Hugo Chávez was a unique figure in the world of geopolitics. The Venezuelan president was in office for fourteen years until his death earlier this year and was arguably the most successful communist head of state, ever. Venezuela’s status as one of only two South American countries in OPEC (the other is Ecuador) ensured the possibility for an unusual regime. As a popular communist leader harboring an open hostility to the United States (and especially George W. Bush—I can relate), Chávez was never going to get a fair hearing in the U.S. press. Not to excuse some of the conduct his government perpetrated, but it’s not that easy to be a populist Marxist leader in a neoliberal world.
Starting with his first year in office, Chávez commenced hosting an unscripted talk show, broadcast on both radio and television. It was called Aló Presidente, and it went on the air every Sunday afternoon for nearly 13 years (the show started at 11 am every Sunday and had no fixed ending time; it usually ended around 5 pm most days). The show ran 378 times. He required cabinet ministers to appear on the show and submit to an interview, and he occasionally forged important policy decisions on the program. According to Wikipedia, on the March 2, 2008, show, Chávez “ordered a top general to send ten battalions of troops to the border with Colombia in response to a bombing by Colombian forces inside Ecuador which killed Raúl Reyes, a top member of FARC [Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia].” In the event, the battalions were not deployed.
Below is a generous compilation of some of moments from Aló Presidente. Regardless of your opinion of his politics, it’s difficult not to concede that he wasn’t bad at all at being a talk show host. Of course, running the country probably helps to get people to play along.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Hugo Chavez joins Twitter: Socialist leader’s social media volte-face
‘Christ is with the Revolution’: Watch Hugo Chavez doc, ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’
Remembering Hugo Chavez… particularly that hip-hop marketing campaign