Arts, Culture & Media

The Hugo Chavez show

(Tell us about "Al� Presidente!" and how the president uses it.) It airs every Sunday and there's no time limit but it's usually between 5-8 hours, he talks and he complains and he confides and he sings, he talks about his memories and a kid. It's an intimate look into the life of Chavez. (How many people watch the show?) He thinks the whole world watches it, he claims it has the highest ratings. but in actuality probably about 15,000 people watch it. (Set the scene up for us because he's in front of an audience comprised of his ministers and supporters and it's interactive.) Yes, it's interactive, as much as Chavez wants it to be. All his ministers are there, and some journalists, and most don't want to go but there's a chance they could be fired if they don't come. The ministers are there. They're called upon with no warning and there are some invited journalist which is something to be wary of if you're a journalist. (Critics of "Al� Presidente!" have a hard time with it. this show is used by Chavez to keep his ministers in line and he even uses the show to intimidate people at times.) Absolutely. They're terribly intimidated. He thinks nothing of scolding them in a way that most people wouldn't do privately. When I asked for an interview with Chavez, I was told to come Sunday and I knew that was dangerous. He could do anything with me if I came on a Sunday. This happened to a British journalist who thought he was there to just observe. Chavez ended up calling him out and going on a tirade about all of Europe in front of this journalist. (The bottom line of your film is that Chavez has done little to improve the social ills but at least he's gotten them talked about and out in the open. Is that enough to keep the peace in down there?) An intellectual would say yes, and the poor would too because they're part of the agenda. The problem is his programs don't ever really make sense. No one thought to ever give power to the poor in Venezuela, and at least he thinks to do that.

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.