WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
Senior Fellow

David Smilde

David Smilde is a senior fellow at WOLA specializing in Venezuela. He is the Charles A. and Leo M. Favrot Professor of Human Relations at Tulane University. He founded the WOLA Venezuela Politics and Human Rights blog and curated it from 2012-2020. His research focuses on social movements, human rights and culture in Venezuela. He is currently working on a book manuscript called Venezuela’s Transition to Illiberalism: Hugo Chávez and 21st Century Socialism, 2007-2012.

Professor Smilde has researched Venezuela for thirty years, living there a total of sixteen. He has taught at the Universidad Central de Venezuela and the Universidad Católica Ándres Bello. From 2010-2012 he was the Chair of the Venezuelan Studies Section of the Latin American Studies Association. In March 2017, he gave expert testimony on Venezuela in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

His publications include: “U.S.-Venezuela Oil Deal Should Not Forget Democracy,” Foreign Policy, March 8, 2022; “From Populist to Socialist to Authoritarian Chavismo—Obstacles and Opportunities for Democratic Change.” Venezuelan Working Group, Latin America Program, Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, Washington D.C. 2021; and (with Geoff Ramsey) “International Peacemaking in Venezuela’s Intractable Confict: 2014-2019,” European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Issue 109. Jan-June, 2020.

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