21 November 2007

Chavez And The Caracas Book Fair

Silvina Friera

“Gangrenous politics is not cured with palliatives,” said Simon Bolivar. President Hugo Chavez cited this at the University of Havana’s grand lecture room on 14 December, 1994. On that occasion, he also recalled that in Venezuela for 20 years billions of dollars vanished, money that ended up in the foreign accounts of almost all civil and military leaders who enriched themselves under cover of power. At the third Venezuelan Book Fair (Filven), the books on Chavez are among those selling the most.

Richard Gott, veteran Latin American correspondent and contributor at the Guardian, confesses in his introduction of ‘Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution’ that he did not think the Venezuelan President would become such a controversial figure. “In Venezuela, a revolution is brewing with as many surprises for its supporters as those of the adversaries of Chavez. This is not the work of a charismatic leader himself, but the result as much of the unusual combativeness of the Venezuelan lower classes as of the political ineptitude of the opposition to his government,” declares the author. “Chavez is a very original figure in Latin America. He is not a Marxist like Allende or a populist like Peron. He is a nationalist of the radical Left, closer in his internationalist thinking to Fidel Castro than any other Latin American figure”.

At the stand that Monte Avila (publisher) has at Filven, other than Gott’s book, there can be obtained Chavez by Samuel Blixen, published by a Uruguayan publishing house Trilce. A Revolution Without a Score by Medofilo Medina, Margarita Lopez Maya and Luis Lander, published by the Colombian Aurora, offers a flashback to the political process driven by Chavez. The authors trail the principal antecedents that brought the Venezuelan leader to power and explore a decisive and historic moment: the military coup of 11 April 2002, the petroleum strike that went on from December that year to February 2003 till the re-election of Chavez in December 2006. The Chavez Code (Monte Avila) by Eva Golinger, Venezuelan-North American lawyer specialised in human rights and immigration, reveals the participation of the government of the United States in the 2002 coup d’etat. By the same author is the more recent Bush vs. Chavez: Washington’s War Against Venezuela, also published by Monte Avila.

Simon Espejo of 26 years is one of the Monte Avila sellers at the fair. He says that all the books about Chavez sell “very well” because he is a figure who generates much controversy. Espejo remembers that the head of the San Jose school of Caracas brought a group of six primary level children to the stand because they were interested in poetry books and knowing about the life of the Venezuelan President. “I think that that the Chavez phenomenon is like the links of a chain: one link attracts another,” he opines. “Chavez has reached out to the children and though they do not understand what he does as President, he has been able to make a great impression, positive or negative,” he points out. “My sister says, ‘Viva Chavez’; speak to her against Chavez and she starts to cry,” says the seller of Monte Avila, one of the stands most visited by the Venezuelans.

“I don’t like Chavez because he does not weigh up his words; says what he feels without thinking of the consequences,” suggests Espejo, “but it seems to me that many educational policies have been a grand success of this government”. And when asked if he would vote for Yes or No in the next popular consultation, he first responds that the vote is a secret but later seems to define one of the options. “I’m going to vote for Chavez though I’m not a Chavista because he is the only leader that Venezuela has”. Espejo says of the buzz that can be perceived in the streets of Caracas that Venezuela is “a fanatical and extremist country”. Margarita Bello of the World Bookshop says, “There was no education in this country for 40 years but now even a sweeper studies and that seems to be a great advance to me.”
Abridged. Published in Página/12, Argentina, November 16, 2007 Link:

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