An American reporter who spent eight years in Venezuela puts the country’s controversial president in the context of its cultural and political history.
This ambitious first book begs inevitable comparison to Hugo Chávez (August 2007) by Venezuelan journalists Cristina Marcano and Alberto Barrera Tyszka. Jones’ effort covers much of the same ground: Chávez’s boyhood in the countryside; his military career; the failed 1992 coup that introduced him, via a television address, to the nation; prison time and release; an election victory over a beauty queen rival (no small feat in Venezuela); the foiling of a 48-hour coup against him; and the growing antipathy toward the United States in general and George W. Bush in particular. Jones includes some background material not provided by the Venezuelan authors, such as Chávez’s brief experience working with a group of indigenous people, but none of it is critical; in fact, his conclusions give his take on Chávez much more of an “authorized” feel. For instance, Jones supports Chávez’s claim that the United States directly aided the attempt to remove him and rejects the idea that the president might try to impose a Cuban-style communist government on his country. Perhaps the most striking disparity between the two books, however, is the emphasis placed here on the notion that dark-skinned, mixed-ancestry Chávez is a mold-breaker in a racist society whose “light-skinned elite” have traditionally not shared power. What Marcano and Tyszka call Chávez’s “magical appeal” to the working class is explained by Jones as simply due to the fact that he is the first president physically to resemble many of its members. While allowing that Chávez does have, by all accounts, a “messianic” streak, the author also endorses his innovative social programs without major exception.
Offers a somewhat ponderous view of Chávez as the driven, dedicated inheritor of Simón Bolivar’s mantle.