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Brian A. Nelson

Brian A. Nelson first arrived in Venezuela in 1988 as an AFS high school exchange student and has lived there for many years. In 2002 he received a Fulbright grant to study Venezuela’s cultural transformation under Hugo Chávez. His essay “One Crowded Hour,” from the Fall 2007 issue of VQR, was later expanded into The Silence and the Scorpion: The Coup Against Chávez and the Making of Modern Venezuela.


The Education of Hugo Chávez: Unraveling Venezuela’s Revolutionary Path

Spring 2011 | Essays

In the spring of 1999, newly-elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez sent a letter to a man serving a life sentence in a French prison. Chávez addressed the prisoner (who is Venezuelan by birth) as a "distinguished compatriot," and closed by writing, "With profound faith in our cause and our mission, now and forever!" The prisoner's name was Ilich Ramírez, known to the world as Carlos the Jackal, the international terrorist who carried out an amazing string of bombings, hijackings, and assassinations throughout Europe and the Middle East in the seventies and eighties. Chávez has called the Jackal "a good friend" and is pushing to extradite him back to Venezuela. "I defend him," Chávez said recently. "I don't care what they say tomorrow in Europe."


One Crowded Hour

It didn’t register that the noise was gunfire. Inside that maelstrom of sound and motion, Mike Merhi assumed it was only the reverberations of firecrackers set off by the other protestors. The march was only a few blocks from the presidential pa [...]