New Internationalist

The Battle of Venezuela

August 2004
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There never has been much good writing in English – rather than in translation – about Latin America. To add to a small number of exceptions to this rule we now have the Irish writer Michael McCaughan.

His new book, on Venezuela, begins by acknowledging the ‘soundtrack’ to which it was written: ‘Joe Strummer, I miss you.’ If, as a result, you expect some sort of punk tour around magic Latin realism, you’ll be disappointed. Instead, what you get is a compact work that is exemplary. Leavened from time to time by his own, firsthand reporting, he has given us absolutely essential reading about important events, not just for the people of Venezuela, but for the rest of us as well.

Given the polarization of oil-rich Venezuelan society, between a powerful oligarchy with its aspirant middle classes, and the impoverishment of almost everyone else, it’s impossible not to look through the prism of a former general, President Hugo Chávez – for or against.

His television broadcasts may rival Fidel Castro’s for length but then the Constitution makes this just about the only space for the views of anyone other than the vengeful oligarchs who control the Venezuelan media. The radical, ‘pro-poor’ components of Chavez’s ‘Bolivarian Revolution’, and its punctiliously democratic credentials, are set against his coup attempt in 1992 and the continuing plague of caudillismo – reverence for a single, usually military, saviour. Behind all this, however, lies a long and vibrant tradition of popular activism, which McCaughan chronicles meticulously.

David Ransom

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 370 This column was published in the August 2004 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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The Battle of Venezuela Fact File
Product information by Michael McCaughan
Publisher Latin America Bureau
Product number ISBN 1 899365 62 1
Star rating4

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This article was originally published in issue 370

New Internationalist Magazine issue 370
Issue 370

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