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Hugo Chavez: The Definitive Biography of Venezuela's Controversial President

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ISBN-10: 067945666X
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Veteran Venezuelan journalists Marcano and Tyszka have aimed for rare middle ground with a biography that neither extols nor decries Venezuelan president Chávez. The account mostly moves chronologically, presenting details about Chávez's humble beginnings in the Venezuelan plains and his ascent through the military ranks. Chávez's 1992 failed coup attempt is explained in great detail, as is the attempt to oust him in 2002. The authors seamlessly weave in interviews with people who know Chávez well, offering a glimpse into his psychology. The narrative also delves into Chávez's love life, as well as the dynamics of his relationship with Fidel Castro. Though the pace of the book is inconsistent, with some events receiving a surplus of detail while others feel rushed, it's generally smart and well-written, making it a good start for those curious about Chávez, and a treat for those who closely follow the Venezuelan leader and yearn for a less biased overview of his life. (Aug.)
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From Booklist

Venezuelan husband-and-wife journalists bring an intimate sense of the culture and politics of that nation and the significance that Hugo Chávez plays in its history and that of South America overall. A best-seller in its original Spanish, the English edition includes photographs, fresh material from newly discovered documents, excerpts from Chávez's diary, and interviews. Marcano and Tyszka scored an interview with Herma Marksman, a professor and Chávez's lover for nine years, offering further details about Chávez. The Venezuelan president has gained an international reputation as the provider of low-cost oil to poor people in the U.S. and South Africa, the man who publicly castigated President Bush before the UN, and the man who some say threatens to disrupt Venezuela's political and economic stability even as he seeks to provide social justice to its most impoverished citizens. This is a fascinating biography of a complex and forceful political figure who bears watching. Bush, Vanessa

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (August 14, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067945666X
  • ASIN: B005ZODV8Y
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #712,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Gibbous Maan on October 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book has been described as an unbiased look at Hugo Chavez but in my opinion it doesn't quite live up to that description. The Authors' Note touches upon the difficulty of such an endeavor, quoting Georg Lichtenberg from the 18th century: "Even impartiality is partial." My impression is that the authors recognized a need for change in Venezuela in the 1990s -- and may even have had sympathy for such change -- but they don't believe Hugo Chavez is the proper man to lead the nation forward.

The authors' overriding point seems to be that Chavez is power mad, driven by an unquenchable desire for ever more power. An example: "He was the man of the hour and he enjoyed it, though he never lost sight of his real goal: power and everything that went with it." But it would be the rare political leader for whom this claim could not be made, especially one seeking such a major shakeup as Chavez. And while there is little doubt that Chavez enjoys being in the spotlight, it's also true that his antics bring worldwide attention to issues he feels need to be addressed. At another point in the book, the authors relate an unflattering personal incident then add, "All of this, however, remains in the murky terrain of speculation," as if the incident was too juicy to leave out, even though it was perhaps unfounded.

Having said that, the bias I perceived did not much interfere with the book. For one thing, not all of Chavez's life story is admirable, such as the years spent plotting the failed 1992 coup while serving in the the military. As you are perhaps aware, in an odd turn of fate, this failed coup -- or more accurately, the televised "for now" speech given after his surrender -- turned Chavez into a folk hero and served as the springboard to his future political success.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Caminante on December 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book for information for a twenty page college paper on Hugo Chavez, largely on the reccomendation of The Economist. This book was extremely helpful in providing me with an insight into Chavez's personality and potential motives. What I found most interesting was that it demolished the notion of an oil-intoxicated buffoon and replaced it with a shrewd, calculating leader who has mastered the art of theatrics for his own purposes. The authors make a strong case for regarding none of the contreversial president's actions as accidental or the rantings of a madman without sounding like conspiracy types. That being said, they also show a man with a highly unstable personality: volitile, manic,insecure, and in desperate need of affection. Chavez, by their telling, seems to be the product of a brilliant madness, one that produces a control freak who very well knows how to gain the control he needs. The book does not make this argument as carelessly as some; it draws extensively from interviews with those who knew him from childhood, or met him in the army, or through politics. The effect is that the anecdotes vividly potray the transformation from the poor llanero to the conteversial president bashing the rich while dressed in fine Italian suits. As has been stated by a previous reviewer, the book is not a political analysis, but understanding Chavez is crucial to understanding his politics. There is, for him, little seperation between personality and politics. I highly reccomend this book to anyone seeking an in-depth potrayel of the Venezuelan president.
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By Kenso on September 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With the 2012 Venezuelan presidential elections, this book is a great primer for students of Latin American politics. Alberto Barrera Tyszka is also one of the most promising novelists in South America. I highly suggest this book - for an honest, quasi-objective view of what is happening in Venezuela. I also recommend reading other works by Tyszka.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Laurence Zimmerman on September 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this book to be more impartial than Bart Jones' Biography. They present Chavez as he actually is , rather than the saint that the left portrays him to be. Chavez is a very enigmatic character. A former military man who was elected as a civilian, yet seems to distrust civilian-run governments. A man who lambasts consumerism, yet spends millions of dollars on extravagant trips abroad and his television show, while wearing the finest American-made threads. A man whose dream was to play Major League Baseball, but finds himself constantly in conflict with the United States. The authors interviewed family members, neighbors, colleagues and former classmates in order to present the most accurate picture of Chavez the man, instead of Chavez the politician. A good example of their impartiality is when they discuss Chavez's apparent relationship to Maisanta. Most other books that I have read about Chavez automatically refer to Maisanta as Chavez's great-grandfather, yet as the authors point out, it is impossible to confirm or deny that Chavez is a decendent of Maisanta due to a lack of documentation.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Oxinthenard on February 28, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition
this was an interesting biography. the first half of the book does get too involved with names, places, and dates; making it seem like technical reading. however, it does give the impression of an honest attempt to not only portray the man, but to also ponder the question of which way he's taking the country. the authors of the book seem somewhat comfortable with the view that what he says is popularist propaganda in an artistic sense. what hugo does - lives exhorbantly, travels in a giant airbus plane, nepotism for his entire family - leads to the conclusion that the attractions of power and wealth have truly taken over. his friend may be fidel castro, but unlike fidel, he likes money - a whole lot!
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