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Friday, February 23, 2024

Cowboy in Caracas: A book that meticulously describes the true nature of the bourgeoisie in Venezuela in its war against president Hugo Chavez

By Ardain Isma

 CSMS Magazine staff writerDespite the huge presence of the Venezuela’s oil industry in the United States, one seldom reads a positive note in the press about that country and its current government. Cowboy in Venezuela written by Charles Hardy, a former priest who spent years living among the poor in the Caracas barrios or shantytowns, is one the few books that attempt to change that. While focusing on presenting the case of the Venezuelan oppressed, Cowboy in Caracas also reveals the true nature of the country’s upper class—its complicity with Washington and its vexing determination to do away with president Hugo Chavez.            The book begins with a frantic disclaimer in which the author makes it clear that his story does not offer a “balanced representation” of each party involved in the Venezuelan crisis. “I have tried to write it from the viewpoint of the oppressed. It certainly is a biased perspective, but I feel it is an important view of Venezuela that is seldom presented,” the author says, shaping up the readers’ mind as he prepares to take them into a spectacular ride deep into the heart of the country’s most famous barrios.            Few authors have described Venezuela’s lower class with such explicit details—its determination to lift itself from misery to poverty with dignity, its vigilance in its readiness to preserve its political gains and its uncompromising stance against a recalcitrant bourgeoisie equally determined to bring the country back to the status quo ante.            According to Charles Hardy, most foreign correspondents live in affluent suburbs and maintain their offices inside buildings that already house opposition media. One can understand why their reports are generally anything but objective.            Readers must tighten their belts as the author takes them to a gut-wrenching journey to the barrio of Nueva Tacagua “constructed on unstable ground, causing continual landslides that regularly fractured the walls of the more permanent buildings.” As in most developing countries, lack of running water in the shantytowns makes life a hellish adventure in all aspect. The constant stench from human excrement described by the author is no different from the daily condition in which slum dwellers in Port-au-Prince live.            Cowboy in Venezuela also gives the readers an awesome glimpse of Venezuela’s geography, its ethnic makeup and its political landscape. These instructions are useful to getting a better view of the country being put in display.             Then, the author takes the readers into a minute-by-minute account of the last events in Venezuela that captured not only the attention of ordinary people in Latin America, but also all oppressed masses around the world—from Chavez’s short fall from power to his quick reinstatement under pressure from the masses to the upper class maneuverings to regain the initiative and to the opposition’s final defeat in the referendum that clearly solidified Chavez’s hold on power for a long time to come.              Hugo Chavez calls his popular movement “The Bolivarian Revolution” with the introduction of participatory democracy. This democratic revolution takes its name after the name of legendary leader Simon Bolivar, who fought to liberate Grand Colombia from Spain. At that time, Grand Colombia was an entity that included Venezuela, present-day Colombia, Panama and Ecuador.            Despite Bolivar’s effort to free the country from colonialism, he was never an admired figure in the eyes of the dominant classes, especially in the eyes of the aristocrat generals in the army, comprador bourgeois and wealthy landowners commonly known as latifundistas.               Thanks to Cowboy in Caracas, I now understand why Haiti was not invited during the first Ibero-American Summit held in Panama City in 1825. The author does not make this specific reference; however, he does say that Bolivar, who died in exile in 1830, was pushed aside by “other leaders, such as Santader in Colombia and Perez in Venezuela [who] did not embrace his dreams with equal fever.” They both believed that slavery ought to be maintained and that the army should be the sole guarantor, protecting the interests of the elite. Bolivar opposed to all of these.             Haiti played an important part in the independence of Grand Colombia, providing financial, academic and military supports to the embattled country following Bolivar’s visit to Port-au-Prince in 1811, where he met Haitian president Alexandre Pétion who only asked that Bolivar’s army free all slaves in liberated territories.            But the despise for Bolivar among the Venezuelan rich persists to this day, as the author explains how putschist president Pedro Carmona ordered that all pictures of Bolivar be removed from the room where he was about to take the oath of office, shortly after the coup against Chavez in April of 2002. The Bush Administration as well as all the pillars from the “social conservatism” movement praised the coup.Otto Reich, former Bush assistant secretary from 2001 to 2004, wrote in National Review in April of 2005 that Chavez and Fidel “constitute an axis of evil.” In an article titled “Latin America’s Terrible Two,” Reich reiterated that Latin America must remain a docile backyard for the United States. To him Venezuela and Cuba are standing in the way. He stressed that “neutralizing or defeating the Cuba-Venezuela axis” is the reality that policymakers must confront.               Finally, Charles Hardy did an impeccable job by presenting Venezuela from the view of the oppressed masses, who have always been ignored by the so-called mainstream press. His book is not an intellectual exercise designed to impress those who may probably have no interests in the plights of oppressed Venezuelans. Cowboy in Caracas is a clear and honest cry on behalf of the voiceless of Venezuela. This book is a MUST-READ.Also see Haiti’s petite bourgeoisie reacts to Hugo Chavez’s visit last weekNote: The book was published by Connecticut based Curbstone Press. It is available almost everywhere, especially in all online bookstores. One can also visit the publisher’s website: www.curbstone.org for more info. Dr. Ardain Isma is a novelist and chief editor of CSMS Magazine. He teaches Cross-Cultural Studies at Nova southeastern University. You can read a synopsis of his latest novel “Alicia.” Click here: http://www.themulticulturalgroup.com/books.html

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