American Consequences - August 2020

THE GREAT AMERICAN

crowd, like an old-fashioned, charismatic televangelist. One of the best I’d seen. But once again, his handlers had explained that the interview would only happen if he finished on time. And if not, “tomorrow.” As I looked at my watch, I realized that would take a near miracle. I’d been hearing variations of his speech over the last several days... each time praying he’d end on time... After all, this wasn’t the first time I had heard this “tomorrow, tomorrow” refrain from the office at Miraflores. Seven years earlier, my Goldman Sachs colleagues had tried to secure a meeting with the newly elected president... It was my first job in finance on Wall Street. And my emerging markets group was trading sovereign debt securities. This is effectively a measurement of a country’s credit worthiness... so it’s heavily reliant on the country’s politics and policies. We focused on Asia and Latin America – primarily Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela. I was tasked with gathering and discerning all the political and economic news out of Latin America in order to help clients determine how the events would affect where sovereign debt was trading. And in the summer of 1999, one of the stories we paid a lot of attention to was the newly elected Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. As the Washington Post reported at the time:

of my visit, Chavez embarked on a massive push to nationalize businesses and properties, kicking most foreign oil companies out of Venezuela. I had traveled to Caracas that summer on assignment to cover the 2006 OPEC meeting for the CBS Evening News . And after speaking with numerous dignitaries, including the Venezuelan OPEC minister, I hoped to return home with an interview from the then- president of Venezuela. His office had given the go-ahead for the interview. And my contacts at the Caracas presidential palace, called Miraflores Palace, promised something as early as the next day. I wrote down the time and place, then unpacked my last suit. After several days of reporting from OPEC, it was the only clean one I had left. “I’ll be there!” I promised as I hung up the phone. “In a red suit.” ‘PRUDENT ECONOMIC POLICIES’ Four days later, I had still not spoken a word to Chavez... Instead, I followed him from place to place, speech to speech, as he carried on from his pulpit. Forty minutes into his historical catalogue of the nation, we had made it to the 1700s. I’ll give him this, Chavez was a gifted orator. He punctuated his themes with humor, with storied vignettes and emotion, utilizing his full range of voice... all while playing to the

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August 2020

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