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Hugo Chavez

Hugo Chavez

by Cristina Marcano

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He is one of the most controversial and important world leaders currently in power. In this international bestseller, at last available in English, Hugo Chávez is captured in a critically acclaimed biography, a riveting account of the Venezuelan president who continues to influence, fascinate, and antagonize America.
Born in a small town on the Venezuelan


He is one of the most controversial and important world leaders currently in power. In this international bestseller, at last available in English, Hugo Chávez is captured in a critically acclaimed biography, a riveting account of the Venezuelan president who continues to influence, fascinate, and antagonize America.
Born in a small town on the Venezuelan plains, Chávez found his interests radically altered when he entered the military academy in Caracas. There, as Hugo Chávez reveals in dramatic detail, he was drawn to leftist politics and a new sense of himself as predestined to change the fortunes of his country and Latin America as a whole.

Portrayed as never before is the double life Chávez soon began to lead: by day he was a family man and a military officer, but by night he secretly recruited insurgents for a violent overthrow of the government. His efforts would climax in an attempted coup against President Carlos Andrés Pérez, an action that ended in a spectacular failure but gave Chávez his first irresistible taste of celebrity and laid the groundwork for his ascension to the presidency eight years later.
Here is the truth about Chávez’s revolutionary “Bolivarian” government, which stresses economic reforms meant to discourage corruption and empower the poor–while the leader spends seven thousand dollars a day on himself and cozies up to Arab oil elites. Venezuelan journalists Cristina Marcano and Alberto Barrera Tyszka explore the often crude and comical public figure who
condemns George W. Bush in the most fiery language but at the same time hires lobbyists to improve his country’s image in the West. The authors examine not only Chávez’s political career but also his personal life–including his first marriage, which was marked by a long affair and the birth of a troubled son, and his second marriage, which produced a daughter toward whom Chávez’s favoritism has caused private tension and public talk.

This seminal biography is filled with exclusive excerpts from Chávez’s own diary and draws on new research and interviews with such insightful subjects as Herma Marksman, the professor who was his mistress for nine years. Hugo Chávez is an essential work about a man whose power, peculiarities, and passion for the global spotlight only continue to grow.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

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.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Foreign Affairs

Close observers portray Hugo Ch�vez variously as a passionate servant of the forgotten poor, an insecure mulatto mesmerized by power, or an autocratic megalomaniac, but none accuses the former military commander of being a dedicated democrat. In the riveting, stupendously researched Hugo Ch�vez, two top Venezuelan journalists also reveal that the teenage Ch�vez was intensively tutored in Marxism and the aspiring ruler dedicated his 20 years in the military to political conspiracies aimed at seizing the presidential palace by force. Interestingly, Ch�vez's obsessive pursuit of power began in the 1970s, prior to the two decades of low oil prices and a demographic boom that decimated Venezuelan living standards and certainly before the wave of globalization and neoliberal reforms that have become Ch�vez's b�tes noires. Rather, his inspirations lie in deeper currents: provincial resentments, nationalist mythologies, militarist traditions. In the preface to the Spanish edition, Teodoro Petkoff, an opposition figure, disdains Ch�vez's ideological immaturity, his "left-wing infantilism." Yet Ch�vez is a master of the media show, his insulting diatribes a shrewd synthesis of Fox News and The Jerry Springer Show. Although Marcano and Barrera stop short of predictions, readers of this vivid, deeply disturbing portrait will fear for Venezuela's future.<

Library Journal

Castro with oil or modern-day Bolívar? Hugo Chávez is as enigmatic to his critics as he is to the Venezuelans who adore him. In two fascinating new biographies, Chávez is dissected and analyzed like never before, and no world figure deserves the attention more than Chávez, "that monkey," as he is described by Venezuela's elite, or El Comandante, as he is known by the nation's poor. Venezuelan journalists Marcano and Barrera (whose book was published in Spanish in 2004) offer a clear biographical account, effectively skipping back to Chávez's early days. From humble beginnings to his captaincy in the army, Chávez is evenly portrayed as the most influential leader in Latin America. There is a slight pro-Chávez bias, but the authors remind readers that this president has flaws. A Newsdayreporter well experienced in Venezuelan affairs, Jones follows a similar biographical path, but his more in-depth coverage results in a hard-hitting, insightful exposé. His book includes more documentation (with over 50 pages of notes), and while he is not overly critical, he is not as kind as Marcano and Barrera. Both books review Chávez's failed 1992 coup and the doomed coup to oust him in 2002, arriving at similar conclusions. But Jones takes everything a step further, recounting how Chávez's arrest and imprisonment only strengthened his popularity among the poor and how (as with Fidel) his failure was a critical step in his eventual success. Both books conclude with the return of Chávez to power after the 2002 48-hour coup, which only emboldened the leader to tackle George W. Bush. Balanced, accurate, and readable,these works are each a journalist's dream and certainly dispel many of Eva Golinger's claims in her blatantly pro-Chávez The Chavez Code. Highly recommended.
—Boyd Childress

Kirkus Reviews
Thorough, thoughtful biography of Venezuela's controversial leftist president. Born of mixed ancestry in the plains area of Barinas, 54-year-old Chavez is "a tropical version of Zelig . . . adept at blending in," conclude the authors, a husband-and-wife team of journalists from Caracas. They give the president credit for tireless work and attention to detail, at least early on, but they also quote Chavez's former psychiatrist, who believes his formidable charm is often impelled by a narcissistic need to be adored. Marcano and Tyszka seem overwhelmed by the many and various explanations volunteered for the president's occasionally strange behavior, notions and edicts. It's easy to understand their problem: People who have gotten close to Chavez tend to be sharply divided between those who admire him to the point of adoration and his committed adversaries. The authors number among their sources several of the latter, including at least one former lover and several military officers who conspired with Chavez in his plot to overthrow the government. Planned for a decade, the attempted coup of February 1992 initially appeared to be a disaster; the administration got to the television station first and thus held on to power. Chavez was the first to surrender, and the government made the mistake of allowing him to address the nation, hoping that his co-conspirators would give themselves up without further bloodshed. That address, the authors note, gave Chavez the opportunity to work his charismatic magic on the Venezuelan people. They remembered when he was released from prison in 1994 and in 1998 elected him to the nation's top office with 56 percent of the vote. Chavez has since survived anattempted coup, two divorces and the ongoing disapproval of the U.S. government. Admirable search for the facts and insight that are often swamped in Chavez's turbulent wake.

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Random House Publishing Group
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Meet the Author

Cristina Marcano is a journalist with extensive experience in the Venezuelan media. She has worked as the chief of international information and the political subeditor for the newspaper El Nacional in Caracas. She currently works as a correspondent for the Mexican newspaper Reforma and as an independent collaborator for El Nacional.

Alberto Barrera Tyszka is a widely read Sunday editorial columnist for El Nacional. In 2006 he won the prestigious Herralde literary prize for his novel La Enfermedad. He is the author of several books and regularly publishes in Letras Libres.

Moisés Naím is a former minister for trade and industry of Venezuela, and is currently the editor in chief of Foreign Policy magazine.

From the Hardcover edition.

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