Changing Venezuela by Taking Power


Changing Venezuela by Taking Power:
The History and Policies of the Chávez Government

Gregory Wilpert,
Verso, 2006

AS THE HEROIC investigative journalist Greg Palast wrote, when it comes to Venezuela, it’s all about the crude, dude. The hysterics in Washington about Hugo Chávez – anointed a dictator by the compliant US press despite the inconvenient fact that he submits himself to elections, sometimes loses them, and accepts the consequences – owe nothing to concern about the political well-being of the Venezuelan people, and everything to the fact that Caracas is sitting on five times – yes, you heard right – five times the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. This makes Gregory Wilpert’s book required reading for anyone interested in understanding what Chávez is trying to do with all that money, and how he has turned conventional wisdom about the demise of socialism on its head. Wilpert taps his intimate knowledge of Venezuelan politics to provide a clear explanation of Chávez’s policies, situates this as a model for developments on the left internationally, all the while exposing the self-serving and malevolent logic of his breathless middle-class opponents. One of the lessons that might be read into this analysis is just how damaging the model of competitive party politics – formal procedural democracy, sold like new socks by Washington throughout Latin America as the only form of governance worth thinking about – can be in a society with high levels of social contrast where corruption poisons ambition as the currency of political exchange. Changing Venezuela is the best introduction to the Bolivarian revolution available. – GO’T