Javier Corrales and Michael Penfold’s 2011 book, Dragon in the Tropics: Hugo Chávez and the Political Economy of Revolution in Venezuela, I’m not ashamed to say, was a milestone in my “recovery” from Chavismo. It was a detailed, documented confirmation of what, for the months leading up to the time I read it, had only been a hunch on my part: that the “Bolivarian Revolution” had been, well, something other than what I had believed it to be for nearly a decade. I appreciated the book so much that I bought it again when it was revised and updated in 2015, something I rarely do with any book. So when I had the chance to meet and interview Corrales at the Venezuela at the Crossroads event on March 4 of this year, I was very excited.
I introduced myself in the morning and we set up the interview for the lunch hour. I selected a great spot in a large open area, under the shade of a tree (so Javier wouldn’t be squinting) and with a row of tall palm trees in the background, rising up over the Mission-style buildings of Stanford University.
I had to start with the question I had been dying to ask him all morning, just to break the ice. “So, just to clarify, you’re not an ‘ultra-rightist’ are you?” He laughed. “No, I don’t think so,” he said. And that’s where the interview began as we delved into the myths of the “ultra-derechista fascistas” and the “good” Bolivarian socialist left and Javier took it from there.
Javier Corrales is professor of Political Science at Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts. He earned his Ph.D. in political Science from Harvard University. He is the author and co-author of many books and he serves on the editorial boards of Latin American Politics and Society and Americas Quarterly.