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Hugo Chavez: The Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela Paperback – August 17, 2005

3.8 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Gott is always an interesting, well-informed, and engaging writer.”—Foreign Affairs

“Gott is, if nothing else, a true believer of the revolutionary process in Latin America and brings his own sense of moral indignation every time he mentions the United States. It is worth reading a text that is so ideological yet effectively explains how many people in the upper ranks of the Chávez government perceive the world around them.”—Center for Strategic and International Studies

“A colourful and readable account of Chávez’s background and beliefs.”—Financial Times

About the Author

Richard Gott is a former Latin America correspondent and features editor for the Guardian. A specialist in Latin American affairs, his books include Cuba: A New History, Guerrilla Movements in Latin America, The Appeasers (with Martin Gilbert), Land Without Evil, Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution, and Britain’s Empire. He is currently an honorary research fellow at the institute for the study of the Americas at the University of London.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 315 pages
  • Publisher: Verso (August 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844675335
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844675333
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,395,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dr. Lee D. Carlson HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 5, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The events of this weekend in Mar Del Plata, Argentina have again shown that Hugo Chavez is a man to be reckoned with on the world stage. Adored by many, vilified by others, he has arrived on the scene of Venezuelan politics in a manner that has raised the ire of many in the world, especially the yellow regime that currently holds the reigns of power in Washington, D.C. Readers who are curious about Chavez will get a fairly detailed overview of his life in this book. The author is clearly biased towards Chavez, but given the nature of the western press these days, one can view this bias as a kind of historical countervailing power, an alternative to the diluted treatment of Venezuelan history that one is often confronted with. The author has spent much time in Venezuela, and has interviewed Chavez personally, and so readers can gain at least some confidence that the author knows what he is talking about.

It is readily apparent when reading the book that the author feels that the policies and politics of Hugo Chavez should be understood in the context of the life and works of Simon Bolivar, the popular revolutionary of the early nineteenth century who was attempting to liberate some areas of South America from Spanish rule. The `Bolivarian revolution', as it is now called, is one in which Chavez definitely wants to be identified with, and one that involves uniting the peoples of Latin America in order to counter the "imperial power of the north." A community of nations and states will form this alliance, with priority given to the three areas that surround Venezuela, namely the Caribbean, the Amazon, and the Andes. This would also involve creating a military alliance, which Chavez viewed as a kind of `Latin American Nato' (but not including the United States).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution" by veteran journalist Richard Gott introduces us to the important struggle against neoliberalism being waged by the people of Venezuela and its charismatic leader, Hugo Chavez. This underreported story is told with skill, verve and clarity by Gott, whose first-hand reporting and intelligent historical analysis have combined to produce an engaging and fascinating book that should appeal to a wide audience.

We learn that Chavez' roots in the Venezuelan countryside and his family's support of populist causes helped to shape his core values, including the belief that military power might be used to secure social and economic justice. Gott describes how the neoliberal policies of the 1980s and early 1990s first led to social unrest and then emboldened Chavez, whose first coup attempt while serving in the Venezuelan armed forces in 1992 proved to be unsuccessful. However, the phrase "por ahora" (for now) that Chavez uttered at his arrest thrust Chavez into the spotlight and captured the public's imagination. Eventually, the ongoing and widespread disgust with Venezuela's notoriously incompetent and corrupt government helped Chavez easily win election to the Presidency in 1998.

At first glance, Chavez' Bolivarian Revolution resembles nothing more than a strong social/democratic state, wherein revenues from the national oil company allows the government to shower benefits onto its citizens. However, the Chavez administration's recognition of indigenous and minority rights and its substantive economic reforms belies a much more progressive agenda when compared with, say, the so-called social welfare governments of North America and Europe.
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I'm of two minds on this book. On one hand, Gott is clearly an admirer of Chavez and he is a supporter of Chavismo, which colors his analysis. On the other hand, even for those who aren't favorably disposed to Chavez, the book is useful and interesting.

Gott buys into the rhetoric of Chavismo without question. The U.S. is routinely described as an "Empire" that wants to "rule the world" (p. 13). It is okay to fault U.S. policy but there is little evidence it seeks to rule the world. He also buys into phony populist arguments such the assertion that foreign debt was "forced" on developing countries by international banks (p. 51). On the same page he admits Venezuela "rashly borrowed", well, was the Venezuelan government complicit in the debt run-up or not? You get the sense Gott knows better but just can't resist spouting knee-jerk populist rhetoric. He also exaggerates the U.S. role in the 2002 coup attempt, as Chavez also does. A CIA analysis is cited on page 223, but what it contains could have been gleemed from reading the Venezuelan press in the period before the coup. The U.S. certainly welcomed the coup but the evidence of active involvement is pretty thin.

The book is interesting for the background it gives. The information on Chavez's formative years is useful in its own right. He is candid when he describes how some leftists have had falling outs with Chavez. Gott also explains why the opposition misjudged their support (and opposition to Chavez) by relying on polling data that didn't accurately sample the lower classes where support for Chavez is strongest.

For people interested in Venezuela and Chavismo, it is a worthwhile read but don't expect much objectivity.
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