Political biography, current to 2004, with hasty postscript regarding 2006 election.
Writers work for one of the opposition newspapers, but the text is not a demonology. It does try to strike a faux balance in Fox News sense, such as when they suggest that both sides have a point when opposition accuses Chavez of “encouraging class conflict” and Chavez says “the nation had previously been living under the false illusion of harmony” (260). It’s hard to sympathize with authors and the opposition when they suggest that lying about harmony is a good thing and commenting on existing class conflict is a bad thing.
Volume does have its uses, such as a succinct background on Chavez, the 1992 coup, the 1998 election, the numerous elections thereafter (which authors do not assert to be fraudulent, and note an opposition accusation of electoral fraud on only one occasion), the April 2002 coup & countercoup.
Some chapters are ineffective. E.g., the introduction sets the tone with “in the long run his economic policies will surely hurt the material well being of most Venezuelans, and his authoritarian behavior is clearly eroding the basic political freedoms that the country enjoyed for decades” (xix)--gotta love naked dogmatism at the outset. Late chapters on Chavez’s sex life and family troubles are simply salacious gossip, and I am surprised that the authors included it, because now I think that they’re fit to write for fashion magazines and scandal rags, rather than serious work. Another late chapter is about Chavez’s use of the media, which is half gossip, half analytical, but of little importance. Because authors are part of the media, they overemphasize the importance of their industry.
Chavez’s ideology is hard to pin down. By 2006 he was talking about “Bolivarian socialism” and “twenty-first century socialism” (293). No idea what the content of that might be. Though he enacted land reform upon first being elected, which is one thing that pissed off the rightwing initially(145), he otherwise governed to “use protectionist capitalism to generate social balance” (149). He apparently lost leftwingers because “despite his invective against savage capitalism and globalization, Chavez opened the telecommunications, gas, and utilities sectors to foreign investors and continued to follow the guidelines recommended by the IMF” (148-49). Some accused “you haven’t touched a single hair on the ass of anyone in the economic sector” (id). So, yeah, not really seeing the far left content.
Authors don’t know what to make of any of that, nor do they present controversial statutes for analysis, merely mentioning that a statute on oil or censorship or whatever was passed, and that many people did not like it. Well, no shit that the ox doesn’t like getting gored. The question on each gored ox is whose, how, and why, which this volume passes over. Authors main concern is that Chavez wants power, “more power,” “always power,” and so on. It’s a wearisome refrain, as though pursuit of nebulously defined “power” is something that they bother to mention regarding anyone else.
Volume also, unforgivably, passes over in near silence the US involvement in the 2002 coup, mentioning only that Chavez accused the US of involvement.
Probably a decent introduction to Chavez, overall.