Why one of Venezuela’s most prominent journalists turned to a thriller to tell the story of what’s happening to his country ‹Crime

– Translated by Daniel Hahn

Frustration and liberation.

These two extraordinarily strong emotions were what made me write Two spies in Caracas, my first novel.

The frustration stems from my belief that I did not tell my readers the whole story, the real story of what happened in Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela.

I have been writing newspaper columns, academic articles, books on Venezuela and on President Chávez for more than two decades. About his Bolivarian revolution, his 21st century socialism and about his executions both inside and outside Venezuela.

All of these were analytical works in which I used the best techniques I could find in the social sciences in journalism. For example, use of evidence, verification of data, confirmation of facts using more than one source. Statistical analysis. In short, all the instruments that would give me security and confidence that what I was telling was true.

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But every time I read the finished product – the article, the essay, the book – I had doubts, a strong intuition that I had left out of the story, circumstances and events that were very important. I was missing validation from several sources that would confirm what I thought was true.

All governments keep secrets and act in a horrible, secret way that is hard to perceive from the outside. But in the case of President Chávez’s government, first and then Nicolás Maduros … this tendency to hide their actions and hide what happened reached extraordinary levels.

Only now, decades later, do many of the extraordinary situations that secretly arose in this Caribbean country with the world’s largest oil reserve begin to be made public.

Many things have happened in Venezuela that are not known. These covert actions basically defined the regime of Hugo Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro.

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But also, and this is especially important, the ways in which Hugo Chávez gained and used political power have been exported to other countries and copied by other leaders.

In this sense, Chávez was a pioneer in the adoption and renewal of the tactics that have unfortunately become popular today and whose manifestations we see every day as we read the news of what is happening in different parts of the world.

The point is that Hugo Chávez had an extraordinary success in creating a military autocracy disguised as a progressive democracy.

In the past, dictators were exactly that. Dictators. Without shame, without the need to hide their authoritarian forms of government. Today, this has changed. Democratic scenarios are built where there are parliaments, judges, military and media that present themselves as independent, as autonomous from the government. But they are controlled by this dictator who hides behind a mask of a democracy.

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My research and journalistic work led me to discover symptoms of this incredibly early. In many cases, I have to admit, it was more intuition than proven truth. On a very intimate level, I knew what was going on, but I could not publish it, I just did not have the evidence.

This leads me to the second motivation that drove me to write this novel; my liberation.

I decided to tell the story I knew – the story I had studied – as a work of fiction, as a novel. I decided to throw the links off and write without being rooted in the obligations of a journalist or an essay writer.

Two spies in Caracas is a novel. It is also full of events whose occurrence can be easily verified. All you have to do is look on the Internet, search YouTube or read the newspapers of the day to find them.

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Several of the novel’s protagonists are also historical figures. But many others are products of my imagination. In some cases, however, I also included people I have met but whose identity I have changed.

This novel takes place in a wonderful country. A country that has been looted. I am convinced that the wonders of the country will remain permanent, while the devastation it suffers in these times is temporary. The country will recover and will be able to take on new generations that will give it the love that it has lacked for so long.


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