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We Created Chávez

A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution

by George Ciccariello-Maher

Publication Year: 2013

Since being elected president in 1998, Hugo Chávez has become the face of contemporary Venezuela and, more broadly, anticapitalist revolution. George Ciccariello-Maher contends that this focus on Chávez has obscured the inner dynamics and historical development of the country’s Bolivarian Revolution. In We Created Chávez, by examining social movements and revolutionary groups active before and during the Chávez era, Ciccariello-Maher provides a broader, more nuanced account of Chávez’s rise to power and the years of activism that preceded it.

Based on interviews with grassroots organizers, former guerrillas, members of neighborhood militias, and government officials, Ciccariello-Maher presents a new history of Venezuelan political activism, one told from below. Led by leftist guerrillas, women, Afro-Venezuelans, indigenous people, and students, the social movements he discusses have been struggling against corruption and repression since 1958. Ciccariello-Maher pays particular attention to the dynamic interplay between the Chávez government, revolutionary social movements, and the Venezuelan people, recasting the Bolivarian Revolution as a long-term and multifaceted process of political transformation.

Published by: Duke University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

This book, like the revolutionary process it documents, would not be possible without the blind faith and irrational support of many. My dissertation committee—Wendy Brown, Mark Bevir, Nelson Maldonado-Torres, Kiren Chaudhry, and Pheng Cheah—let me make what must have seemed like two terrible decisions: ...

Map of Venezuela

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pp. xii-xiv

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Introduction. What People? Whose History?

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pp. 1-21

When we got to La Piedrita, they already knew we were coming. If not for the phone call they received from a trusted comrade, then from the video cameras lining the perimeter of this revolutionary zone that jealously guards its autonomy from all governments, right or left. ...

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One. A Guerrilla History

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pp. 22-44

Nationally recognized Venezuelan journalist and former head of the Patriotic Junta that overthrew the dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez, Fabricio Ojeda rose and walked calmly to the podium. This towering figure of resistance solemnly recounted having stood above a grave in the Cemetery of the South— ...

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Two. Reconnecting with the Masses

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pp. 45-66

The Venezuelan guerrilla struggle was dashed to pieces on the surprisingly treacherous rocks of the masses. After initially riding the tiger of massive anti-Betancourt sentiment, the guerrillas, for a number of reasons not entirely within their control, saw their support dissipate rapidly in the late 1960s. ...

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Three. Birth of the ‘‘Tupamaros’’

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pp. 67-87

They were called Ñangaras. As the Metropolitan Police flooded up the Avenida Sucre and surrounded the first blocks of the Monte Piedad neighborhood of 23 de Enero, which perch strategically on a bluff overlooking the ostensible seat of Venezuelan political power, the young residents of Block 5 were prepared. ...

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First Interlude. The Caracazo: History Splits in Two

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pp. 88-104

Previous chapters have shown that the history of popular struggle in Venezuela began long before Chávez and that immediate dissatisfaction with the limited, elite representative democratic regime that emerged after 1958 gave rise to a sporadic wave of resistance—sometimes powerful, frequently dispersed— ...

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Four. Sergio’s Blood: Student Struggles from the University to the Streets

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pp. 105-125

In mid-1993, the Venezuelan political system was in a veritable free fall. The Caracazo—predictable for some of its participants but utterly astonishing for elites intoxicated by their own myths—was followed soon after by a pair of attempted coups in February and November 1992. ...

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Five. Manuelita’s Boots: Women between Two Movements

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pp. 126-145

Three dozen conspirators forced their way into the Government Building in Bogotá, intent on assassinating Simón Bolívar. Through a characteristic combination of folly and misinformation, the Liberator himself dismissed the warnings of his long-time mistress Manuela Sáenz, convinced that the conspirators had backed out of their widely known plan. ...

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Six. José Leonardo’s Body and the Collapse of Mestizaje

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pp. 146-165

Long before Toussaint L’Ouverture, what was quite possibly the first serious rebellion by black slaves in the Americas nearly became a genuine revolution. But the first shot in this protracted war against conquest and slavery was fired in 1499 by Venezuela’s indigenous population at Puerto Flechado, ...

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Second Interlude. Every Eleventh Has Its Thirteenth

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pp. 166-179

There is perhaps only one event more revealing than a coup, and that is a coup that, while initially successful, is eventually reversed.1 Any coup serves to draw back the veil of polite society (however threadbare) to reveal the lines of force that traverse it, and a reversed coup is an even more powerful revelation of where, precisely, social power lies. ...

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Seven. Venezuelan Workers: Aristocracy or Revolutionary Class?

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pp. 180-199

It is the forty-fifth anniversary of Venezuela’s return to formal democracy, and the country is in the grips of an unprecedented economic and political catastrophe: an oil industry lockout has dragged on for more than 60 days, crippling the country in an ill-conceived effort to again oust Chávez where the coup had failed. ...

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Eight. Oligarchs Tremble! Peasant Struggles at the Margins of the State

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pp. 200-217

As the Conservative Party’s Central Army approached Santa Inés, rumors spread like the prairie fire that Federal general Ezequiel Zamora himself would later unleash on the enemy: the Federal troops, so went the rumors, were badly outnumbered and poorly supplied. ...

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Nine. A New Proletariat? Informal Labor and the Revolutionary Streets

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pp. 218-233

The Chávez regime is perched precariously between two crises as the anti-Chavista opposition—discredited politically in the defeated April coup— prepares to flex its economic muscle in the run-up to the oil lockout to begin in December. Popular reaction to such open threats is resounding, giving rise to a migration paralleling that of 13-A, ...

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Conclusion. Dual Power against the Magical State

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pp. 234-256

In many ways, this people’s history has been a history of the dispersal of a people: the failure of the Venezuelan guerrilla war, a struggle that represented the people in its aspirations but never in its constituency, led to a dispersal of popular forces. This dispersal then gave rise to a period in which a multiplicity of movements and struggles developed autonomously ...


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pp. 272-283


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pp. 257-306


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pp. 307-320

E-ISBN-13: 9780822378938
E-ISBN-10: 0822378930
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822354529
Print-ISBN-10: 0822354527

Page Count: 346
Illustrations: 17 photographs, 1 map
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1