Customer Reviews: Dragon in the Tropics: Hugo Chavez and the Political Economy of Revolution in Venezuela (Brookings Latin America Initiative Books)
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on March 11, 2012
I was looking for an accessible yet complex account of the current regime. Corrales and Penfold's book was precisely what I needed. I found their interpretation of the situation in Venezuela to move the discussion into new ground and provide an illuminating account. The writing is clear yet masterful, their approach integrates the most recent thinking with their own research and synthetic views.
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on November 13, 2012
An outstanding book on the decadence and corruption in what used to be the best country in the world; Javier has an uncanny and extremely deep knowledge of the circumstances and screw ups that put this banana minded despot in the driver's seat.
my only point of contention with Javier's essay is the credit he gives to Chavez, the entire country knows he is corrupt, false, not very bright and usually incurs into fraud and blackmail to push his country people into submission "not the trade of someone big i.e. Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, etc.
it is well documented Chavez is a paper tiger, a coward and has ingratiated himself with other Presidents he perceives above him in every aspect via gifts and largess the country should be enjoying these instead. Proof of this is quite evident when he walked over to Obama and handed him a outdated copy of a book that he wanted to share with the USA, of course this occasion, stands in his mind as his biggest, life achievement.
There are two more books, one is the silence and the scorpion by Nelson Bryan, excellent write up and the Blindspot of the USA, Chavez by Andres Cala; excellent book as well.
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on May 9, 2012
Corrales and Penfold give a very detailed, and well-documented account of how Chavez seized power and kept it. The language is clear and the narrative is fluid and it comprises reliable research for those who want to stay in touch with recent political and social history of Venezuela under the Chavez regime.
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on September 6, 2012
There is much polemic about Chávez and what he has done in Venezuela. This book takes the position that Chávez leads a Hybrid regime, which is an authoritarian regime that has bits and pieces of democracy.

I found the book to be intelligent, well-researched and argued. I have used it as a reliable source of clear arguments that explain key aspects of Chávez's regime.
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on May 29, 2011
Dragon in the Tropics, written by two renowned scholar researchers is THE book everyone interested in the Venezuelan downfall should read. It explains, supported by authoritative statistics and well grounded reaearch, why Venezuela has fallen from democracy to a mix of authoritarian,demagogic, populist, anti democratic, semi comunist country. It a must read for politicians, students and all interested in avoiding the mistakes that lead to the destruction of liberties. I recommend this book to the students of countries that, in the path to development, forget to listen the claims of many who are left unatended in the process.
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on July 17, 2016
Very good book!!!
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on July 8, 2016
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on March 31, 2012
As the neoliberal, "free market" model which became the global craze of the 1990s now stands sick with disease in a wasteland of economic chaos and financial meltdowns, the prophets of the market are scrambling to make excuses for their miscalculations while condemning anyone who decides to take a different course. Years before the 2008 collapse Latin America had already experienced the disastrous aftershocks of neoliberal "reforms," the most glaring case being the Argentine catastrophe of 2001 so well documented in Naomi Klein's documentary "The Take." The Hugo Chavez government in Venezuela has stood out as the most radical, revolutionary rejection of the old models in South America, proclaiming a vision of socialism for the 21st century which dumps old, decayed Stalinist trends and attempts to rediscover thinkers like Rosa Luxemburg. Javier Corrales and Michael Penfold's "Dragon In The Tropics" is the latest attempt by status quo writers to both make excuses for a failed model and to offer a simplistic, reassuring explanation for the rise of Chavez. It pales in comparison to the excellent works of scholarship like "Changing Venezuela By Taking Power" by Gregory Wilpert and "Pirates Of The Caribbean" by Tariq Ali, two books you should most certainly read instead of this shallow attempt at political analysis.

Corrales and Penfold really do see Chavez as some sort of dragon emerging out of the southern jungle lands, a fiery-tongued fluke who took advantage of the lack of checks and balances within the Venezuelan system. It is no secret that indeed Venezuela, like most of Latin America and especially neighboring Colombia, has suffered from deep corruption and a lack of oversight, but in this book it is simply a convenient excuse used to propogate the illusion that Chavez is some sort of old-school caudillo. Like most baffled neoliberals, the authors try to claim that ultra-capitalist reforms aren't bad, they simply weren't applied the right way or were themselves the victims of Venezuela's corrupt system. Of course the authors shy away from explaining why most of South America has suffered the same ills and why left-wing, populist leaderships in diverse forms have taken power in almost every Southern Cone country. In the late 80s and early 90s neoliberal economic reforms produced mass unemployment, a massive spike in fuel prices and eventually riots, what smashes the authors' thesis is the current reality in which the exact same reforms are producing the exact same results in advanced, disciplined Europe. The streets have even burned in London and the cradle of democracy, Greece, could soon produce a revolutionary eruption even greater than what is being seen in Venezuela today. Of course Corrales and Penfold would invent some other excuse, claiming reforms were simply not handled well even in Thatcher's old hunting grounds.

Astoundingly enough, Corrales and Penfold claim that TOO MUCH power was centralized precisely in the era when DECENTRALIZATION of economic policy was producing mass chaos, if the neoliberal era was too centralized for these gentlemen, then one wonders exactly how much cutting and slashing they see as acceptable for a modern society. One need only to take a stroll through today's Athens and taste the despair to see the future the authors envision for Caracas. For Corrales and Penfold the Chavez government's control over oil resources and the use of those resources for social programs is a negative development. According to their religion of the golden calf, it's best for the majority working class and poor to depend on charity and slave away like drones, this is progress while mutual aid is a perversion.

One of the great claims of the right-wing and radical capitalists is that Venezuela has become a dictatorship, sure they have elections, but according to Corrales and Penfold it's all fine but we still shouldn't give Venezuela a pass because their economic model is different. This is indeed a curious point of view considering Venezuela's parliament is almost evenly split between Chavez's PSUV party and the right-wing opposition. The current opposition candidate Capriles Radonski comes from a family which owns some of the biggest TV, newspaper and even cinema outlets in the country, but somehow Chavez has centralized and taken over too much. The authors claim Venezuela's current system is "semi-authoritarian," a bizarre play of words which theoretically could be applied to any state or institution, not least the IMF and World Bank. And Chavez's critics cannot explain why they remain silent over the nations which do continue to implement neoliberal economics, such as Honduras and Colombia, where the region's worst human rights abuses take place (do a quick search of how many activists and journalists have been assassinated in Honduras since the 2009 military coup).

"Dragon In The Tropics" is not as insane as other anti-Chavez books which accuse the man of nearly every ill in the Western hemisphere, spinning plots straight out of a James Bond film, instead it is not even so much about Chavez as it is about justifying a failed economic model and immunizing you from any alternatives being offered. It is a book that cannot survive against the rising tides of a changing world. For those who want some more detailed, clear-headed analysis I again recommend "Changing Venezuela By Taking Power" by Gregory Wilpert, "Pirates Of The Caribbean" by Tariq Ali, "The Chavez Code" by Eva Golinger and "Hugo" by Bart Jones.
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on October 25, 2012
This is clearly Anti-Chavez propaganda.Chavez Actively promotes voting amongst the poor, who for so long have had no voice in their government.
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on November 23, 2011
This book is intended to be an attack on the present system in Venezuela. There is plenty of democratic freedom presently in Venezuela. The economic indicators for the period under the Chavez government have all been positive except for the interruption in late 2002, early 2003, by the opposition that orchestrated a coup-detat and later an economic sabotage campaign. In 2009 the worldwide recession and oil prices dropping by $100 from a high of $140 cause a contraction in the economy, but social spending was kept up at the same levels of previous years. This resulted in a rebound of the economy in 2010/2011. Unemployment in Venezuela today, November 2011, is 7.5%. The economy is schedule to finish the year with +3.5% GDP growth, and next year is schedule to be near 5%. This is at the same time that europe's and the US economies are collapsing. At the same time that millions of US families are being foreclosed on their homes, in Venezuela the government has built over 150k homes this year to be sold at reasonable prices and terms, in some cases outright given to families that were affected by heavy rain causing them to loose their homes. Next year the scheduled amount of homes to be built in this program rises to 200k.
There is no more freedom than allowing the people to decide who they want for their leader and as many times as they wish.
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