Loving Hugo Chávez’ bit from Auto-Tune the News #9 made me go back and watch an old episode of PBS’ Frontline I first saw last year. “The Hugo Chávez Show” documents Chávez’ rise from the military ranks and idealism of the Bolivarian movement to become President of Venezuela, all the while dancing like frenemies with the media. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in South America, international politics, or media history. Here’s a preview…
The program, which can be viewed in its entirety here in either English or Spanish, pays particular attention to Chávez’ weekly television program Aló Presidente. AP is an unusual show in many ways. First of all, it has no definite ending time. Chávez basically just talks and talks for however long he wants—usually around five hours. Mostly it is unscripted, so you never know when President Chávez is going to switch topics, a fact that has his cabinet on pins and needles throughout the program. Often Chávez will call on one of them out of nowhere—they’re all expected to attend each taping in its entirety—and grill them about the finer points of the Venezuelan state. Give the wrong answer and you might find yourself out of a cabinet post the next day. The location of the show also often changes. So you might as easily get Chávez preaching from a stage as singing in the streets of Caracas or taking a helicopter tour of a construction site.
(Chávez breaks into song.)
All this continues to be relevant for the Americas. Take the most recent flare up over the Falkland Islands, which the Argentines call las islas Malvinas. If you haven’t heard (which wouldn’t be surprising if, like me, you live in the sexy pork obsessed United States), a British oil company has started drilling operations near the islands recently. This lit up the Argentine government. While the islands are considered part of the United Kingdom by many governments and the vast majority of the islands’ inhabitants, Argentina has made claim to them ever since its independence from Spain. This led to a brief but nasty war in 1982 between Britain and Argentina that still simmers. Meanwhile, fellow South American Hugo Chávez is obvious about his feelings on the topic and uses his television program as a pulpit: Give them back, Queeny; the empire is over. Situations like this make me glad I don’t work in international relations.