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Alexandra StarrJones provides a superb description of the economic inequities that helped create the conditions for a populist such as Chavez to come to power.
—The Washington Post
While opinions of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez vary tremendously on a global scale, there are few defenses of him available in the United States. This biography by Bart Jones, a former AP correspondent from Venezuela, attempts to level the ground. Without taking a political stance, Jones provides a nuanced account of the Venezuelan leader's life, creating a portrait that is, if not sympathetic, certainly more balanced than previous ones. For example, when Chávez characterized President Bush as the devil at the U.N. in 2006, most American news sources presented it as a crude and clownlike gesture. According to Jones, Chávez is hardly just a jester, but uses vulgarity to remind his friends and his enemies of his humble beginnings, as well as to win a tremendous amount of publicity. Jones's precise and entertaining account moves smoothly through Chávez's beginnings up to his current position, making Venezuelan history accessible. (Sept. 4)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Hugo! “is a book fully willing to do what American journalists mostly have avoided, which is to take Chávez seriously as a product both of local problems and of Latin American revolutionary traditions . . . It is also the most comprehensive of the available books on Chávez.” – Newsday
“Essential reading for anyone interested in understanding global – as well as Latin American – politics.” – The Tribune (UK)
"... stands as the most authoritative and best-researched among the new crop of studies.... The compelling story of Chavez's rise ... is scrupulously gathered and expertly assembled by Jones. He offers insight into the passion for justice...Jones also excels in providing sufficient historical context to understand Chavez's ideological formation." — Marc Cooper for Truthdig.com
"To understand Venezuela today you have to understand Venezuela B.C. - Before Chavez. . . . It is that rancid economic and political landscape that forms the backdrop of Chavez's rise. And it is masterly charted . . . in Bart Jones' comprehensive new biography.
Hugo-biographers too often resort to either stultifying hagiography or gratuitous demonization . . . Hugo! mark(s) an even-handed departure from that routine. . . . (Jones) displays an expert appreciation of the local milieu that formed Hugo's personality . . . One merit of Hugo! is that it cuts through the hysteria of the Chavez 'threat' to offer a . . . level-headed assessment. . . . Jones' well researched look at Chavez's vast social programs suggests a politician more motivated by common sense than communism." — Tim Padgett at Time.com
"Jones describes the story as 'straight out of Hollywood.' Indeed, I lost sleep two nights running because I just couldn’ t put the book down. I also was so engrossed in the two chapters about the 2002 coup that I got on the Washington, DC metro heading in the wrong direction and was in the suburbs before I became conscious of my surroundings. Despite the novel-like action pace of the book, it is meticulously researched with 55 pages of references and an extensive index. . . . Bart Jones is an ethical reporter who may come off as pro-Chavez because he is imposing objectivity in an area where the reporting has been so biased as to distort reality to the breaking point. Jones believes that both the opposition and the supporters of the Bolivarian “process,” as supporters have come to call it, have legitimate points that deserve to be discussed. One of his goals was to make that possible by writing a book which upholds the best standards of unbiased reporting. In the process he writes a 'page-turner' that will captivate and educate the reader. This book belongs on the New York Times bestseller list and in the hands of every intellectually curious US adult who questions the right of the United States to rule the world." — Chuck Kaufman
"Chávez's rise has a made-for-Hollywood quality. . . . Jones provides a superb description of the economic inequities that helped create the conditions for a populist such as Chávez to come to power. . . . As Hugo! points out, mainstream press coverage is often hostile to the Venezuelan president. . . . Where Jones truly excels is in his observations of Venezuelan society and the outsized role oil has played in molding the national character." — Washington Post (cover review)
"Jones's book is thoughtful, comprehensive . . . the best in the bunch." — The Boston Globe
"Without taking a political stance, Jones provides a nuanced account of the Venezuelan leader's life, creating a portrait that is, if not sympathetic, certainly more balanced than previous ones. Jones's precise and entertaining account moves smoothly through Chávez's beginnings up to his current position, making Venezuelan history accessible." — Publishers Weekly
"This first major English language biography of Hugo Chavez is a masterful achievement that finally puts this crucial Latin American figure of the early 21st Century into context within Venezuela, within Latin America, as well as internationally. Bart Jones has gotten hold of great detail and anecdote, and portrays a colorful leader in times of crisis, rising from low military rank to the zenith of national power, as Venezuela and its people — and Chavez himself — begin to take charge of the country's terrific oil reserves and to flex national muscle on the world stage. An important work for our era —Chavez will in all likelihood cast a long and significant political shadow in the Western Hemisphere for the foreseeable future, and we need to understand this complicated figure as events unfold." — Amy Wilentz
Posted September 3, 2008
Bart Jones lived and worked in Venezuela for eight years and had unprecedented access to its president, Hugo Chavez. Latin America¿s income per head grew by 82% between 1960 and 1980, before the IMF policies, but only by 10% between 1980 and 2005 under IMF policies. In 1989, the previous president, Carlos Perez, ordered the army into Caracas, killing more than a thousand people, in food riots triggered by price rises ordered by the IMF. Chavez won the presidency in 1998 with 56% of the votes. Jones writes, ¿He was elected in free and fair elections, and won three more referenda to write and approve a new constitution. The jails held no political prisoners. No opposition parties were outlawed. No newspapers, television networks, or radio stations were censored, even though the majority were virulently opposed to Chavez. ¿ No media outlets were closed or reporters jailed.¿ Even US Ambassador John Maisto said of Chavez¿s rule, ¿no one can question its democratic legitimacy.¿ However, the US state has been ruthlessly hostile to Chavez, which only shows that the US state¿s primary commitment is to capitalism, not to democracy. The US government knew in advance and approved the April 2002 coup against his government. The US Agency for International Development had given opposition groups, including the coup plotters, $26 million. Metropolitan Police and snipers fired on both pro- and anti-Chavez marchers. The coup plotters taped, in advance, a statement that marchers had been killed, accusing Chavez. Coup leader Pedro Carmona shut down the Congress and the Supreme Court, tore up the constitution and sacked every elected official from the attorney-general to state governors to local mayors. Carmona¿s first visitor was US ambassador Charles Shapiro. Chavez won the 2004 recall referendum with 59% of the votes and in 2006 he won a new six-year term with 63% of the votes. He is popular because his policies genuinely benefit the majority of the people. His government has cut poverty from 43% to 33%. The Mision Milagro flies patients to Cuba for free eye surgery. Venezuela¿s health spending per head rose by 74% between 1999 and 2005. Before land reform, 2% of the population owned 60% of the land and Venezuela imported 70% of its food. By 2007 the government had distributed nine million acres of idle land to 130,000 families. Chavez¿s government continues to work for the people of Venezuela, ensuring their right to control their country¿s resources. On 1 May 2007, the government took majority control over oil projects from ExxonMobil, Chevron, Conoco and Total.
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