Here you'll get a flavour of my book on Hugo Chavez and the background to Venezuela's current agony. 

Also Available in Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, Polish and Estonian.


Hugo Chávez wanted to make history and be remembered. Six years after his death his name and legacy are making global headlines – all bad.

Chávez's creation, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is unravelling. The economy has imploded. There is not enough food or medicine. Millions have fled to other countries. Millions more have taken to the streets to demand the resignation of Chavez's handpicked successor, Nicolás Maduro. The head of the national assembly, Juan Guaidó, has proclaimed himself president. Many foreign government recognise him. There is talk of military intervention, even civil war. The country with the world's biggest oil reserves, as fertile as it is beautiful, now a disaster. Yes, Hugo Chavez made history.

Here is the riddle: The comandante carved his revolution and paved the road to debacle while winning elections. Millions of Venezuelans adored him as an enlightened liberator. So did many foreigners. In his heyday Americans, Europeans, Africans and Asians flocked to Caracas to laud Chavez and study his rule. Many were educated and sophisticated - academics, writers, politicians, activists, movie directors. They became convinced that in this corner of South America something extraordinary, something wonderful, was happening. Now, hungry people are pulling down his statues..

I had a ringside seat to one of history's great conjurings. The working title of this book was The Illusionist, drawing on a prophetic insight from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who met Chavez at the outset of his rule. How did Chavez do it? How did he seduce not just a nation but a significant chunk of world opinion? Comandante shows how he did it.

I was based in Caracas as the Guardian's Latin America bureau chief from 2006 - 2012. Chávez died on March 5 2013, two days before this book was published in the US and UK. I returned to cover his funeral and updated the last chapter for the e-book, English paperback and foreign language editions.

Venezuela's deepening agony provides a tragic epilogue.

US edition by The Penguin Press
US edition by The Penguin Press

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UK edition by Canongate
UK edition by Canongate

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US edition by The Penguin Press
US edition by The Penguin Press

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Carroll’s book should serve as a useful reminder of what el Comandante did and didn’t achieve, how he got away with it and the danger of statesmen-as-showmen whose promises are too good to be true. —THE NEW YORK TIMES often do we come across a book of non-fiction in which virtually every sentence, not just every page, carries an unexpected image or evocative turn of phrase? Carroll takes the prize on this count. —THE FINANCIAL TIMES​

The best things in Rory Carroll’s fine, timely book are the small details: that dripping lift, the law passed to make the horse on the nation’s coat-of-arms face left, the panic among flunkeys when Mr Chávez briefly decided that there was too much red around and started wearing yellow. These snippets, collected by Mr Carroll... are woven into a compelling story that comes close to answering the riddle of Mr Chávez. —THE ECONOMIST​​

...nowhere is Carroll’s portrait more fascinating than in his account of Chavez winning the presidency in 1999, his subsequent, ubiquitous presence on television and his careful fashioning of Chavismo — a ferocious brand of anti-capitalism with a folksy smile — a cult that is unique in the annals of Latin America. ​ —​WASHINGTON POST




Student protest venezuela genesis
 Venezuela: chaos and thuggery take the place of the pretty revolution


Beauty queen Génesis Carmona is driven away after being fatally shot during a demonstration. Photograph: Mauricio Centeno/AP.   


Hugo Chávez used to call it la revolución bonita (the pretty revolution), but the world looked at Venezuela last week and saw only ugliness.Protesters gunned down in the streets, barricades in flames, chaos. One of the dead was a 22-year-old beauty queen shot in the head.With the government censoring and cowing TV reports, many of the images came from smartphones, grainy and jerky snippets filled with smoke and shouts. One fact loomed through them all: Chavismo, a hybrid system of democracy and autocracy built on populism, petro-dollars and quasi-socialism, was reaping the consequences of misrule.

Demonstrations in Caracas, Valencia, Mérida and other cities turned lethal, with student-led rallies provoking a fierce backlash from National Guard units and paramilitaries. They roared on motorcycles into "enemy" neighbourhoods, guns blazing. Families piled mattresses against windows to shield against bullets.” more

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