Dragon in the Tropics: Hugo Chavez and the Political Economy of Revolution in Venezuela

Brookings Institution Press
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Since he was first elected in 1999, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frías has reshaped a frail but nonetheless pluralistic democracy into a semi-authoritarian regime—an outcome achieved with spectacularly high oil income and widespread electoral support. This eye-opening book illuminates one of the most sweeping and unexpected political transformations in contemporary Latin America.

Based on more than fifteen years' experience in researching and writing about Venezuela, Javier Corrales and Michael Penfold have crafted a comprehensive account of how the Chávez regime has revamped the nation, with a particular focus on its political transformation. Throughout, they take issue with conventional explanations. First, they argue persuasively that liberal democracy as an institution was not to blame for the rise of chavismo. Second, they assert that the nation's economic ailments were not caused by neoliberalism. Instead they blame other factors, including a dependence on oil, which caused macroeconomic volatility; political party fragmentation, which triggered infighting; government mismanagement of the banking crisis, which led to more centralization of power; and the Asian crisis of 1997, which devastated Venezuela's economy at the same time that Chávez ran for president.

It is perhaps on the role of oil that the authors take greatest issue with prevailing opinion. They do not dispute that dependence on oil can generate political and economic distortions—the "resource curse" or "paradox of plenty" arguments—but they counter that oil alone fails to explain Chávez's rise. Instead they single out a weak framework of checks and balances that allowed the executive branch to extract oil rents and distribute them to the populace. The real culprit behind Chávez's success, they write, was the asymmetry of political power.

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About the author

Javier Corrales is a professor of political science at Amherst College and the author of Presidents Without Parties: The Politics of Economic Reform in Argentina and Venezuela in the 1990s (Penn State Press, 2002).

Michael Penfold is professor of political economy and former dean of the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administracion in Caracas and the author of Dos Tradiciones,Un Conflicto: El Futuro de la Descentralización (Debate 2009).

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Feb 1, 2011
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Pages
195
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ISBN
9780815705024
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Latin America / South America
Political Science / International Relations / General
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Communism, Post-Communism & Socialism
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The epic story of the fall of the Inca Empire to Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in the aftermath of a bloody civil war, and the recent discovery of the lost guerrilla capital of the Incas, Vilcabamba, by three American explorers.

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But the Incas did not submit willingly. A young Inca emperor, the brother of Atahualpa, soon led a massive rebellion against the Spaniards, inflicting heavy casualties and nearly wiping out the conquerors. Eventually, however, Pizarro and his men forced the emperor to abandon the Andes and flee to the Amazon. There, he established a hidden capital, called Vilcabamba—only recently rediscovered by a trio of colorful American explorers. Although the Incas fought a deadly, thirty-six-year-long guerrilla war, the Spanish ultimately captured the last Inca emperor and vanquished the native resistance.
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Colombia in the 1990s is a country in chaos, as a weak government battles guerrilla movements and narco-traffickers, including the notorious Pablo Escobar and his rivals in the Cali cartel. Enter Jorge Salcedo, a part-time soldier, a gifted engineer, a respected businessman and family man—and a man who despises Pablo Escobar for patriotic and deeply personal reasons. He is introduced to the godfathers of the Cali cartel, who are at war with Escobar and desperately want their foe dead. With mixed feelings, Jorge agrees to help them.

Once inside, Jorge rises to become head of security for Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela, principal godfather of the $7-billion-a-year Cali drug cartel. Jorge tries to turn a blind eye to the violence, corruption, and brutality that surround him, and he struggles privately to preserve his integrity even as he is drawn deeper into the web of cartel operations. Then comes an order from the godfathers that he can’t obey—but can’t refuse. Jorge realizes that his only way out is to bring down the biggest, richest crime syndicate of all time.

Thus begins a heart-pumping roller-coaster ride of intensifying peril. Secretly aided by a pair of young American DEA agents, Jorge races time and cartel assassins to extract damaging evidence, help capture the fugitive godfather, and save the life of a witness targeted for murder. Through it all, death lurks a single misstep away.

William C. Rempel is the only reporter with access to this story and to Jorge, who remains in hiding somewhere in the United States—even the author doesn’t know where—but has revealed his experience in gripping detail. Salcedo’s is the story of one extraordinary ordinary man forced to risk everything to end a nightmare of his own making.


From the Hardcover edition.
The city of Buenos Aires has guaranteed all couples, regardless of gender, the right to register civil unions. Mexico City has approved the Cohabitation Law, which grants same-sex couples marital rights identical to those of common-law relationships between men and women. Yet, a gay man was murdered every two days in Latin America in 2005, and Brazil recently led the world in homophobic murders. These facts illustrate the wide disparity in the treatment and rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations across the region.

The Politics of Sexuality in Latin America presents the first English-language reader on LGBT politics in Latin America. Representing a range of contemporary works by scholars, activists, analysts, and politicians, the chapters address LGBT issues in nations from Cuba to Argentina. In their many findings, two main themes emerge: the struggle for LGBT rights has made significant inroads in the first decade of the twenty-first century (though not in every domain or every region); and the advances made were slow in coming compared to other social movements.

The articles uncover the many obstacles that LGBT activists face in establishing new laws and breaking down societal barriers. They identify perhaps the greatest roadblock in Latin American culture as an omnipresent system of “heteronormativity,” wherein heterosexuality, patriarchalism, gender hierarchies, and economic structures are deeply rooted in nearly every level of society. Along these lines, the texts explore specific impediments including family dependence, lack of public spaces, job opportunities, religious dictums, personal security, the complicated relationship between leftist political parties and LGBT movements in the region, and the ever-present “closets,” which keep LGBT issues out of the public eye.

The volume also looks to the future of LGBT activism in Latin America in areas such as globalization, changing demographics, the role of NGOs, and the rise of economic levels and education across societies, which may aid in a greater awareness of LGBT politics and issues. As the editors posit, to be democratic in the truest sense of the word, nations must recognize and address all segments of their populations.

 

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