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The Silence and the Scorpion: The Coup Against Chavez and the Making of Modern Venezuela Hardcover – May 5, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books; First Edition edition (May 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568584180
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568584188
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #884,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Historian Nelson recreates the dramatic 2002 attempted coup against Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, beginning with accounts of citizens who attended the million-person, violent protest that precipitated the three-day power vacuum. He moves to recounting the events from the perspectives of high-level officials, including Chávez himself, to demonstrate how the stories of ordinary chavista and anti-chavista citizens intertwine with the fates of officials in the highest levels of the Venezuelan government and military. Nelson takes readers from the streets to the halls of the presidential palace, from frightened journalists smuggling tapes of riots back to their stations to be put on the air to a terrified Chávez. For a fuller and fairer picture of the events, the book should be read in conjunction with other accounts of the coup, since Nelson is admittedly biased toward the military figures he interviewed. But his status as a foreigner familiar with the culture of Caracas and an experienced journalist and academic gives him a unique vantage point from which to tell the very personal stories of those three days of chaos. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Named one of the "Books of the Year" 2009 by The Economist

“…superbly researched…”
“…a compelling narrative…”
“…scrupulously unbiased…”
“It should be read by all those who continue to believe that Mr. Chávez is a worthy champion of democracy and the oppressed.” The Economist

“…refreshingly impartial and objective…”
“The 2002 coup gives the author a good handle to employ his impressive investigative and storytelling talents, and he succeeds in shedding new light on the complex questions facing Latin America’s most polarize society.”
“…a welcome contribution to the burgeoning literature on Venezuela under the controversial rule of Hugo Chavez.” America Magazine

“The events of the April 2002 Venezuelan coup to oust President Hugo Chavez are brought to light here in unparalleled investigative reporting by Nelson…”
“His fascinating and harrowing account is part documentary, part eyewitness to history, yet always riveting.”
“At times reading like fiction, his enjoyable text is the definitive account of Chavez's ouster and return, devoid of loyal or opposition rhetoric.”
“Highly recommended.”Library Journal

“fast-paced” & “engaging”Kirkus

“Nelson takes readers from the streets to the halls of the presidential palace, from frightened journalists smuggling tapes of riots back to their stations to be put on the air to a terrified Chávez. …[H]is status as a foreigner familiar with the culture of Caracas and an experienced journalist and academic gives him a unique vantage point from which to tell the very personal stories of those three days of chaos.” Publishers Weekly

“…a must read for anyone seeking to get an unbiased and comprehensive account of the two most controversial days of the Chávez presidency.”
“Nelson treats the April 11th events with hard-earned restraint, fairness, and an absence of the kind of confrontation and anger that has come to characterize the political debate in Venezuela.”Huffington Post

“…very readable, providing wonderfully detailed firsthand accounts of the coup.”
NACLA Report on the Americas

“…an enthralling read…shot through with vivid details and strewn with telling and yet all-but-forgotten pieces of the April Puzzle.” Caracas Chronicles

“Mr. Nelson…dashes Chavez's loud claim that the CIA fomented the popular uprising. The CIA station in Caracas indeed informed Washington of what was brewing - an accepted intelligence function. … The 2002 attempt failed. Will a more effective resistance ultimately upend Chavez's dictatorship? Stay tuned; this saga is far from over.” Washington Times

""Nelson has given us a case study that brings politics alive. His is an audacious and successful attempt to sort out important political events in their immediacy rather than from a safe distance.... in an effort to draw persons and events vividly, [Nelson] uses narrative devices common to fiction, like interior monologue; and reconstructed dialogue à la Bob Woodward....readers will appreciate his accomplishment." Current History

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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A very compelling read.
Laurence Zimmerman
Allowing both Chávez's supporters and his opponents their say, Nelson shows real restraint in stepping back from it all and letting the coup tell its own story.
Francisco Toro
I like that the author never preaches to the reader; he let's you watch events and then lets YOU decide!
Walt

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Venezuelan Citizen on January 16, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I was as part of the rally on April 11 2002 and got my share of tear gases; thanks God I never reached the vicinities of the presidential palace, or maybe I wouldn't be writing this. Some of the facts presented by Nelson favor the government; some favor the opposition, which makes his story credible. I think we will never know exactly what happened that week in Venezuela, however I couldn't find any inconsistencies between Nelson's story and my recollection of the events, so I do believe he made an excellent and sincere effort to find the truth. Everything in the story he tells makes sense to me; indeed, many things for which I could never find a logical explanation about the actions of politicians, generals, etc, now make sense after reading this book. For the record, I am a strong believer in Democracy and in the Social responsibility of the State, to ensure fair and equal opportunities to every citizen (health, education, jobs..); I come from a poor background, and I demonstrated against governments before Chavez's but I never faced the repression and political prosecution I have seen from his regimen. Authoritarian regimes are unacceptable, no matter if they come from the Right or from the Left, they all violate Human Rights.
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33 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Zimry D. Rios on May 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
April 11, 2002 is not just another date in Venezuelan history. This day thousands of people gathered in a civil march to express their discomfort with Hugo Chavez's government. Not everything ended there; up to this year people are still paying the price for expressing their feeling against a President.

The Silence and the Scorpion portraits the events that took place that day. It does so in a fresh and live way. Thanks to the many interviews of people who were in Caracas, in or near the events as they developed, the narrative style in which this book is written can transport the reader to the place where actions took place. Brian A. Nelson writes an impartial chronicle presenting both sides of the story. He thoroughly interviewed, and presents, "chavistas" and "anti-chavistas" so the reader can come to his/her own conclusions on the whole event after reading his work.

Nelson also gives interesting and important background information on Venezuelan history. Fact that is relevant so we, as readers, can know who Hugo Chávez is and what his ideals are based on as the President of Venezuela. It is done in an informative way, it is very far from American Propaganda, as some have called it.

Everything occurs in a time line which is well respected and illustrated by Nelson. The photos can actually help to have a better picture of what people went through in those hours. It is content up to date and with factual information that every person interested in Latin American history and politics should read. It is not written only for the Venezuelan public. Non Venezuelans can get a good educative reading through this narrative.

The Silence and the Scorpion is one of those "hard to put down" books.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Nahat on February 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover
There is an very fun game which is fun for a group of perhaps 6 called Junta, and it's best if the players all know each other. In the game, the object is to amass as much money in your Swiss bank account as possible before the end. The players represent the President, the VP, the Armed Forces, which can shift, and various elements of society, like students or unions, also play a role. This book was almost like a dramatization of that backstabbing, double dealing, game of shifting alliances.

I was captivated with this excellent account told from multiple perspectives of the April, 2002 coup against the government of Hugo Chavez. It is a real strength that the book doesn't just concern elites, but regular folks who participated in, or suffered through, the events. A compelling social portrait thus emerges with all the different kinds of motivations, interests, and actions in play. In fact, this book is more dramatic than most 'real' political thrillers I have ever encountered.

It's eye-witness account and documentary detail reminded me of William Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. That book was criticized for going beyond journalism and advancing controversial theses. For this book, I do wonder what sort of academic reaction there has been, if any, as well as how the book may have been `reviewed' in one way or another by different segments of Venezuelan society, the media, the government, or `ordinary' people.

The notes are worth skimming for additional valuable background and context, including judging the appropriate role of Fidel Castro in the events, and cultural issues like aprovechar.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ed on September 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author's technique of relating individual stories help to understand the big picture. However, in his effort to give a balanced view of what happened, Chavez gets off almost guiltless obscuring the heroic dimensions of a true popular uprising, betrayed by the military, twice. For someone familiar with downtown Caracas it is awkward the street names used in this English version.
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