Author(s): Rory Carroll
Hugo Chavez 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. Chavez has been compared to Napoleon, Nasser, Peron 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, Chavez became a symbol of hope and freedom for his people. Yet, in his fourteen years as president, Chavez 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, Alo Presidente!. In Comandante, acclaimed journalist Rory Carroll breaches the walls of Miraflores Palace to tell the inside story of Chavez'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 Chavez's presidency, and the legacy he has left behind.
A cautionary tale of political corruption, from the Guardian's chief correspondent in South America
* 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 * 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 * 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 Chavez in the English language -- David Blair The Daily Telegraph 20130316 * an English-language account to accompany the best of those by the region's writers... this book, by turns personal, wry and wise, is required reading -- Tom Hennigan Irish Times 20130314 * In good reporter fashion, he [Rory Carroll] diligently tracks down his sources, turning up a colourful cast of red-shirted Chavista loyalists, bitter political opponents, and the everyday Venezuelans in between. What emerges is a more intimate image of Chavez than his own propaganda allows... true drama lies not in a story's ending but in the twists and turns it takes to get there. On those terms, Comandante delivers -- Oliver Balch Independent on Sunday * a fine, timely book The Economist 20130307 * a well-considered and painfully fair epitaph for the Chavez regime -- John Sweeny Literary Review 20130301 * an excellent appraisal of the charismatic leader... Carroll gets as close as any outsider to life inside the palace. What emerges is a portrait of a politician with a magnetic people's touch but a woeful grasp of management -- Oliver Balch The Guardian 20130309 * a compellingly written, keenly reported portrait of Venezuela -- Julia Seig Financial Times 20130308 * Carroll uses interviews and anecdotes effectively to describe Chavez's bizarre court -- Giles Milton Mail on Sunday 20130310 * Love Chavez or hate him, this is a brilliant portrait layered out in words -- Lou Pendergrast More2Read * Carroll deftly retells the familiar narrative and then adds something new -- Dorothy Kronick New Republic 20130306
As a long serving correspondent for the Guardian, Rory Carroll has covered war zones, survived a kidnapping in Iraq, and reported on the transition to full democracy in South Africa. For the past 5 years, throughout the writing of this book, Carroll has been stationed in Caracas as the Guardian's chief correspondent in South America. His work has been long-listed for the Orwell Prize, the UK's pre-eminent prize for political writing.