The Life and Legacy of Hugo Chávez

Rory Carroll

Comandante by Rory Carroll (Paperback ISBN 9780857861535) book cover

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Updated since Chávez’s death in March 2013, Comandante is the definitive account of Chávez’s presidency, an authoritative chronicle of one of history’s greatest leaders and his legacy.

Hugo Chávez was a true phenomenon. On his death in March 2013 tens of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets and honoured a seven-day period of national mourning. Chávez has been compared to Napoleon, Nasser, Perón and Castro but the truth is there has never been a leader like him. He was democratically elected, reigned like a monarch from a mobile television throne, and provoked adoration and revulsion in equal measure.

How did a charismatic autocrat seduce not just a nation but a significant part of world opinion? And how did he continue to stay in power despite the crumbling of Venezuela? When he first came to power in 1999, Chávez became a symbol of hope and freedom for his people. Yet, in his fourteen years as president, Chávez seized control of the lucrative Venezuelan oil industry, allowed basic government functions to wither, jailed political opponents and courted Castro and Ahmadinejad, all while occupying much of Venezuela’s airwaves with his long-running television show, Aló Presidente!.

In Comandante, acclaimed journalist Rory Carroll breaches the walls of Miraflores Palace to tell the inside story of Chávez’s life and his political court in Caracas. Blending the lyricism and strangeness of magical realism with the brutal, ugly truth of authoritarianism - a powerful combination reminiscent of Ryszard Kapuscinski’s The Emperor - Rory Carroll has written the definitive account of Hugo Chávez’s presidency, and the legacy he has left behind.

“In cool, lucid prose, Rory Carroll unpicks the threads that weave together to form a modern-day dictatorship, no less sinister for its relative absence of bloodshed. The portrait of Venezuela that emerges is as nuanced as it is ultimately chilling”
Michela Wrong
author Of In The Footsteps Of Mr Kurtz

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“Rory Carroll’s brilliant portrait of Chavez reads like a fast-paced novel of ego run amok, an ego that happens to be attached to a masterful politician, a dynamo of energy and charisma, and a colossus of managerial ineptitude. The Comandante is by turns heartbreaking, maddening, absurd, and surreal, a truly epic story of promise squandered and opportunities lost”
Ben Fountain
author Of Billy Lynn’s Long Half-time Walk

Comandante provides an impressively well-researched and readable portrait… Carroll’s book should serve as a useful reminder of what el Comandante did and didn’t achieve”
the New York Times

“A fine, timely book”
the Economist

“This beautifully written and acutely perceptive book amounts to a lyrical meditation on the nature of power … [Comandante] will deserve to be the definitive work on Chávez in the English language
David Blair
the Daily Telegraph

Rory Carroll

As a long-serving correspondent for the Guardian, Rory Carroll has covered war zones, survived a kidnapping in Iraq, and reported from all over Africa. For five years, throughout the writing of this book, Carroll was stationed in Caracas as the Guardian’s chief correspondent in Latin America. He now lives in LA, where he is the paper’s US west coast correspondent. His work has been longlisted for the Orwell Prize, the UK’s pre-eminent prize for political writing.