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from Photographers' Blog:

A year without the Comandante

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Caracas, Venezuela

By Jorge Silva

March 5, 2014

Once in a great while there comes a day that marks the end of an era. That’s what happened the afternoon Hugo Chavez died.

It was a year ago as I write this blog, and at times I still find it hard to believe. He was such a dominant presence that in the days after his death that it seemed he would appear at any moment on national TV or in a military parade. The months passed and reality sank in. Today Venezuela seems to be a very different country from the one he left behind. It feels as if it happened a long time ago.

Chavez’s death also coincided with my tenth year documenting his controversial Bolivarian Revolution. He was the Revolution’s icon and his bombastic personality was the focus of almost all that we covered during those years. The story of Venezuela and Chavez were one and the same.

Journalistically speaking, it was a sensational story. As a photographer I found him to be a politician who understood the news media well and knew how to manipulate his image through it. He proved that whenever he was giving a speech, playing baseball, or lifting a rifle.

from Breakingviews:

Review: Venezuela’s revolutionary leaves chaos behind

By Ian Campbell

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

“Comandante” sounds like the title of a wide-eyed hagiography. But the book by Rory Carroll, the Guardian’s Venezuela correspondent, is something far more welcome: a clear-eyed account of the whims, machinations and follies of Hugo Chavez, the late Venezuelan leader. It leaves the reader wondering just how the country can find a way forward. The book’s weakness is that the account is far from atmospheric and its structure might have been dreamed up by Chavez’s planning ministry.

from The Great Debate:

Why Latin America (Hearts) Snowden

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Edward Snowden requested political asylum of 20 or more countries across the globe to avoid facing espionage charges in the United States. Though he is now seeking temporary asylum from Russia, where he has been stranded in the Moscow airport, only a few nations, all in Latin America, have been openly receptive to his pleas.

No one should be surprised that Washington’s Latin neighbors are displaying such sympathy for Snowden. The U.S. history of abuse and insult still weighs heavy across the region. Latin American nations cannot resist the impulse to bring discomfort to their northern neighbor -- which has regularly intervened to prop up repressive military regimes or rig elections, even as it touted its own democratic principles. Washington used its power to exploit the wealth of many other countries, while championing free markets. Fortunately, most of this is now history.

from Jack Shafer:

When death comes in installments

"Inconsiderate to the last, Josef Stalin, a man who never had to meet a deadline, had the bad taste to die in installments," wrote New Yorker press critic A.J. Liebling in the magazine's March 28, 1953 issue. His piece deserves rereading every time a Hugo Chávez, a Margaret Thatcher, or now, a Nelson Mandela, drag their feet in their last approaches to their final reward.

The lengthy illness of a former or current world leader tends to agitate the hard-core news hounds. Their attitude: if you're going, please go. As Liebling observed, only 10 percent of the obituary will contain any real news, anyway, the remainder is just a history lesson or clip job. The unexpected and sudden death of a world leader -- preferably one in power -- has greater appeal to the newshound, if only because there’s news in the surprise. Fifty years on, we still hunger for details about John Kennedy's life and death, and Abraham Lincoln's obituaries will never stop entertaining us.

from The Great Debate:

Maduro pressed to drop ‘magic’ focus on ‘realism’

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Nicolas Maduro’s election campaign was rich in magical realism, designed to bedazzle voters.

Banking on sympathy votes after Hugo Chavez died of cancer last month, and confident he would don his mentor’s socialist revolutionary mantle, Maduro conjured visions that blurred fantasy and fact, evoking the genre that Latin American literary giants Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges had popularized.

from The Great Debate:

No matter who wins in Venezuela, Chavez’s legacy is secure

Venezuelans will go to the polls on Sunday to choose a new president. Will Hugo Chavez’s legacy be fleeting? Or will Chavez shape politics and public policy from the grave? What will happen to Chavismo, Chavez’s unique form of state capitalism and paternal socialism?     

On these questions, most analysts have not looked much further than the upcoming election. For many, a victory by Nicolas Maduro is an important signal that the Chavez legacy has legs, while a win by Henrique Capriles would be a message that Chavismo has its challenges.

from The Great Debate:

In Venezuela, an election about the future is haunted by the past

Presidential elections will be held in Venezuela on April 14, pitting Hugo Chavez’s vice president and chosen successor, Nicolas Maduro, against Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate who lost to Chavez in 2012. At stake: whether Chavez’s legacy will continue after his death.

Most analysts see Maduro as the favorite. Many believe the fear of losing the social and economic gains made during the Chavez years will be the most important motivator for voters if Maduro is elected. Others see Maduro gaining from sympathy votes after Chavez’s death. Still others see the electoral timetable as working against the opposition. A short campaign season — two weeks — could favor the government, which has more resources at its disposal. All these perspectives cite recent polling that puts Maduro at about an 18-point advantage over Capriles (see table below).

from Full Focus:

Images of March

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Pope Francis was elected at the Papal conclave, tension rose on the Korean peninsula and President Obama made his first official trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

from The Great Debate:

Post Chavez: Can U.S. rebuild Latin American ties?

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The funeral of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez earlier this month was a massive celebration of a vitriolic foe of the United States. This tribute should make Washington take a fresh look not only at its relations with Venezuela but also with all of Latin America.

Virtually every Latin American country sent a high-level delegation to show its esteem for Chavez, who, during his 14 years in office, regularly vilified the United States, disparaged its leaders and campaigned tirelessly to end the U.S. role in the region. The presidents of Latin America’s six largest nations — including the closest U.S. regional allies, Mexico, Colombia and Chile — traveled to Caracas for the burial ceremonies. Never in Latin America, as many commentators noted, has a deceased leader been given a grander memorial — not even Argentina’s adored Juan Domingo Peron back in 1974.

from The Great Debate:

What will become of Chávez’s gold hoard?

In August 2011, while undergoing cancer treatments that ultimately failed him, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez began withdrawing 160 tons of gold from U.S., European and Canadian banks. “It's coming to the place it never should have left. ... The vaults of the central bank of Venezuela, not the bank of London or the bank of the United States. It's our gold," he said on national television as crowds cheered armored trucks carrying an initial bullion shipment to the central bank.

While Chávez suggested the gold repatriation might forestall a Libya-style seizure of Venezuela’s assets by Western powers he had antagonized, IHS Global Insight analyst Diego Moya-Ocampos told Reuters it might stymie potential claims by foreign corporations seeking compensation for nationalizations they had endured. Central Bank of Venezuela President Nelson Merentes said it was “an act of financial prudence and sovereignty” intended to guard against problems in the international markets.

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