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The Threat Closer to Home: Hugo Chávez and the War Against America - The Book, The Caudillo and the Challenge

Recorded on February 25, 2009

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

Venezuela's caudillo [strongman] President Hugo Chávez has his sights set on an extended stay in executive office well beyond the possibilities of even a second Obama Administration.  Like his hero Fidel Castro, Chávez aspires to remain a thorn in the side for multiple U.S. presidents.  With his Bolivarian Revolution and "socialism for the 21st Century," Chávez has harnessed Venezuela's abundant oil wealth to pay for socialist experimentation at home and lavish subsidies for the like-minded in Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua.  He advocates Latin America's independence from U.S. overseas influence and fosters establishment of a global, anti-American coalition with Iran, Russia and others.  The Obama Administration has yet to speak on the topic, emitting before January 20 mixed signals ranging from hope of conciliation to tough talk about Chávez's authoritarian tendencies and dubious friends.  Forging a realistic policy for managing the Chávez "threat" will be a fundamental challenge for the Obama foreign policy team.     

Michael Rowan is co-author along with Douglas E. Schoen of The Threat Closer to Home: Hugo Chávez and the War Against America published this year by Simon & Schuster.  Rowan is a political consultant and newspaper columnist who lived in Caracas from 1993 to 2006.  A Democrat, he is former president of the International Association of Political Consultants with campaign experience in 14 nations since 1970.  In Venezuela's presidential campaign of 2006, he was the strategist for Governor Manuel Rosales.

Ambassador Otto Reich served as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs (2001-2002) and Special Envoy for Western Hemisphere Initiatives (2002-2004).  During Reagan-Bush years, he was U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela (1986-1989), a Special Advisor to the Secretary of State and director of the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean (1983-1986), and Assistant Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in charge of U.S. economic assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean (1981-83).