Venezuela Celebrates 10 Years of “Hello President” Show with 4 Day Long Program

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's live Sunday TV show where he launches government initiatives, analyses topical international and national issues, and talks with Venezuelans around the country, is currently celebrating ten years of broadcasting with a four day marathon show.

President Hugo Chavez marking 10 years of “Hello President” (MINCI)

Mérida, May 29th 2009 ( — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s live Sunday TV show where he launches government initiatives, analyses topical international and national issues, and talks with Venezuelans around the country, is currently celebrating ten years of broadcasting with a four day marathon show.

Hello President, or “Aló, Presidente” in Spanish, first went on the air on May 23rd 1999 from Venezuelan National Radio and on August 27th 2000 it started broadcasting on both national TV and radio. It began as a one hour long show but nowadays can be as long as eight continuous hours.

According to the Ministry for Communication and Information (MINCI), just in the first four years of Hello President, Chavez covered over 500 topics of international and national interest and made over 800 announcements. He also used the air time to announce newly designated government and public positions.

In the first 5 years Chavez received over 25,000 letters, many of which he responded to on air, and in the same period he spoke over the phone on the program with over 6,000 people, including members of the general public, government workers, military workers and priests.

The show has been broadcast all over Venezuela including once in a ‘moving’ transmission on board a caravan of cars which crossed three states and 300 kilometres on February 4th 2001. It has also been broadcast from various countries, including Guatemala, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Brazil and Argentina.

Chavez is renowned for singing on the show. The first song he sang was one by Ali Primera, who was a Venezuelan communist and musician, with lyrics that go, ‘Sing, sing friend, so that your voice is a bullet, so that the hands of the people won’t sing unarmed.” The first person to ring into the show to sing to the president was an indigenous woman, Helena Gil. On October 29th 2000, the president of Cuba at the time, Fidel Castro, sang ‘Venezuela’.

“The symbolic arsenal of ‘Hello President’ contains literature, popular song, geography, colors, smells, tastes, history, psychology, semiotics… as creative word and knowledge of a poetic discourse that is made without pedantry or exhibition,” said writer Fernando Buen Abad.

Jose Duque, director of Avila TV, said the president’s natural and familiar way of speaking on Hello President had encouraged people who weren’t previously used to talking in front of cameras and with microphones, to do so and to get involved in community and alternative media. “They thought that to be on television you had to talk like [Venezuelan soap opera actor] Raul Amundaray,” Duque said.

However, Duque added, “We have to attack the fact that many Chavez supporters are used to Chavez doing everything and saying everything for us.”

Blanca Eeckout, minister for communication and information, said that Hello President, “changed the communication paradigm, it’s a space of dialogue, of meeting, and it broke the isolation in which Venezuelan presidents had been existing.” She said that in the future they were looking at doing more international transmissions, to strengthen Latin American unity.

The company Observatorio Publico surveyed 3000 people across the country on May 25th and 26th, and concluded that 61% of Venezuelans listen to or watch Hello President, and of those 83% watch the program and 17% listen to it. 53% said the program was ‘very good’, 20% said it was regular, and 12% said it was bad.

Program number 331

The 331st episode of the program started on Thursday, and will go for four days. On Thursday Chavez conducted the show in two parts, the first part from about 11am until 4pm, and the second from 8.25pm until 10.50pm.

In the first part, Chavez launched the second thermo-electric unit in Zulia state, which will generate 150 mega watts of electricity. He said that the government is planning to spend $US 2.5 billion this year on electricity projects for generation and distribution, which he said was significant progress since “we’re on the point of an electric collapse.”

Chavez also requested a debate on the show between right-wing writer Mario Vargas Llosa, former Bolivian President Jorge Quiroga and other people attending the right wing economic conference CEDICE in Caracas at the moment, to debate “revolutionary socialists such as Fernando Buen Abad.” Chavez said he would sit in the audience and let intellectuals of the left and right debate each other, but participants in the CEDICE conference requested that Chávez participate in the debate. Mexican writer, Enrique Krauze, who wrote a book criticizing Chavez, has accepted the invitation, “as long as the rules are clear.”

Then on Thursday night, Chavez spoke on the show from the presidential palace, Miraflores. He handed out 594 property titles to families in urban land committees, which are organized in suburbs where many of Venezuela’s poor have built houses on land that is not legally theirs.

“For those who still [say we are against private property], this is private property, but what the bourgeois press doesn’t say… is that we are against the monopoly of property, the large estate owners or the mafia fat from cars… it was the [oligarchy] who took away [people’s houses], but now we are giving to people what is theirs.”

Chavez said the show would finish “late, or at night” on Sunday.