In This Review

International Mediation in Venezuela
International Mediation in Venezuela
By Jennifer McCoy,Francisco Diez
United States Institute of Peace Press, 2011, 320 pp

Between 2002 and 2004, a period of dangerous political polarization in Venezuela, McCoy and Diez were members of a team from the Carter Center that negotiated between President Hugo Chávez and the Venezuelan opposition. The international mediation successfully channeled political energies away from potential violence and toward peaceful constitutional voting, although tensions remained after Chávez defeated a recall referendum and reaffirmed his executive powers in 2004. The book is smartly analytic, full of valuable lessons learned, and often self-critical; it is also a spirited defense of the Carter Center’s role in the standoff. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is lauded for his personal capacity to build trust with all parties, including Chávez. In contrast, the then secretary-general of the Organization of American States, César Gaviria, is portrayed as inflexible and distant. To justify the Carter Center’s endorsement of the recall vote, the authors detail the postelection scrutiny of the balloting procedures. They concede that as mediators, they should not have taken on the additional, delicate task of election monitoring. But their generally favorable commentary on Chávez’s leadership and social-transformation agenda and their repeated criticisms of his opponents will confirm in some minds the oft-alleged pro-Chávez tilt of the center’s mission.