Hugo Chavez Has a Mission-And Oil

By Fraser, Barbara J. | National Catholic Reporter, May 16, 2008 | Go to article overview

Hugo Chavez Has a Mission-And Oil


Fraser, Barbara J., National Catholic Reporter


Hugo Chavez. Among U.S. government officials, the name itself inspires undifferentiated disdain. Because of his political relations with Fidel Castro and Iran, his characterization of President Bush as the devil and his defense of Colombian guerrillas, U.S. officials see the Venzuelan president as the hemisphere's new bogeyman, an uncomplicated throwback to the clarity of the Cold War.

But with Venezuela consistently the fourth largest supplier of oil to the United States and with Chavez using the country's petroleum wealth to win friends and influence neighbors in Latin America and the Caribbean, U.S. officials cannot dismiss him so easily.

Chavez's story resembles an overwrought Venezuelan soap opera an--up-by-the-bootstraps protagonist given to passion and rancor, shifting alliances and betrayals, dreams, protests, gunshots and at least three failed coups.

In fact, however, the story of Chavez's rise to power is even more riveting than fiction, and the man himself is more complicated than the international caricature that has developed.

Chavez was in the news earlier this year for brokering the February release of some political hostages being held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and, more recently, for breaking diplomatic ties with Colombia over that country's spat with Ecuador. When Chavez leaped into the fray over a cross-border attack by Colombian troops that killed a guerrilla leader at a makeshift camp inside Ecuador March 1, some observers, including Peru's President Alan Garcia, were quick to criticize him for meddling. He is often accused of being authoritarian and undemocratic.

Journalist Bart Jones, however, says Chavez is simply doing what any world leader with spare cash does--Ting to win friends and bring other countries around to his vision for the region.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Jones, a former lay Maryknoll missioner, has come to understand Chavez's hold on the country from the point of view of Venezuela's poor. Last year, he published an ambitious account of Chavez's life, !HUgo!: The Hugo Chavez Story from Mud Hut to Perpetual Revolution. Jones interviewed

Chavez extensively for his book, and said the Venezuelan president sees himself as the heir to South American liberator Simon Bolivar's vision of a united continent.

"Chavez's mission to spread the 'Bolivarian' revolution is a fundamental part of his program and his mission in life," Jones said. "He's trying to fulfill Simon Bolivar's dream of uniting Latin America, in part to fight the great monster to the north. He takes it very seriously and spends a lot of time promoting it."

In Jones' nuanced portrait, the iconoclastic president comes across as neither the savior sought by his followers nor the demon painted by his opponents, but as a well-read, self-made man.

"I'm not a Chavez proponent, but I am a proponent of fair, balanced, honest journalism," Jones said. Chavez's critics tend to forget, he said, that before the former military officer won the presidency, the country was ruled by a powerful elite that amassed great wealth at the expense of the impoverished masses.

Born in 1954, Chavez was raised by his grandmother in a mud-brick house with no running water or indoor plumbing in a dusty rural town on the Venezuelan plains. With few other pastimes, he developed a passion for baseball, a skill that won him admission to the country's military academy--changing his destiny and the country's.

As a child, Chavez learned that Venezuela's oil wealth benefited a "fortunate few," said Jones, who arrived in Venezuela shortly after Chavez burst onto the scene with a failed coup attempt in 1992.

Although Chavez was in prison after the coup, some of his allies tried again to overthrow President Carlos Andres Perez six weeks after Jones moved into the impoverished neighborhood of E1 Trompillo in Barquisimeto. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Hugo Chavez Has a Mission-And Oil
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.