VENEZUELAN politics have been Rómulo Betancourt's life for the past 30 years, and for 21 of them he has been forced to live and work either outside the law or outside Venezuela. In his nine years of legal politicking, he built Acción Democrática, the strongest popular political party Venezuela has ever known, and served as the country's provisional President for two years. In office he worked out the world's first 50-50 government-company split of oil profits and oversaw the first truly free election in Venezuelan history. Last week, after the second free election, Betancourt was President again.

First Exile. The son of...

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