Saturday, November 22, 2008

Frontline on Chavez: The Hugo Chavez show

I have been told about the Frontline report on Chavez coming up next week in PBS, but already up on the web. Unfortunately in San Felipe my broadband is hardly better than a good dial up on a good day. I have watched its chapters anyway, this whole evening before the election, and it is excellent. They have talked to the right people (and read certain blogs that shall remain nameless?).

My sole criticism, and a light one, was for the third segment. They did not quite get April 2002. They started that segment on Caracas poverty with a Direct TV antenna in the middle of the shanty they were filming. We would see more of these Direct TV dishes when they discuss the RCTV closing. No comments on that but viewers will be able to figure it themselves, I hope anyway. But they get so many things right that we can forgive them not to understand the legend woven April 2002. For example, they are clear about oil nationalized in 1976 and not as the PSF of the world want us to think: by Chavez in 2003. They also bring the boliburguesia "boligarchs" through its biggest figure, Ruperti. Very unflattering portrait. Discretely but surely they show that business sweet deals with he government is still at the core of Venezuela, revolution or not.... I loved it!

The cooperative chapter is brilliant. They compare the textile one that is shown to "political tourists" while they are sewing bunches of red clothing! And after they show a real cooperative, of the kind not shown to visitors, left on its own, without any business training, left to a slow death. And the end of that chapter they go on to housing construction cooperatives; we see the guy that is still waiting to get paid while the "la Suiza" subsidized development lays idle, stopped on its track once Chavez monitored the inauguration of the first building and moved on to some new interest. Fabulous! With savaged tractor bonus!

The chapter on freedom of expression is excellent at illustrating how freedom of expression is still exerted at least by some within the opposition (the self censorship issue is not addressed) but showing how such freedom of expression does not exist within chavismo ranks. We get two examples of awful scolding of chavista supporters, an activist humiliated in an Alo Presidente and Eleazar Diaz Rangel who shows to us that he accepts his scolding as the abject sycophant he has become. It is amazing that Diaz Rangel would have thought that he would have fooled Frontline with such lame excuses!!! But what is better is that Teodoro Petkoff explains clearly how the terrorizing of his supporters is an effective weapon for Chavez to control them. Fascism anyone?

The sketch on the general scolding in Barinas during an Alo Presidente is almost alien. The discomfiture of his ministers and local notables is pathetic. Colette Capriles tells us how Alo Presidente is used to show Chavez making all the good decisions while making sure that all believe his staff responsible for the bad ones. (my note: Yeah, it works up to a point because eventually people start wondering about why Chavez cannot get good help). That sketch is going to be devastating in the US where management principles are held seriously by employees and boss alike. I sure hope, if anything, that Obama watches that single minute of the show. As a contrast on how he is running his transition it cannot get any better!

Frontline also gets with simplicity to the Tascon list business without even needing to name the little man. Simply, a list came out and was used to destroy careers, showing how dangerous it was to oppose the bolivarian revolution. Clean, to the point, eliciting interest for the audience to find more about the subject. Quality documentary at work. No wonder Izarrita already protested the Frontline show. Wait for next Tuesday when it hits US TV.

There are other goodies too, such as when Rory Caroll was duly insulted in an Alo Presidente, with Europe along the way, by Chavez (which was also one of my memorable 2007 posts by the way, giving me the motivation to create that wonderful common project for readers to discuss the constitutional reform). Frontline points out that the Guardian is a "Liberal paper" to make sure that the US audience understands well that chavismo has long ceased to have anything to do with Liberal issues.

And they also get a teary interview of a victim from kidnapping and how his family did not get ANY help from officials. Never mind the pharmacist who runs his business behind a self imposed cage.

The show ends with the frame of two texts. Before it discussed the NO victory and the refusal by Chavez to gracefully acknowledge defeat. This was probably the time at which the documentary was run. Since then it went under editing but more things happened and FRONTLINE ends the documentary with two texts.

In the summer of 2008 Chavez used a
special enabling act to push through 26 new laws,
12 of which had been part of the rejected reform.

In the local and regional elections to be held
on November 23, 2008, Chavez barred hundreds
of opposition candidates from running.

There, no allusions, no hints, Frontline says it all with facts, images and words, too many from Chavez himself to allow anyone to deny the conclusion. The Venezuelan embassy will have a conniption fit.

By all means, watch it and make sure as many acquaintances of yours watch it too. It will be shown on US TV on November 25. The Internet site also carries a Spanish language version. I have not checked how well translated it is but there is no reason to doubt that it will be good too.

The interview with the director/producer, Ofra Bikel, is well worth reading too. She does observe curiously:

It's one country in which almost no one speaks English -- and I'm talking about editors, writers and journalists even, which is very unusual in Latin America.

Another thing is that there was nobody there who expressed any fondness for the United States in the way that you find in other countries.


-The end-

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