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Ruling elites in Venezuela, the United States and Europe, and even Hugo Chávez himself though for different reasons, have been eager to have the world view him as the heir to Fidel Castro. But the truth about this increasingly influential world leader is more complex, and more interesting.. The Chávez that emerges from Bart Jones’ carefully researched and documented biography is neither a plaster saint nor a revolutionary tyrant. He has an undeniably autocratic streak, and yet has been freely and fairly re-elected to his nations presidency three times with astonishing margins of victory. He is a master politician and an inspired improviser, a Bolivarian nationalist and an unashamed socialist. His policies have brought him into conflict with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and major oil companies. They have also provided a model for new governments and social movements in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina. When in September 2006 he declared at the United Nations that ‘the devil came here yesterday ... the President of the United States’, it was clear that he was taking on challenging the most powerful nation on earth, in conscious imitation of the Liberator, Simon Bolivar.
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Bart Jones is currently a reporter for Newsday and worked for eight years in Venezuela, mainly a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press. A graduate of Fordham University, he holds a master’s degree in Social Studies from Columbia University. He has also reported for The Atlantic City Press in New Jersey, where he won awards from the Philadelphia Press Association. He lives with his family on Long Island. Hugo! is his first book.
From the Hardcover edition.
Hugo Chávez and I were sitting alone on the second floor of the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, Venezuela. It was close to midnight on April 30, 2007. Venezuela was minutes away from making a small bit of history by taking majority control of four multi-billion dollar oil projects in the eastern Orinoco River basin from international companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron Corp, Conoco and Total. Like many of Chávez’s moves, the oil takeover was controversial. His detractors claimed it was another step in creating a totalitarian dictatorship modeled after his mentor in Cuba, Fidel Castro. His supporters responded that he was proudly re-establishing national sovereignty over a strategic natural resource where for years foreign companies had enjoyed a virtual tax holiday. I had a privileged bird's-eye view of Chávez coordinating the takeover. We were alone on the patio from 11:10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. – prime time for the president. It was my second interview with him in two days – a rare opportunity to spend time with a man flooded with interview requests. The conversations that night and the previous one amounted to nearly four hours. We covered a lot of territory, from Chávez’s impoverished childhood to the 2002 coup in which he was almost killed...and at least one sensitive topic he had never spoken about publicly before and I feared might bring the interview to an abrupt end. — From the Preface
From the Hardcover edition.
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