Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America’s Soul by Michael Reid

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Latin America has often been condemned to failure. Neither poor enough to evoke Africa’s moral crusade, nor as explosively booming as India and China, it has largely been overlooked by the West. Yet this vast continent, home to half a billion people, the world’s largest reserves of arable land, and 8.5 percent of global oil, is busily transforming its political and economic landscape. This book argues that rather than failing the test, Latin America’s efforts to build fairer and more prosperous societies make it one of the world’s most vigorous laboratories for capitalist democracy. In many countries, including Brazil, Chile and Mexico, democratic leaders are laying the foundations for faster economic growth and more inclusive politics, as well as tackling deep-rooted problems of poverty, inequality, and social injustice. They face a new challenge from Hugo Chavez’s oil-fueled populism, and much is at stake. Failure will increase the flow of drugs and illegal immigrants to the United States and Europe, jeopardize stability in a region rich in oil and other strategic commodities, and threaten some of the world’s most majestic natural environments. Drawing on Michael Reid’s many years of reporting from inside Latin America’s cities, presidential palaces, and shantytowns, the book provides a vivid, immediate, and informed account of a dynamic continent and its struggle to compete in a globalized world.

Forgotten Continent: The Battle for Latin America’s Soul

The Silence and the Scorpion: The Coup Against Chavez and the Making of Modern Venezuela by Brian A. Nelson

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On April 11, 2002, nearly a million Venezuelans marched on the presidential palace to demand the resignation of Hugo Chavez. The opposition represented a cross-section of society furious with Chavez’s economic policies, specifically his mishandling of Venezuelan oil. As the day progressed, the march turned violent, sparking a military revolt that led to the temporary ousting of Chavez. Over the ensuing turbulent seventy-two hours, Venezuelans would confront the deep divisions within their society and ultimately decide the best course for their country–and its oil–in the new century.
Drawing on unprecedented reporting, Nelson renders a mesmerizing account of the coup. An “Economist” Book of the Year, “The Silence and the Scorpion” provides rich insight into the complexities of modern Venezuela.

The Silence and the Scorpion: The Coup Against Chavez and the Making of Modern Venezuela

Tree of Rivers: The Story of the Amazon by John Hemming

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This enthralling book brilliantly describes the passionate struggles that have taken place in order to utilize, protect and understand the wonder that is the Amazon. Hemmings riveting account recalls the adventures and misadventures down the centuries of the explorers, missionaries, indigenous Indians, naturalists, rubber barons, scientists, anthropologists, archaeologists, political extremists, prospectors and many more, who have been in thrall to the Amazon, the largest river in the world, with the greatest expanse of tropical rain forest and most luxuriant biological diversity on earth.

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Viva South America!: A Journey Through A Restless Continent by Oliver Balch

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Simón Bolívar once inspired a continent to rise from its serfdom and throw off the shackles of Spanish rule, setting the course for independence, freedom and equality. ¡Viva South America! sets out to discover if that dream lives on. Is it fair to describe a land as ‘independent’ while poverty still enslaves millions, where violence lurks in the shadows and where lawlessness gnaws away at progress? Did the Liberators fail? Or are leaders such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales resurrecting those long-ago ideals? Armed with a reporter’s notebook and an open mind, the author hits the road in search of answers. With the ghost of Bolívar as guide, the quest takes the reader off the tourist trail and into the weird and wonderful worlds of South American culture and society. By stepping into people’s homes and into inmates’ prison cells, by climbing onto dance floors and over road blocks, Oliver Balch unearths untold stories from the front line of South America’s contemporary fight for freedom.
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In The Shadow Of Papillon: Seven Years Of Hell In Venezuela’s Prison System by Frank Zane and John Tilsley

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Following the collapse of his business and the loss of his home, Frank Kane made a catastrophic decision. In desperation, he agreed to smuggle cocaine out of Venezuela. Almost inevitably, he and his girlfriend, Sam, were caught.
The price they paid was a ten-year sentence in the hell of the overcrowded Venezuelan prison system, notorious for corruption and abuse, and rife with weapons and gangs. At one point, Frank was held in the remote El Dorado prison, better known for being the one-time home of Henri Charrière, or Papillon. He witnessed countless murders as gang leaders fought for power, and he had to become as ruthless as his fellow inmates in order to survive. In an attempt to dull the reality of the horrendous conditions, he succumbed to drugs.
After enduring years of systematic beatings by the guards and attempts on his life by inmates, Frank suffered more than one breakdown. He lost over four stone and was riddled with disease, but somehow he found the strength within himself to survive and was eventually released in 2004 after serving over seven years of his sentence. During the long walk back from hell, Frank decided to tell his story.
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