Thursday, 19 November 2009

The eternal campaign: from North to South, from East to West

The president of Venezuela is famous/notorious for his Aló Presidente programme, a kind of reality show broadcast on Venezuelan state television and radio every Sunday. It lasts for hours, on average about 5 hours but often more. All ministers have to be present during the show. The show takes place most of the time in the interior. I don't know the number of people involved in the whole event but there must be at least 300 and most probably twice as many, with ministers, advisors, camera men, logistics, local honchos and security.

Now, imagine the effect of that number of well-paid people arriving for a day, some sleeping over for a night in a very poor municipality like Rómulo Gallegos, with some 24000 inhabitants. The president usually announces in his show a series of new projects, many of which end up becoming new air castles but many that make (or used to make) humble people hope.

A red point moving in the maps below shows the places in Venezuela where Hugo had his Aló Presidente in 2008 and 2009 (until early November).

Aló Pressidente 2008
the greener the municipality, the more densily populated it is.

These trips do not include the trips he does when he is in "formal" campaign mode. He was in such a mode last year for the regional elections and this one for his second referendum on the topic of no term limits (in a presidential system).

Aló Presidente 2009

His ambassadors and other supporters abroad often claim the opposition in Venezuela controls the airwaves, but in reality Globovisión, a bad but critical TV channel and Venezuelan version of Fox News, is the only real TV channel that really offers a critical view. I agree with Juan from Caracas Chronicles, in thinking Globovisión often does more harm than good to the opposition. I think Globovision is the government's Potemkin village. Almost no one abroad knows that Globo can only be watched in the capital, in Valencia and in those houses elsewhere with cable TV. That makes for some 30% of the population (reliable numbers are hard to get, but it should be about that). Venezuelans read very little and regime-critical newspapers have a total circulation that reaches even less people, mostly in urban areas. VTV and Telesur, though, reach every corner of Venezuela.

The opposition has less and less money at its disposal. The government uses methods to attack the opposition that are anything but kosher. Still, if the opposition is to conquer the rural spaces and it has to, it needs to take into account how the governmental campaign is going on. The opposition must analyze what the government is trying to make and think ahead. It needs to go to those areas, humbly listen time after time to what people there have to say, think intelligently and then propose solutions and plans that let people hope for a change.

It needs to present a new proposal, one that is easy to grasp but not populistic, one that includes and tells Venezuelans it is possible for us to transform Venezuela into a prosperous, developed nation.

PS. My guess for next weeks is that Hugo will now visit one or two rural states in the East and South.
PS2 There are ways the opposition can reach the rural areas with little money: send the students, use flyers, go to the bus stations, distribute the information. But still: an honest study of the needs of every region needs to take place firstly.
PS3 I wrote a post in Spanish here about the same topic, with some other details. There you can see also a map of Venezuela with municipalities, governments and where Aló Presidente has tajeb place in 2009


  1. I really would like to know how much each of those sessions costs. I mean: to transport hundreds of people to a municipality in Apure, with all the cameras and facilities, must cost many thousands of books for the (non-existent) municipality library.

  2. I guess its safe to say know that Aló Presidente has oficially replaced the National Assembly as the place where most of the legislative decitions of the nation are made. Often (sadly) at whim.

  3. It is true. I think Alo Presidente replaced the Executive cabinet as soon as it started (Hugo never accepted a place where he had to listen to other people) and it replaced the Asamblea Naciona at the latest in 2005 when the opposition leaders decided not to take part in the National Assembly elections.

    Let's see what happens next year. My impression is that the National Assembly will emasculate itself before the opposition gets in, even if we won't get as many seats as we should due to the massive gerrymandering and other tricks ahead.


1) Try to be constructive and creative. The main goal of this blog is not to bash but to propose ideas and, when needed, to denounce
2) Do not use offensive language
3) Bear in mind that your comments can be edited or deleted at the blogger's sole discretion
4) If your comment would link back to a site promoting hatred of ethnic groups, nations, religions or the like, don't bother commenting here.
5) Read point 4 again