Item description for Cowboy in Caracas: A North American's Memoir of Venezuela's Democratic Revolution by Charles Hardy & James W. Russell...
No president today is more controversial than Venezuela's Hugo Chvez Fras. Elected in a landslide in 1998, he promised a peaceful revolution. That peaceful dream became a nightmare when Chvez was overthrown in a coup d'tat in 2002. Surprisingly, he was brought back to power by his supporters, mostly barrio dwellers, within forty-eight hours. Although Chvez continues to be dogged by controversy, he stays in power because of these supporters who see themselves as active participants in a democratic revolution.
As a former Catholic priest who has lived in Venezuela for the past twenty years and spent eight of those years in a cardboard-and-tin shack in one of Caracas' barrios, Charles Hardy is in a unique position to explain what is taking place. Cowboy in Caracas: A North American's Memoir of Venezuela's Democratic Revolution gives the reader insight into the Venezuelan reality, using an anecdotal presentation drawn from the writer's personal experiences.
Charles Hardy has been writing and speaking about the political and social reality of Latin America for over forty years. He has visited almost every Central and South American country.
James Russell is the author of five books, including After the Fifth Sun: Class and Race in North America (Prentice Hall). Currently, he teaches sociology and directs the Latin American Studies Program at Eastern Connecticut State University.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.75" Width: 5.75" Height: 8.5" Weight: 0.55 lbs.
Release Date Apr 1, 2007
Publisher Curbstone Press
ISBN 1931896372 ISBN13 9781931896375
Availability 0 units.
More About Charles Hardy & James W. Russell
Currently residing in Venezuela, Charles Hardy has been writing and speaking about the political and social reality of Latin America for over forty years. He has visited almost every Central and South American country and, as a Catholic priest, lived eight years in a cardboard shack in a Venezuelan barrio.
Reviews - What do customers think about Cowboy in Caracas: A North American's Memoir of Venezuela's Democratic Revolution?
new perspective on Venzuela May 19, 2008
If you read this book, as I did, thinking I was getting a biography of Hugo Chavez - you'll be delightfully disappointed. He lived with the people Chavez depends on to keep his office, the hill dwellers with cardboard walls (he got to know his neighbors very well). Hardy creates the smell of the sewage flowing by, and you get used to it. Chavez feels these people, and knows how to help them. They stay with him, in spite of every newspaper and tv station, and radio stations, that oppose him. They know him. They feel he is on their side. They support him.
Hardy brings this out, clearly. It's as if the people of Venezuela were running things. Chavez is merely their tool. Was Lincoln like that? Washington? Roosevelt? Kennedy? I wish we had a Hardy to write from the same perspective he used here to write about them. Instead of heros to be worshipped, they would be people --with a gift.
Chavez in perspective Jan 31, 2008
Cowboy in Caracas is written by Charles Hardy, an ex-priest who spent 8 years (as a priest) from 1985 to 1993 living in the Tacagua barrio in Caracas in a tin and cardboard shack, without running water or a sewer system, like most people in the poorest neighborhoods in Caracas. He left the priesthood in 1993 and returned in 1994 to marry a Venezuelan woman and activist. Hardy states clearly in his introduction that his book is biased, but that it is based on his direct observation of events and conditions in Venezuela, or on the observations of people he knows and trusts.
There has been a relentless stream of diatribe by the US government against Hugo Chavez. He has been accused of being a dictator, of being undemocratic, of being a tyrant, a communist, and so on. The reality seems to be very different.
First, let's start with the claim that Chavez is a dictator. He was elected in 1998 with about 60% of the total vote. This despite the fact that he was not running as a candidate of either of the two controlling parties. The Venezuelan press and media, which is controlled by the wealthy elites in Venezuela (as the media is everywhere controlled by the ruling elites) ran non-stop propaganda against Chavez during the election, and has continued to do so ever since. Despite that, he was elected because the people responded to his call for an end to corruption and for Venezuela's oil wealth to be used to help the ordinary working and poor people of Venezuela.
He had campaigned on a promise that he would reform the Venezuelan constitution. Shortly after election he held a referendum to vote on whether a constitutional assembly should be formed. That vote carried by about 60%. Then there was an election to elect the members of the constitutional assembly. Finally, after the assembly had done its job, there was a referendum to approve or disapprove the result. Again, the new constitution was approved by a wide margin. Copies of that constitution in the form of a small blue booklet are now carried proudly by hundreds of thousands of working and poor Venezuelans.
In the spring of 2002 a few generals in collusion with right-wing civilian backers staged a coup, arrested Chavez and spirited him off to a military installation on an island off Caracas, suspended the constitution and declared martial law. Naturally the US government immediately congratulated the new 'government' (thus showing that democracy is not really what the US is worried about in Venezuela). But within two days a mass uprising of the people converged on the presidential palace, forcing the coup leaders to free Chavez and allow him to return to his elected office.
Later that year, the Venezuelan oil company and its highly-paid employees staged a 'strike' that lasted for two months, disrupting the economy and causing great hardship. The ostensible reason for the strike was that Chavez had sought to replace the board of directors with people of his choosing - a right that the Venezuelan president has, since the oil company is nominally a state agency. The claim was that he was appointing political hacks and disrupting the 'meritocracy' that had traditionally run the company. However, the company was poorly run, about 1/3 as efficient as other state- and commercial oil companies. Eventually Chavez was able to take partial control of the company, and within a year its efficiency had increased by 40%, putting the lie to the claim of 'meritocracy'. It had been an outright kleptocracy, with oil money that should have gone to Venezuelans disappearing into offshore accounts.
In 2004 there was what amounted to a recall election - using a provision of the new constitution that Chavez (the alleged dictator) had himself proposed. Chavez won that election by, you guessed it, about 60% of the vote despite the constant shrill propaganda against him in all the privately owned TV stations and newspapers.
Finally, in 2006 Chavez ran for re-election in an election that was overseen by the Organization of American States and other outside independent observers. The election was seen to be fair, and Chavez again won about 60% of the vote.
So, where does the claim of 'undemocratic' come from, since Chavez won the popular vote 6 times in a row? To understand this, you have to understand how the US government used the term 'democratic'. For many years, starting in the 60s, I could not understand the criteria used by the US to declare a country 'democratic' or 'undemocratic'. Castro was a tyrant, but Samoza was being attacked by 'undemocratic' forces from within Nicaragua. From my perspective they were both dictators, but Samoza was worse, because he killed tens of thousands of Nicaraguans and ran a horribly corrupt government whose sole purpose, as far as I could tell, was to enrich himself and the other power elites in Nicaragua. So why did the US government support him, and continue to impose a cruel embargo on Cuba? Eventually I understood that when the US government declares a country to be 'democratic' or 'undemocratic' you can understand the meaning perfectly if you substitute the phrase 'friendly to US corporate interests'. Then the correlation is clear and immediate.
This, I think, explains the vitriolic attitude of the US towards Chavez. He does in fact represent a threat to US corporate interests, because he believes that Venezuelan resources should be used for the good of Venezuelans.
Is this wrong? You decide.
Very informative and easy read. We don't get the real picture of what is happening in Venezuela from US News sources and this Dec 31, 2007
This is a great place to start to really find out what is happening in Venezuela. Don't trust US officials or US Press. After this move on to Biography of Hugo Chavez by Bart Jones and then the scholarly book by Fulbright Scholar Greg Wilpert "Changing Venezuela by Taking Power : The History And Policies of the Chavez Government" and you will never trust the US Government and US Media again. I recommend Charly Hardy's book first.
Good book..interesting point of view. Nov 17, 2007
The book showed how the Venezualan people(the poor) have suffered and how they are a little better off today.
Understand Venezuela Sep 9, 2007
I almost missed my stop on the Caracas metro because I was so engrossed in "Cowboy in Caracas". Charles Hardy worked as a priest for many years in one of Caracas's slums and knows its people well. If you want to understand Venezuela's democratic revolution ignore the bile in the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and read this book.