout the region. That growth, in turn, brought political stability, with leaders and parties being repeatedly re-elected.
“There’s been a pretty striking continuity in many countries, in large part thanks to the commodities boom that leaders and parties have been riding,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialog, a policy analysis group in Washington. “When that’s over, voters look elsewhere and for new leaders, but governing is extremely difficult because they no longer have the resources to meet the high expectations that have been generated during the commodities boom.”