Thursday, March 16, 2006

A surprise cadena

Things are always grim for the government when they interrupt Alo Ciudadano for a Cadena. Today is not an exception. At 7 PM sharp we got one, the first one at that hour in weeks. It is important to note that Chavez “cadena target” are people from the barrios who in Caracas are not home by 7 PM. The target time for them is soap opera time, after 9 PM, as late as 11 PM. When a cadena is earlier it is almost always a coarse counter propaganda offensive on a string of bad news. At 7 PM the audience is mostly province professionals (like yours truly) who are blessed with less traffic than their Caracas or Valencia counterpart and thus are usually having a drink or fixing dinner while keeping an eye on Alo Ciudadano. That is why when I heard the first notes that announce a cadena I knew that it was for me, and that it was going to be particularly bad today. But before I tell you why I knew that, let me describe the cadena which lasted for about 15 minutes.

It was a series of video clips and “feel good” montages (feel good in a chavista sense of course, which for me is rather puke-inducing). And for those who are coming in late, a cadena is the power that Chavez has to hold ALL TV and Radio broadcast in the country for as long as he wants to, supposedly, transmit important news of national interest. Under Chavez cadenas have become an outright abuse of power as they are his favorite propaganda vehicle, hours a week, with no right of rebuttal from any aggrieved party, and certainly not on the state owned airwaves.

In no particular order, the assortment of video clips:
An opening time was the march for women’s day against the US embassy. We got even ministers giving totally inappropriate comment, and of course plenty of woman praising Chavez as a peace loving president and what not. It was outrageous even for an Iraq war opponent like me. To think that Chavez who is sinking billions in weapons can be called a peace loving man is simply … publishable words fail me

In that utterly cheap nationalistic tone, beyond chauvinist, Chavez cited some poll that said that in the world the only people that are more proud of their country than Venezuelans are the US citizens. That is right, you heard it. And no, I will not even deign to waste time to check out if such a poll, not even worthy of People’ magazine exists.

The new National symbols were of course promoted with almost teary eyed people ecstatic that finally the eight star of Bolivar was on the flag. And I will pass of the video of a white stallion galloping… All of course under very famous patriotic Venezuelan music, Alma Llanera as often as possible under syrupy (elevatorishly like?) accords.

Outright support and adulation were frequent. But more incensing was a paternalistic Chavez kissing and blowing kisses wherever he could, preferably to dark skinned women and babies or children.
Is this the first message of William Lara as the new communication minister? Lord have mercy!

But why such an outrageous cadena? In now particular order:

The Church and even a rather pro Chavez group, Ojo Electoral have basted the CNE delays and dodging.

The European Union report, even if diplomatically not as bad for Chavez as it could have been, and even managing to scold the opposition actions, is still a grave indictment on the CNE responsibilities as to the political problems today in Venezuela. It is clear, from their recommendation, the EU will not be a nice guest next time and I bet that no invitation will be issued by Chavez (more on this later)

The attacks on journalists have been increasing. In barely a week two are in jail and two have their trial about to start. Ibeyise Pacheco’s turn was today (more on that brave woman later though she should be the leading story tonight).

But that is not the worst. In an amazing moment, during the state visit of Tabare Vasquez of Uruguay, Chavez was forced to accept a press conference where opposition journalist were allowed to ask the tough questions that are NEVER asked by the sold out chavista journalists. One from RCTV asked a plain question: “why does it make sense for the Venezuelan government to pay 10 million dollars for a bankrupt cooperative bank in Uruguay?”. Heck, like everyone else in Venezuela, and at tax time at that, this journalist wanted to know how her tax money went around. Chavez replied evasively and cliché like (South America integration). He made long pauses, visibly containing himself. But at the end he could not and erupted in a string of accusations against the journalist and RCTV. All of this in front of president Vasquez and the world press. The flack against Chavez has been great, his utter vulgarity and intolerance once again demonstrated without need of any commentary. But Francia Marques is probably wondering how long before she is also indicted for doing her job.

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