Dragon in the Tropics

Venezuela and the Legacy of Hugo Chavez

Javier Corrales, Michael Penfold
Release Date: April 2, 2015

This new and expanded edition of Dragon in the Tropics—the widely acclaimed account of how president Hugo Chávez (1999–2013) revamped Venezuela’s political economy—examines the electoral decline of Chavismo after Chavez’s death and the policies adopted by his successor, Nicolás Maduro, to cope with the economic chaos inherited from previous radical populist policies. Corrales and Penfold argue that Maduro has had to struggle with the inherent contradictions of a large and heterogeneous social coalition, a declining oil sector, the strength of entrenched military interests, and fewer resources to appease international allies, which have strenghtened the autocratic features of an already consolidated hybrid regime. In examining the new political realities of Venezuela, the authors offer lessons on the dynamics of succession in hybrid regimes. This book is a must-read for scholars and analysts of Latin America.

Praise for the first edition

“Easily the best scholarly treatment of Hugo Chávez’s hybrid electoral autocracy, Corrales and Penfold’s book courageously refutes orthodox explanations—from the right and the left—for this unique caudillo’s rise and resilience. . . . This masterful monograph’s dissection of Chávez’s astoundingly shrewd political tactics will be carefully studied by both his well-wishers and his detractors.”
—Richard Feinberg, Foreign Affairs


Javier Corrales is the John E. Kirkpatrick 1951 Professor of Political Science at Amherst College and the author of Presidents without Parties: The Politics of Economic Reform in Argentina and Venezuela in the 1990s (Penn State Press, 2002).

Michael Penfold is professor of political economy and former dean of the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administracion in Caracas and the author of Dos Tradiciones, Un Conflicto: El Futuro de la Descentralización (Debates, 2009).

Media Coverage

The Guardian 31/01/2019

The best books to understand what is happening in Venezuela

Financial Times 29/01/2019

Seven books that help explain Venezuela’s current crisis

Book review: “Dragon in the Tropics: Venezuela and the Legacy of Hugo Chavez”