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85 Foreign Aff. 45 (2006)
In Search of Hugo Chavez

handle is hein.journals/fora85 and id is 441 raw text is: In Search
of Hugo Chavez
Michael Shifter
ALMOST AS SOON as a collapsing bridge forced the government of
President Hugo Chivez Frias to shut down the only highway linking
Venezuela's main airport and capital city in January, the recriminations
began. Chvez's opponents accused him of wasting the country's oil
bonanza on politically driven projects abroad while neglecting infra-
structure at home. His supporters, in turn, charged the traditional
elite that governed before him with squandering resources and ignoring
fundamental needs for decades. In fact, both sets of charges were
nearly identical. And both were right. Venezuela's leaders, CMvez as
well as his predecessors, have long been guilty of misplaced priorities.
As with so many things today in Latin America's most politically
polarized society, they all share the responsibility for failing to maintain
what is arguably the most important stretch of road in Venezuela.
Just before Chdvez took office in February 1999, Gabriel Garcia
Mirquez accompanied him on a flight to Caracas from Havana, Cuba,
where the Venezuelan president-elect had visited with Fidel Castro.
I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I had just been traveling
and chatting pleasantly with two opposing men, the Colombian
Nobel laureate later wrote. One to whom the caprices of fate had
given an opportunity to save his country. The other, an illusionist,
who could pass into the history books as just another despot.
M I C H A E L S H I F T E R is Vice President for Policy at the Inter-American
Dialogue and Adjunct Professor of Latin American Studies at Georgetown
University's School of Foreign Service.


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