Chavez treats viewers to four days of himself

Marathon broadcast marks 10th anniversary of Venezuelan President's show

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.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

SThree: Recruitment Consultant - IT

£25000 - £30000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Sthree are looking fo...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before