Chavismo with some new brakes on it

The Nobel fictionist Gabriel Garcia Marquez left a brilliant double-exposure of Hugo Chavez after they shared a plane ride not long after Chavez took power in Venezuela in 1999:


Hugo Chavez

“While he moved off among his military escort and old friends,” remembered Garcia Marquez, “I shuddered at the thrill of having gladly traveled and talked with two contrary men. One to whom inveterate luck has offered the opportunity to save his country. And the other, a conjurer who could go down in history as one more despot.”

The near-tie vote Sunday against the Chavez’s idea of constitutional “reform” for Venezula confirms the sense of Chavez as a man on the edge, in a dangerous conflict of self and ideals, a character out a Garcia Marquez novel, in a “headlong race between his misfortunes and his dreams.” Is this the story? Does the characterization of the demagog who would be dictator come any closer than the cartoons to explaining why the “Bolivarian revolution” is still so magnetic in much of Latin America and so scary in New York as well as Washington.

So I’ve been asking square-one sorts of questions about Chavismo : about his ideas of “participatory democracy” (is it democracy at all?), about “21st Century Socialism,” which may be quite different from the 19th and 20th Century versions; about the populist economic nationalism that Chavez has thrown up against the “neo-liberalism” of the “Washington consensus” on free markets, free trade, and multinational investments.

Click to listen to Chris’s conversation with Julia Buxton, Jennifer McCloy and James Green here (36 minutes, 17 MB MP3)

Our guests here are: Julia Buxton of the University of Bradford in the UK. She writes extensively (and sympathetically) about Chavez and Chavismo on openDemocracy. Jennifer McCoy of Georgia State Universty and the Carter Center, both in Atlanta. And James Green, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Brown University.

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