Colombian TV soap gets the boot in Venezuela

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The Colombia television program, ?Chepe Fortuna,? has been pulled off the air in Venezuela. It seems Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez does not appreciate some of the show's political satire. Anchor Marco Werman gets details from journalist Karl Penhaul in Bogota.

MARCO WERMAN: The producer of a Colombian soap opera would have done well to have a bit of insurance, Micro or other side. That's because the program Chepe Fortuna has been pulled off the air in Venezuela. It seems that some of the shows political satire was too harsh for the taste of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. But Colombians soap follows the antics of two sisters, one is named Venezuela. Her dog is little Hugo, and little Hugo is not a very good dog. Journalist Karl Penhaul is in Bogota. So tell us a bit more of what this show Chepe Fortuna is about Karl and how provocative it is?

KARL PENHAUL: Well this show lucky Chepe in English is really centers around the activities of the fisherman Chepe and he dreams of becoming mayor of a coastal town in Colombia. It's pretty much a pretty light, fun soap opera, very much in the Colombian and Mexican vein. But of course then you've got the two sisters Colombia and Venezuela. Now Colombia is a black lady. She is a housemaid, and Venezuela is her sister, and she happens to be the secretary of a shipping company, a somewhat mischievous lady, even prone to small time criminal activities and certainly a very big loud personality. And then she's got this little dog Hugito, and there was no way that this was getting in a play well with the Venezuelan president. And he has really taken this as a huge insult. And now the Venezuelan National Television Commission has ordered episodes of this show to be taken off the air in Venezuela.

WERMAN: OK, let's just get a taste of Chepe Fortuna, at least what it sounds like in this loud brash character of Venezuela.

[audio from the show]

WERMAN: OK. I think we've got a pretty good sense of what this character Venezuela is all about. She is calling that little dog Hugito there, ?little Hugo? in that clip. Now the Telecom Commission in Venezuela said Chepe Fortuna could promote racial, intolerance and incite crime. How do they think a soap opera will incite crime Karl?

PENHAUL: Well, I think first of all you've got to look at kind of the demographic profile of Latin America, and it's fair to say that way more people across Latin America tune in to soap operas than they do to current affairs or news shows. And so by almost osmosis they then become susceptible to the kind of images that are being portrayed in these shows. As far as criminal activity who knows? This seems to be a comment that President Chavez and the National Television Commission have pulled up. What it does seem to incite is possibly racial stereotypes. Again you've got Venezuela being seen as a black lady, Hugo Chavez himself, although he isn't black he is certainly fairly dark skinned, and the Colombians in many senses it seems to see themselves as the better relation in this partnership with the Venezuelans as a kind of a national trait. So certainly it does seem to be divisive. As to exactly how that then would promote crime a different story, although the character of the personality of Venezuela is as I say associated with kind of petty criminal activities including an attempted arson attack on the shipping company where she used to be employed.

WERMAN: You know Karl a Colombian show that has two sisters named Venezuela and Colombia with a dog named Little Hugo, it's seems like a show like this could only affect Hugo Chavez one way. Why do you think the show's creators came up with this in the first place?

PENHAUL: Yeah, I mean they now are trying to claim ignorance and saying that they didn't really want to provoke a fight with Hugo Chavez but that surely is disingenuous. They knew that this was a red rag to a bull. They've really not gone into explaining this. I would suggest if they really wanted to set themselves up as a satirical, political show then they've could quite easily gone and picked a fight with the ruling families who are stockpiling most of the wealth up on the Colombian coast where the show was actually filmed. Of course the owners of RCN are wealthy industrialists themselves unlikely to go and pick a fight with their own kind, and so it seems that they preferred to go and pick a fight with the left leaning president next door, although of course this will have some impact on the network's revenues.

WERMAN: Journalist Karl Penhaul in Bogota, Colombia talking about the satirical soap opera Chepe Fortuna which does not include as one of its big fans Hugo Chavez next door in Venezuela. Karl, thanks so much.

PENHAUL: Thanks so much Marco.