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

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."


Squatter City

Every day, Venezuelan newspapers across the political spectrum publish front-page articles on the most recent invasiones, the illegal occupation of property by squatters. In Caracas, invasions often begin with swift, surreptitious, and sometimes armed overnight raids. In the city's downtown, squatters militantly occupy condemned or vacant buildings, the empty rooms suddenly packed with families. On the fringes of the city, they descend onto undeveloped land and quickly build rough cinderblock houses, their work spreading out in concentric circles around older, established neighborhoods. Some squatters even set up tents alongside filthy sewage drains or garbage heaps.