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Comandante: Hugo Chávez's Venezuela Kindle Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Length: 336 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In 13 tumultuous years as president of Venezuela, Chávez continues to evoke either love or hatred, hardly ever neutral feelings. Carroll, the Guardian’s Latin American correspondent, spent six months penetrating Miraflores Palace, interviewing political friends and foes, aides, ministers, and bodyguards for an absorbing portrait of the charismatic Chávez. The former revolutionary and coup leader gained the president’s office in 1999, promising democracy and transparency. His impromptu television show, Hello, President, transmitted his actions and his media savvy as he seized control of the nation’s oil industry, appropriated private property, and consolidated government authority, all the while exploiting tensions between the rich and the poor. Chávez has skillfully managed his image as a champion of the downtrodden, feared by the West for his close ties to Cuba’s Castro, at times defying easy definition as either autocrat or democrat. His longevity and Venezuela’s oil wealth have lent Chávez weight in tangled relationships with the U.S., China, and the Middle East. Carroll details Chávez’s determination and alluring personality, offering a portrait that is at times frightening and at others amusing. --Vanessa Bush


"Comandante provides an impressively well-researched and readable portrait... Carroll's book should serve as a useful reminder of what el Comandante did and didn't achieve, how he got away with it and the danger of statesmen-as-showmen whose promises are too good to be true."
The New York Times Book Review

"Carroll shows how Chavez’s shoddy understanding and willful manipulation of the economy ended by raining misery on the very people he meant to save. We see, in this vivid narrative, a government that is Shakespearean in its failings. By 2000, one year after Chavez was installed, a campaign everyone could believe in — rout the corrupt! elevate the poor! invigorate the nation! — had produced a clone of Cuba’s faltering communist state... [a] deeply informative, sprightly chronicle of Venezuela’s dizzying journey under its Comandante. ... Here is a lively portrait of a new Latin American genus: the democratically elected caudillo. As Garcia Marquez so presciently said a few years ago: 'The dictator is the only mythological figure Latin America has ever produced; and his legacy is far from over.'"
—Washington Post

"Deftly retells the familiar narrative and then adds something new: Hugo Chávez was a terrible boss, radiating administrative chaos from his desk at the presidential palace. The toll of this mismanagement will define post-Chávez Venezuela."
—The New Republic
"Rory Carroll’s engaging, highly readable Comandante ... convey[s] the small, tectonic shifts beneath Chávez’s revolution... Carroll’s access, garnered over seven years reporting in Caracas for The Guardian, is showcased through the characters readers meet. From a fashion designer who works with newly elite “Boligarchs” (Bolivarian revolutionaries plus oligarchs) and sees the same issues of corruption and elitism as in administrations past, to the president’s personal librarian who could rattle off quotes from Chávez’s revolutionary hero Simón Bolivar, to the drug trafficker whose fate illustrates the speed with which one could rise and fall in grace in today’s Venezuela, readers are helped to see just how challenging it is to bundle Chávez and his revolution into a nutshell."
—The Christian Science Monitor 
"The best things in Rory Carroll’s fine, timely book are the small details: that dripping lift, the law passed to make the horse on the nation’s coat-of-arms face left, the panic among flunkeys when Mr. Chávez briefly decided that there was too much red around and started wearing yellow. These snippets, collected by Mr. Carroll while he was reporting for the Guardian, are woven into a compelling story that comes close to answering the riddle of Mr Chávez; an autocrat, a self-proclaimed champion of his country’s poor and a clown."
—The Economist

"The global media have never been sure what to make of this '21st-century socialist' and his Bolivarian Revolution... Rory Carroll is well positioned to provide a verdict…What emerges is a more intimate image of Chavez than his own propaganda allows... The book also excels in showing what happens when a self-believing ideologue grasps the reins of government and determines not to let go... Chavez, the master narrator, knows that true drama lies not in a story's ending but in the twists and turns it takes to get there. On those terms, Comandante delivers."
The Independent (UK)

"In this incisive portrait of a histrionic ruler who brooks little criticism, Carroll, the Guardian’s Latin American bureau chief, captures the tragic absurdity of life in a country flush with petrodollars but where many go without adequate health care, and where 'Out of Order' signs are switched out for ones promising 'Socialist Modernization' as broken-down elevators languish. Readers who know Chávez mainly for his anti-U.S. bluster will find some surprises in the true-life black comedy surrounding this mercurial leader."
—Publishers Weekly

  "Rory Carroll is an excellent journalist and gifted storyteller, and in this book, he tells the tale of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez with admirable style and insight. A pleasurable read; highly recommended."
—Jon Lee Anderson, author of The Fall of Baghdad

"Rory Carroll's brilliant portrait of Chávez reads like a fast-paced novel of ego run amok, an ego that happens to be attached to a masterful politician, a dynamo of energy and charisma, and a colossus of managerial ineptitude. Comandante is by turns heartbreaking, maddening, absurd, and surreal, a truly epic story of promise squandered and opportunities lost. It's one thing for the general to be lost in his labyrinth, quite another when he drags the entire country with him into the maze."
—Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Haftime Walk and Brief Encounters with Che Guevara

"With new information and sharp-eyed reporting, Comandante is a riveting account of how Hugo Chávez has held his country in his thrall for 15 years. Rory Carroll has stripped away the propaganda surrounding Chávez's 'Bolivarian Revolution' to reveal its core of serial incompetence, corruption and cynicism."
—Michael Reid, author of Forgotten Continent

"This is a terrific read; funny, constantly informative about Hugo Chávez and the Venezuela he has created, and sure to annoy a great many people."
—Alma Guillermoprieto, author of Dancing with Cuba

"In cool, lucid prose, Rory Carroll unpicks the threads that weave together to form a modern-day dictatorship, no less sinister for its relative absence of bloodshed. The portrait of Venezuela that emerges is as nuanced as it is ultimately chilling. Hugo Chávez’s story perfectly illustrates the fact that all that is necessary for the triumph of demagoguery is for good men to do nothing."
—Michela Wrong, author of In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz

"A close, well informed and concerned look at the most controversial yet fascinating figure in Latin American politics today. Rory Carroll intelligently lays out the puzzle of Chavez’s idiosyncratic populism for us to judge."
—Gioconda Belli, author of The Country Under My Skin

“Rory Carroll was once harangued by Hugo Chávez on his weekly television show, Alo Presidente. These sharp-eyed sketches of ‘El Commandante’s’ acolytes, former supporters and courtiers form Carroll’s occasionally mischievous reply. Informed and often funny, it is also a chilling portrait of the cynicism and corruption that has come to characterize Mr. Chávez’s once-charismatic Venezuelan revolution.”
—John Paul Rathbone, author of The Sugar King of Havana

“Comandante is a trenchant, remarkably colorful book about Hugo Chávez. In sparkling prose, Rory Carroll goes beyond Chávez’s seductive rhetoric, Manichean mindset, and huge appetite for power to highlight the tragic consequences of virtual one-man rule in Venezuela. More Chávez profiles are sure to come, but I doubt they will measure up to such a witty, cogent and exquisite account. An immensely gifted journalist, Carroll has broken new ground with this splendid political biography.”
—Michael Shifter, President, Inter-American Dialogue

Product Details

  • File Size: 11901 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (March 7, 2013)
  • Publication Date: March 7, 2013
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #411,063 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I visited Venezuela many times during the Chavez regime and saw how the country went from bad to worse. Carroll's account of the Comandante's regime explains perfectly how a bunch of incompetent power-hungry buffoons can destroy the country they claimed they were elected to lead.
Not even Woody Allen in Bananas could have predicted such a a farce.
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Format: Hardcover
After writing about Venezuela for years, I thought I would find few things I didn't know in Rory Carroll's Comandante. I was surprised to find myself enthralled, transported into detailed conversations with obscure characters of the revolution. From the intellectual who was drafted by the Armed Forces to become Hugo Chávez's personal literary researcher, to the doe-eyed and ultimately corrupt Eva Golinger; from the opportunistic PDVSA manager Baldo Sansó, to the union leaders who turned on Chávez in Guayana and paid a heavy price for it - the characters in this tale leap from the pages.

At the center of it all is, of course, Hugo Chávez - the showman, the leader, and in what becomes quite clear in this narrative, the madman.

Chávez's Venezuela comes vividly alive in this book, and it is shown as what it is: a crumbling dystopia ruled by a clique of utopic opportunists. It's a great piece of work.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In the United States, most of us glimpse Venezuela in flashes. We know that Hugo Chavez is dead, and we know that his socialism has run Venezuela into the ground. As of this writing, in August 2015, it is a crime-ridden hellhole that has reached the stage of military confiscation of foodstuffs from farmers for redistribution, and is declining fast to Zimbabwe levels. But most of us don’t know more. That’s where this relatively short book provides real value.

Carroll’s book, written shortly before Chavez’s death, takes us through Chavez’s life, largely through anecdotal flashbacks from the present day. The author lived in Venezuela as a reporter for a UK newspaper for all the relevant time period, and he seems to be very well acquainted with all the complexities involved. He thinks Chavez a pernicious failure who took the gifts given to Venezuela and destroyed the country, and he demonstrates that with verve. Hardly a shocking conclusion, but given that most of us have no real idea of what happened in Venezuela, it is a compelling, as well as very useful, story.

It’s compelling because of the people and their stories. Carroll draws them very well, from all walks of life. And Venezuela is a useful case study because it shows a possible future for the United States both in terms of our social comity and in the rule of law. American conservatives frequently prophesy doom from following our current course, conjuring apocalypses like Communism or the French Revolution. But Venezuela, a purgatory rather than an apocalypse, is a more likely future.

As to comity, we are more polarized in the US than we used to be, thanks mostly to the deliberately divisive Alinskyite tactics of Obama and his sycophants in the ruling class, but we have nothing on Venezuela.
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Format: Hardcover
When asked his opinion of the French Revolution Deng Xiaoping is reputed to have said, "It is too early to tell." Rory Carroll shows no such hesitation in writing Comandante Hugo Chavez's Venezuela even before the controversial leader died. Carroll presents a rather negative picture of Chavez's years in office. He traces Chavez's rise from his beginnings in the military through his aborted coup and into the years of his presidency. The picture we get is of a charismatic leader who is confrontational and who succumbs to Lord Acton dictum that "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Chavez was released from prison after only two years for his part in the coup attempt and turned to politics and was elected president in a surprise result. He showed his quirkiness from the beginning, declaring his intending to transform Venezuela from one with a small elite and impoverished masses to a country in which the wealth would be shared more broadly. Oil made it possible and as the price went up Venezuela garnered in the riches. But Chavez angered people with his abrupt manner and undignified ways. He also became close to Castro and Cuba. After winning a second term it appeared that he would be barred from further control by a constitutionally imposed two term limit. But after one failure Chavez succeeded in changing the constitution and was re-elected for a third term only to die of cancer shortly after the publication of this book.

The problems I have with this book is that it is written too soon after the term of office of a very controversial figure and that most of the people Carroll talked with were critics of Chavez or persons he removed from office.
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Format: Hardcover
I have traveled between the US and Venezuela for over 20 years. I was at first impressed with its climate, demographics and resources. But over the years I have watched it fall apart. After reading a country study, the biography of Bolivar and now Comandate I have grown more sanguine about Venezuela's future. I'm from the US. While I tend to support Chavez's overall socio-economic goals, I found his implementation very lacking. Indeed, based on the corruption mentioned in all 3 publications, I strongly feel the author(s) have captured key weaknesses (or aspects) that make Venezuela so difficult to govern. How does one support Chavez's stated socio-economic goals and criticize the implementation without being called the names by the one-star reviewers who claim that you don't understand "the process". One need only see the results to understand that "the process", as implemented, did not work. Comandante captures this.
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