Venezuela's Chavez harnesses power of on-air talk

May 31, 2009 17:30

The program begins with upbeat music that sounds like a game show theme. Colors shimmer across the screen, and the title appears: "Hello, President." That's Hugo Chavez's cue, and the show is on. The Venezuelan president's program usually lasts between four and six hours each Sunday. It's become a time-tested tool for connecting with his public, monopolizing attention and setting the national agenda. Now the media-savvy leader has turned it into something more like a one-man telethon with nearly three full days of talk, ending Sunday. In the first two days, he was on the air for about 15 hours, telling stories, lashing out at critics and occasionally breaking into song. "I think from now on we're going to have 'Hello President' every day. I'm liking the dynamic," Chavez quipped as he began one episode at a Caracas park. Chavez is probably the world's most long-winded leader, an extraordinary communicator who craves the spotlight, thrives on confrontation and excels as an entertainer. His keeps Venezuelans talking about him - whether they love him or hate him.

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