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January 21, 2013

Venezuela under the New Yorker microscope in 'Slumlord'

Venezuela is getting the Jon Lee Anderson treatment in the Jan. 28 issue of the New Yorker.

Anderson has had the chance to interview Chávez on several occasions and was in Cuba in 1999 when the newly-elected president traveled to Havana and played nine-innings with Fidel.

In this 12-page spread, titled Slumlord - What has Hugo Chavez wrought in Venezuela, Anderson spends much of his time studying how the administration’s lax regulations and socialist ideology have led to a massive squatter’s movement and soaring crime.

José Argenis, the leader of Caracas’ El Milagro invasion, tells Anderson “This government has been more permissive—previous governments were more repressive. And so the cultura malandra”—the thug culture—“ has flourished, and it has gone out from the prisons to the schools, to the universities, to the streets. It has become the national culture.”

It appears Anderson was in Caracas in November, shortly after Chávez won his third six-year term, but he didn’t get the chance to meet with the ailing leader, who has been in holed up in a Cuban hospital since Dec. 10.

For the Venezuelans who continually voted for him, Chávez’s possible death “represents the end of a long and enthralling performance,” Anderson writes. “They gave him power, in one election after another: they are the victims of their affection for a charismatic man, whom they allowed to become the central character on the Venezuelan stage, at the expense of everything else.”

The full article, which requires a subscription, can be found here.

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jim wyss

Inside South America is written by Jim Wyss, the South America bureau chief for the Miami Herald and McClatchy Newspapers.

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