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Why One of Venezuela’s Most Prominent Journalists Turned to a Thriller to Tell the Story of What Is Happening to His Country


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—Translated by Daniel Hahn

Frustration and liberation.

These two extraordinarily strong feelings were what prompted me to write Two Spies in Caracas, my first novel. 

The frustration stems from my conviction that I was not telling my readers the complete story, the real story of what was happening in Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela.

I have been writing newspaper columns, academic articles, books about Venezuela and about 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 these were analytical works in which I used the best techniques I could find in social science, in journalism. For example, the use of evidence, the verification of data, the corroboration of facts using more than one source. Statistical analysis. In short, all the instruments that would give me certainty and confidence that what I was telling was true.

But each 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, which were very important. I lacked the validation from multiple sources that would confirm what I thought was true. 

All governments keep secrets and act in a furtive, clandestine manner, difficult to perceive from the outside. But in the case of President Chávez’s government, first, and then Nicolás Maduro’s… this propensity to hide their actions and conceal what was happening reached extraordinary levels. 

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

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

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

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

The point is that Hugo Chávez was extraordinarily successful 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 ways of governing. Today, this has changed. Democratic scenarios are being built in which 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. 

My research and journalistic work led me to detect symptoms of this incredibly early on. In many cases, I must confess it was more intuition than proven truth. On a very intimate level, I knew what was going on, but I couldn’t publish it, I just didn’t 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 that I knew—the story that I had researched—as a work of fiction, as a novel. I decided to cast off the shackles and write without being anchored to the obligations of a journalist or an essay writer. 

Two Spies in Caracas is a novel. It is also full of events whose occurrence is easily verifiable. You only have to look on the Internet, search on YouTube or read them in the newspapers of the time to find them. 

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

This novel takes place in a wonderful country. A country that has been plundered. I am convinced that the wonders of that 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 who will give it the love that it has lacked for so long.

***

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Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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