Foreign Policy Blogs

CIA Factbook Draws Chavez's Ire

President Hugo Chávez is a fan of some books, and an opponent of others. In April of last year he made a very public presentation of Eduardo Galleano’s Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, gifting it to President Barack Obama at the Summit of the Americas. On the other hand, the annual CIA World Factbook is now a book that draws the Venezuelan leader’s ire.

Chávez criticized the latest addition of the World Factbook, focusing on its statement that his government “purports to alleviate social ills while at the same time attacking globalization and undermining regional stability”. In his response he declared that indeed, his goal is to weaken the hegemonic influence of the United States in the region. Chávez considers the World Factbook’s comment a “declaration of war”, once again drawing attention to the high level of tension in the region.

As an aside, the CIA World Factbook is published annually and provides detailed information about the people, economy and political situation of each country. Originally, it arose out of the National Intelligence Survey, a publication intended to systematize intelligence information following World War II. The Factbook was a summary published in classified form in 1962 and publicly in 1975. Interestingly, as evidence of the Cold War’s influence on the Factbook, until around 1990 there was a specific section among the country descriptions that focused on the status of the Communist party.

Speaking of books, the Venezuelan administration restricts imports of some foreign texts. It also established a series of government-sponsored bookstores that are known for their sale of left-leaning and revolutionary texts, and for their low prices. Upon entering one such store I found shelves covering Che Guevara and others dedicated to socialist principles. Alternative viewpoints did not exist – the bookstores appear to be yet another means of controlling information available to the general public.



David D. Sussman

David D. Sussman is currently a PhD Candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University), in Boston, Massachusetts. Serving as a fellow at the Feinstein International Center, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study the lives of Colombian refugees and economic migrants in Caracas, Venezuela. David has worked on a variety of migrant issues that include the health of displaced persons, domestic resettlement of refugees, and structured labor-migration programs. He holds a Masters in International Relations from the Fletcher School, where he studied the integration of Somali and Salvadoran immigrants. David has a B.A. from Dartmouth College and is fluent in Spanish. He has lived in Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela, and also traveled throughout Latin America. In his free time David enjoys reading up on international news, playing soccer, cooking arepas, and dancing salsa casino. Areas of Focus: Latin America; Migration; Venezuela.