Ramón J. Velásquez, eminence grise of Acción Democrática, has died in Caracas at the age of 97. It’s unfortunate that Velásquez will be remembered by most for his short, ill-starred stint as accidental president following the resignation of Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1992-1993 or, alternatively – in the wake of the publication of Francisco Suniaga’s enormously successful novel, El Pasajero de Truman – for his brief role as Diógenes Escalante’s personal assistant back in the early 1940s.
Both of these are footnotes. In a better world, Velásquez would be remembered as an enormously talented contemporary historian: a prose stylist with a knack for immersing you in the feel of the past hardly matched in Venezuela’s 20th century.
Velásquez’s stunning “Confidencias imaginarias de Juan Vicente Gómez” in particular marked me deeply. Painting a vivid picture of Gómez the man, his political nose, his times, his crimes, his rebellions (and the ones he put down), his achievements and his tortured relationship with Cipriano Castro, the book deserves a much wider audience than it ever found. Today would be a fine day to pick it back up and read through it once more.
(If you can find it: scandalously, it seems to have been out of print for the last two decades.)