Hugo Chavez has Exited the World Scene...or Has He?

"Just when we thought Latin America was safe for democracy, one man put an end to such hopes. With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cuba moved to the brink of its own collapse, its miscarried economic and political system exposed as empty remnants of earlier discredited socialist experiments. Fidel Castro stood isolated and rejected throughout the region. The 1990s brought a remarkable, universal hemispheric consensus based on democracy, human rights, and the free market. If history had ended as the world was universally adopting Western liberal democracy and renouncing ideology altogether—as Francis Fukuyama has argued—it ended first in Latin America. But then came Hugo Chávez."

"Like some kind of throwback species of shark, the coup plotter who became president of Venezuela in 1999 emerged proclaiming a 'twenty- first-century socialism' that was little more than an aggressive rehash of twentieth-century socialist failures mixed with a grand serving of anti- American rhetoric. While the rest of the world had largely retreated from the antidemocratic, statist, command economy model, or had never embraced it in the first place, Chávez's Venezuela submerged merrily into those polluted waters."

"The reaction in the United States and elsewhere was largely disbelief that Venezuelans could choose, and continue to choose, such a path and that Chávez could move to export what he was doing to other countries in the region. How, observers asked, could he sustain popular support for policies that, over time, revealed themselves to be even less effective than they were in other places during the previous century? How, despite the startling contrast between the country's immense oil wealth and the paltry economic and social returns of Chávez's stewardship, could he become a kind of hero to certain local and national leaders in such countries as Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and even Argentina? Why is opposition to Chávez's bullying ways and transnational interference so weak throughout the hemisphere?"

"Pundits, academics, journalists, and politicians have all had a hand in trying to answer some of these questions. The term 'populism' has been invoked as a one-word dissertation on the meaning of Hugo Chávez and as an excuse for inaction. His oft-foretold imminent death has been hailed as the most effective solution to the challenge he represents. But the analysts who focus on one of the facets of what is happening today in Venezuela have not been able to solve the riddle. Some have indeed raised the alarm about the threat to hemispheric security that Chávez and his Bolivarian republic represent."

"The threat is, in fact, a very real one, but dealing with it demands a far more nuanced understanding of the situation."

"In this book, Luis Fleischman presents a broad picture that is not only more accurate and more complex but also more frightening than the head- line snapshots of individual pieces to the puzzle. He exposes a method to the madness and definitely provides a new way of looking at Chávez and what will happen after Chávez (and, as important, why there is an after-Chávez)."

"Latin America in the Post-Chávez Era also raises the right questions about what the United States should do regarding predictable scenarios in Venezuela's immediate future. And what the U.S. mandate should be in leading the rollback of the precipitous decline in the democratic practices of the Bolivarian countries and within the once democratic bastion that was the Organization of American States. "

"The last question Fleischman asks is whether Chávismo, the Bolivarian chimera, will survive the death of Chávez. His answer, backed by facts and acute analysis, is troubling. But the author also outlines what must be done to counter that challenge, now and into the future. It all begins with a reassertion of U.S. leadership. This book will help any leader find the way."

Excerpted from the foreword by Michael Skol - Former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela and former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for inter-American affairs

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