Chavez treats viewers to four days of himself
Marathon broadcast marks 10th anniversary of Venezuelan President's show
Saturday 30 May 2009
If anyone in Venezuela is wondering what their leader is up to this weekend, they need only turn on their television sets. More than likely, it will be Hugo Chavez himself who will fill the screen, alternately expounding on the wonders of his socialist 'Bolivarian' revolution and excoriating his enemies and critics.
Normally this is a ritual reserved for Sundays, when Mr Chavez takes to the airwaves on state radio and TV to commune with the citizenry of his oil-exporting nation. His programme, Alo Presidente, has been known to last as long as eight hours. But to mark the 10th anniversary of the show, Mr Chavez has pushed the broadcast boat out further than ever. On Thursday morning, he began a four-day marathon edition, which will end late Sunday. There are breaks, but only the President himself knows when.
"We're starting in the sunshine. We'll probably have a programme in the rain," he said, opening the marathon edition from a new electricity plant. "We might have an episode at midnight, in the early morning. Keep an eye out." He then proceeded to speak for 30 minutes about sardine production, to offer sex education tips to an invited group of schoolchildren and bemoan his expanding girth.
Mr Chavez has been relentless in his use of television to bombard Venezuelans with his musings. Even in 1992 when he was an army colonel and was defeated in a failed coup, he agreed to give up only after being offered time on national TV to air his grievances.
It is a strategy that has been emulated by other Latin American leaders, including Bolivia's Evo Morales and Ecuador's Rafael Correa. Fidel Castro, the former President of Cuba, is a fan too. We know this because he said so in a column this week, which Mr Chavez read out to his viewers. "Never has a revolutionary idea made use of a medium of communication with such efficiency," Mr Castro offered.
The unprecedented four-day slog is, however, drawing attention to the continuing pressure exerted by Mr Chavez on channels that dare to criticise him. Two years ago, he refused to re-issue a broadcast licence to a private channel he said had helped foment a failed coup against him in 2002. More immediately, the President seems intent on closing down another critical non-state station, Globovision TV.
Indeed, he shared his irritation with Globovision with anyone who was watching his show on Thursday. "If what has to happen does not happen in the correct institutions then I will have to act like I have had to on previous occasions," he said darkly.
It is a long time since the first installment of Alo Presidente on 23 May 1999, when Mr Chavez had a fit when producers insisted on making up his face. "What would my people think? I thought. Makeup?" he recalled of that moment. But over these four days, Venezuelans are being treated to something, he himself says, the likes of which "has never been seen before". And history shows that when the unpredictable President tells them to stay tuned, they do in their millions. Because no one ever knows what he will do or say next.
- 2 Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
- 3 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Who should I vote for? The Independent quiz matches best political party for undecided voters ahead of the general election
Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian combined with near-naked ensemble
Syria's 'circle of hell': Aleppo residents describe children without heads, streets filled with blood and injuries never before witnessed by surgeons
General Election 2015: Photographic history of Bullingdon Club tracked down - including new picture of David Cameron in his finery
In defence of liberal democracy
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...
£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...