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ˇHugo!

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Bart Jones knows Venezuela intimately and was an eyewitness to President Hugo Chávez’s rise to power. In Hugo! he tells the story of Chávez’s impoverished childhood, his military career and the decade of clandestine political activity that ended in a failed attempt to seize power in 1992. He describes the election campaign against a former Miss Universe that finally won Chávez the Presidency and the dramatic reversals of fortune that have marked it: the struggle to reform the Venezuelan economy, the coup attempt of 2002 in which he was kidnapped and faced summary execution, and the oil industry strike that followed. The full stories of many of these episodes have never been told before – in English or Spanish. Hugo! is scrupulously researched and sourced, and as compelling to read as a good novel. The ruling elites and popular media in Venezuela and the United States oversimplify by casting Chávez as the heir to Fidel Castro, and more often than not, they have their facts wrong. The truth is more complex, and more interesting. The leader of one of the most powerful economies in Latin America is determined to try to use his country's wealth to help the poor majority. The Chávez that emerges from Jones’ account is neither a plaster saint nor a revolutionary tyrant. He is a master politician — democratically elected to the presidency three times — an inspired improviser, a Bolivarian nationalist and an unashamed socialist. His policies have brought him into conflict with the IMF and the World Bank, the major oil companies and the Bush White House. By the time he arrived at the United Nations in September 2006 he had become a figure on the world stage. When he declared that ‘the devil came here yesterday … the President of the United States’, it was clear that, right or wrong, one man was taking on the might of most powerful nation on earth, in conscious imitation of the Liberator, Simon Bolivar.

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