The Hugo Chavez Show


The Hugo Chávez Show

Ofra Bikel


Pres. HUGO Chávez: How are you today?

ANNOUNCER: He calls Castro his idol-

Pres. HUGO Chávez: Very well, thank you. And you? Very well.

ANNOUNCER: -and the United States an enemy.

PHIL GUNSON, The Economist: He's convinced George Bush goes to bed thinking of ways to assassinate Hugo Chávez.

ANNOUNCER: To his followers, he is Venezuela's hope. To his critics, he is at worst a dictator, and at best a master of the media.

JON LEE ANDERSON, The New Yorker: He sings. He can be funny. He can seem buffoonish. He obeys none of the rules for what is expected of a head of state, or for that matter, a public official on television.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] The CIA is everywhere. Recently, Fidel Castro told me, "Take care of yourself because it is the most perfect killing machine that has ever been invented."

ANNOUNCER: Is he a real threat to America?

HUMBERTO BERTI, Minister of Energy, 1989-'93: Venezuela is selling about 1.5 million barrels per day of crude and products to the United States.

ANNOUNCER: Or is he his own worst enemy?

JON LEE ANDERSON: Despite many billions of dollars of oil wealth, we see, in fact, that most of Hugo Chávez's revolutionary programs simply have not worked.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE, who is Hugo Chávez?

NARRATOR: Flying into Caracas, we were worried. The idea was to do a story about Venezuela, about oil and politics and its controversial president, Hugo Chávez. But we'd been told that we should not expect to meet with him. We needn't have worried. President Chávez, we found out, was everywhere.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] To our north, the Caribbean Sea. Caracas to the southwest. And here will be the first socialist city.

NARRATOR: The president can always be found on his weekly television show Alo Presidente.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Hello President number 291, Sunday, August 26.

NARRATOR: Every Sunday, President Chávez talks to the people. He lets them in on all his plans, memories, secrets and pet peeves, every week from a different place, every week a different subject, even if to the uninitiated ear, it sometimes all sounds the same. It's not what we call a presidential address. In fact, it's not easy to explain it at all.

TEODORO PETKOFF, Editor, Tal Cual: [through interpreter] Well, in the first place, it's a show. That's how it's advertised in the press, as a variety show.

JON LEE ANDERSON, The New Yorker: He obeys none of the normal ground rules for what is expected of a head of state, or for that matter, a public official on television.

PHIL GUNSON, The Economist: He tells stories about his youth. He sings. It starts when the president decides it starts and it finishes when he's ready to finish. It has no timetable.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Alo Presidente number 295. How are you, my friends? How are you, my friends, on this lovely Sunday?

PHIL GUNSON: It has a rough script, but it's basically the president improvising.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] I can imagine already. I can imagine the slums of Caracas years from now, 5 years from now, 8, 10 years from now.

ALBERTO BARRERA, Author, Hugo Chávez: [through interpreter] Five hours go by. He's entertaining, affecting, confronting. He always keeps the tension.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Even if I fall mute from talking so much, I will never tire. Even if I sweat and sweat and a thousand hours go by, and a thousand Alo Presidentes, we now have an irreplaceable opportunity.

JON LEE ANDERSON: Chávez is easily caricatured because he is- he can be funny. He can seem buffoonish on his Hello Presidentes. He sings. He gets involved in wordplay. He goes on too long. He does all of these things in public. He's probably the world's first virtual president in the age of the communication revolution.

NARRATOR: Hugo Chávez started his program on March 2, 2008, at 11:00 in the morning with a song. He walked the empty streets of Caracas with his minister of interior and the mayor of the city. This week's program was about security, or rather the lack of it, in the city of Caracas, and it went on calmly for two hours.

Then at 1:00 o'clock, he began complaining about Colombia bombing a guerrilla camp in Ecuador the day before, killing an important Colombian guerrilla fighter, Raul Reyes.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] They killed the number two of the FARC. Raul Reyes was a good revolutionary. I knew him personally.

NARRATOR: He then made it clear what he thought of the president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, who ordered the bombing.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] President Uribe is a criminal. He is a criminal. Not only is he a liar, a mafioso, a paramilitary. He heads a narco-government, a lackey of the U.S. empire. He's a subordinate of Bush. Uribe does whatever Bush wants.

NARRATOR: In fact, Chávez thought that President Uribe was so objectionable that at around 1:50, he ordered a surprised general to send 10 battalions of troops, together with tanks and fighter jets, to the Colombian border.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Ten battalions to the Colombian border. Immediately!

TEODORO PETKOFF: [through interpreter] He's very impulsive, dominated by his tongue. So he comes out with things that he has to take back.

NARRATOR: Teodoro Petkoff was a minister in the former government. Once a communist, he's now the editor of a left-wing paper called Tal Cual.

TEODORO PETKOFF: [through interpreter] One day he said, "We're going to get out of the International Monetary Fund." Someone, I don't know where he got the courage, said, "President, if we get out of the Monetary Fund, the public debt is going to be $30 billion, and we have to pay the next day and we don't have the money." Well, he never talked about it again.

NARRATOR: As for the war he'd declared on Colombia, five days later at a Latin American summit, everybody shook everybody's hands. The war was over.

We arrived in Venezuela well after Chávez had announced his intention to turn his country into a model of socialism for the 21st Century. The revolution was not easily apparent- new cars stuck in heavy traffic, and people in the heart of Caracas shopping and shopping. The president did not seem to approve.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] We must be aware of consumerism! That's our tendency. It's the capitalistic curse that we were poisoned with. We should spend only what is necessary. How do you call the big cars, the latest ones? Hummer! Not a single dollar to import Hummers! What is that? What is that? What kind of revolution is this? One of Hummers? No way! This is a real revolution! A real one!

ALBERTO BARRERA: [through interpreter] Which one of all the Chávezes we know is most authentic? I don't have an answer. It's becoming harder to say because Chávez is a myth in progress. He's entering into mythic territory. I think he sees himself as being different. He wants to be a legend.

NARRATOR: Chávez grew up in Barinas, on the Llanos, the plains. The Llanero is the cowboy of Venezuela.

RAFAEL SIMON JIMENEZ, Family Friend: [through interpreter] The Llanero is a man on a horse. He's a man who really lives on his horse. The plains are the center of almost all our legends and myths. The Llanero likes stories. And he likes to construct mythologies.

Chávez is a classic Llanero in the way he talks, how he combines truths with half-truths. It's a little like the genre made popular by Garcia Marquez, magical realism, or fabled history.

NARRATOR: Rafael Simon Jimenez, a former vice president of the parliament until he broke with Chávez, grew up in Barinas and knew the Chávez family well.

RAFAEL SIMON JIMENEZ: [through interpreter] Chávez likes the classic instruments of the Llanos- the cuatro, the maracas, the harp. Chávez became the center of the life in town because he organized the parties. He organized the dances, a typical man of the Llanos.

NARRATOR: Politics was not part of his life.

RAFAEL SIMON JIMENEZ: [through interpreter] He always had a liking for baseball, the most important Venezuelan sport.

NARRATOR: He was talented and dreamed of becoming a famous pitcher. But at 20, he gave up that dream and joined the army. There he met a small group of officers who were interested in politics. One of them was Jesus Urdaneta.

Lt. Col. JESUS URDANETA (Ret.): [through interpreter] Our friendship began a long time ago, when we were in the military academy. And that's where what is called the Bolivarian Movement was born as a group of young military men who set up goals based on the problems of the country.

NARRATOR: They called it the Bolivarian Movement after their hero, Venezuelan-born Simon Bolivar, liberator of South American republics from Spanish rule. They said they wanted to now liberate their country from years of corruption and inequality.

NEWSCASTER: The poor of Venezuela streamed out of the shantytowns on the outskirts of the capital after hearing of price rises in transport and petrol-

NARRATOR: On February 27, 1989, Caracas erupted. It was the culmination of 20 years of a declining economy, government corruption and increasing poverty. It was called the Caracazo.

Lt. Col. JESUS URDANETA: [through interpreter] We, the armed forces, were sent to quell the situation, all the anarchy that was going on. It was very hard on us, very sad, because as members of the armed forces, we had to put pressure on the Venezuelan population in coercive ways.

It was a very important event for us in terms of beginning to think about taking power. We realized that all the roads were barred and that there was no possibility of change. It was all closed. So the only possibility was to rise up.

NARRATOR: Three years later, they did. With a few officers, they staged a coup on the night of February 4, 1992. Urdaneta was to the southwest of the capital, while Chávez was in command of the forces in Caracas. It lasted one night. In the morning, Chávez suddenly surrendered.

OFFICER: [subtitles] Commander Chávez will give you a message.

NARRATOR: He had one condition. He wanted to go on the air, he said, and send a message to his comrades to put down their arms in order to stop the bloodshed.

HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] I would like to say good morning to all the Venezuelan people. This Bolivarian message is directed to the brave soldiers-

NARRATOR: The short speech electrified Venezuela.

ALBERTO BARRERA: [through interpreter] A man who didn't sleep that night, who just had a military failure, he starts greeting the people as if it were a program, "Good morning to everyone." There was something different, something special.

HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Companeros, unfortunately, for now, the objectives we established cannot be achieved in the city.

TEODORO PETKOFF: [through interpreter] Chávez took responsibility for the coup, admitted the defeat, and then outlined his intention for the future- "Por ahora," "For now, we have failed, but we are not giving up the battle." This came like rain on dry soil.

HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] As I stand before you and the nation, I assume responsibility for this Bolivarian military movement.

NARRATOR: Urdaneta was shocked and mortified.

Lt. Col. JESUS URDANETA: [through interpreter] I was holding my position when it came on television that he was calling for the surrender. For me, it was treason. I thought, how is it possible that yesterday we hugged and promised to fight until the end, then Chávez surrendered so easily? For me, it was a great disappointment, something I never expected.

ALBERTO BARRERA: [through interpreter] Chávez failed militarily, totally. He's the only one of the leaders who failed, but he triumphed in the media. The public Chávez who was born was not born out of a military or political victory, but out of the ratings. So if anyone is aware of the importance of the media, it is Hugo Chávez.

[www.pbs.org: Read the interview]

NARRATOR: Chávez and his co-conspirators were held in prison for two-and-a-half years without a trial, until a new president took office and dismissed the case. They were released in March 1994. Chávez's family was waiting. So were his fans. He clearly seemed like a potential leader, but what were his politics?

LUIS MIQUILENA: [through interpreter] He left prison with the old theory of the traditional left in Venezuela, that to get to power and change the system, you had to take up arms.

NARRATOR: Luis Miquilena was a well-known political figure, a former communist leader who believed that changes could be made in a democratic way. He had visited Chávez in prison and was impressed. Now he gave him a political education. He also gave him a warning.

LUIS MIQUILENA: [through interpreter] If Chávez wanted a radical revolution Cuban style, or was thinking of installing a communist government, that would not be possible in the democratic system of Venezuela.

ALBERTO BARRERA: [through interpreter] This, I think, is fundamental because Chávez still believed in the possibility of a military solution. He was very rigid and he felt that elections were not the way to go, and Luis Miquilena convinced him.

NEDO PANIZ, Architect: [through interpreter] Of course, someone with the political instinct of Luis Miquilena, who had spent 40 years in political battles, was very qualified from this point of view.

NARRATOR: Nedo Paniz, an architect who was sympathetic to the attempted coup, and who had given Chávez a room in his house after prison, had some doubts about Chávez, but he deferred to Miquilena.

NEDO PANIZ: [through interpreter] He said, "This man has charisma. He had penetrated the consciousness of the Venezuelan people, and so bringing and introducing him to the political arena can be beneficial to us."

NARRATOR: So under the tutelage of Miquilena, Chávez became the voice of the young military generation, ready to give up their arms in search of new democratic paths. He understood the power of mass media.

HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] The media has for us a fundamental priority because it is a weapon for the ideological struggle and a weapon to express to the people the hope that we all have.

MARGARITA LOPEZ MAYA, Sociologist: The elections of 1998 happened in a moment very difficult for Venezuela. The prices of oil had gone down to historic lows. People radicalized. They wanted something new, something fresh, and they found in this man a radical discourse. He said he would get rid forever of the old elites.

NARRATOR: With Miquilena as the architect of his campaign, he ran as the outsider, the non-politician in a country which had come to distrust politicians. The media loved him, and he loved them back.

TEODORO PETKOFF: [through interpreter] All the media supported him. They gave him huge amounts of newspaper space and hours on television.

HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] We represent the hope of the people. This is the explanation for our popularity.

NARRATOR: He won big. On February 2, 1999, the former insurgent walked with his supporters to Miraflores Palace.

[www.pbs.org: A timeline of Chávez's career]

The country that Chávez inherited had the largest conventional oil reserves in the western hemisphere, a rich country with a poor society. There were millions who lived in abject poverty. The main challenge of the new government was to share the oil wealth with the poor. It was not an easy task in a country as polarized as Venezuela.

JON LEE ANDERSON: Caracas is a city where there are nice homes like the one we're sitting in, and then, if we had a view, we could look out to hilltops covered with shacks, where people live miserably. And that's the reality here. The democratic majority in Venezuela lives in shacks, and therefore, the populist message and revolutionary message of Hugo Chávez holds a special kind of appeal to those people.

NARRATOR: Francia Urbina is poor, but she feels she has a mission.

FRANCIA URBINA, Neighborhood Leader: [through interpreter] What do I believe? That dreams will become a reality, these dreams that every Venezuelan has. Because there are many others like me, I know that these dreams will become a reality.

NARRATOR: Francia is a neighborhood leader. She keeps her Christmas lights on, she says, to commemorate the time she had no lights. She's involved in all of the community's problems- no electricity here, no water there.

FRANCIA URBINA: [through interpreter] I'm a social worker, a social worker who helps all the communities. I'm involved everywhere, even nationally. I have influence in city hall. I have a green light so that I can help those who need it most.

NARRATOR: Among other things, she runs a soup kitchen. Every day, she and some helpers cook meals for the neighborhood poor. She is now paid by the government, but she had done it before without pay and says she would do it again if she had to, for the people, and of course, for Chávez.

FRANCIA URBINA: [through interpreter] I love him. I love him from top to bottom to the sides. My children get angry with me, "Why do you always wear everything red- red boots, red cap, red shirt?" Since the 11th, I started dressing like this.

NARRATOR: The "Once," the 11th of April, 2002, is a date no one in Venezuela can ever forget. It was the beginning of an attempt to overthrow President Chávez.

The tensions between Chávez and his opposition surfaced in his third year of office. In November 2001, Chávez had pushed through 49 laws by decree. Two of the most important were the oil law, which doubled the royalties paid to the government, and the land reform law, which allowed expropriations.

STEVE ELLNER, Political Historian: Overnight, the opposition went from a loyal opposition that criticized Chávez but accepted his presidency to aggressive protests on the streets. And shortly after that, they were calling for his overthrow and that led into the coup.

NARRATOR: An estimated half a million people marched towards the presidential palace. Francia and her friends were watching on television.

OSCAR CEBALLOS, Activist: [through interpreter] We were at home and we had very strong doubts. Almost all the media that were against the revolutionary process were saying incoherent things, things that weren't true, lies.

NARRATOR: The independent television stations who had once supported Chávez were now vehemently against him. When violence erupted, they gave voice to the opposition against the president, now holed up in the palace.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] I'm calling for reflection and a path of reconciliation.

NARRATOR: Chávez's speech, which was meant to reassure the population, was promptly contrasted with a split screen showing the violence in the streets.

By Friday, the president was said to be isolated, detained and taken from the palace by members of the army who had turned against him. There were rumors that he had agreed to resign. The inspector general of the armed forces announced it on television. "We asked the president to resign. His resignation has been accepted."

Pedro Carmona, a wealthy businessmen, was installed as interim president. All public authorities were dissolved. There were strong rumors that the opposition had the blessing, if not the help, of the United States.

Francia and her friends were frantic.

OSCAR CEBALLOS: [through interpreter] We took to the streets. We couldn't take it anymore. We went on foot, unarmed, with only our hearts on our sleeves. Where is our president? Where is Hugo Chávez Frias?

FRANCIA URBINA: [through interpreter] Everybody was going for - how can I tell you - for a cause. It was the president. We left the doors open. There were no thieves, no looting. Here everybody was for the leader.

NARRATOR: On Saturday, the tide turned. The army, already divided, was having second thoughts, while the people of the surrounding shantytowns were streaming toward the palace, calling for their leader.

OSCAR CEBALLOS: [through interpreter] When we saw the military helicopters on the roof of Miraflores, they had the flags. And we said, "It's true. It's our president."

NARRATOR: Forty-seven hours after the attempted coup began, the army flew Chávez back to the palace, where the people were clamoring for him.

OSCAR AND FRANCIA: [through interpreter] We want to see Chávez! We want to see Chávez! We want to see Chávez!

OSCAR CEBALLOS: [through interpreter] That was so impressive- from the heart.

FRANCIA URBINA: [through interpreter] People, adults, old people, the paralyzed, the blind- it was the people. The people had put him there and the people will keep him there.

NARRATOR: Chávez was back. He was conciliatory.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] The causes of what has happened will be analyzed calmly, to correct what needs correcting, to correct what must be corrected. But for the moment, let's all be calm.

NARRATOR: But the main issue had not been resolved- the wealth of the country, the distribution of the oil revenues.

The oil industry, nationalized in 1976, was managed by Petroleo de Venezuela, known as PDVSA, a state company which was identified with the country's elite. It was PDVSA's management that led the opposition in the attempted coup, and they still wanted Chávez out.

He would need all the help he could get. He found it in an unlikely place. Wilmer Ruperti is one of the richest men in Venezuela. He is an oil man, yet he is the one who came to the president's aid in his moment of crisis.

WILMER RUPERTI, Pres., Maroil Trading: I was working more or less 13 to 14 years in PDVSA. My friends were from there. But you cannot be over the country. You cannot be over the government. You cannot be over the people who are elected democratically in order to satisfy the needs of the population that was very poor. PDVSA made a mistake, a big mistake.

NARRATOR: In December 2002, PDVSA decided to shut down. Ninety percent of the employees, workers and executives, went on strike. They were supported by the country's big businesses and unions.

MARGARITA LOPEZ MAYA, Sociologist: They felt they were so powerful because they were the ones in control of the oil company that they kept on thinking that he would fall the following day, and the president did not fall.

NARRATOR: The president held on- barely. The strike went on for days, then weeks. The ports looked ghostly. The ships stood still. Oil couldn't go out, gasoline couldn't come in. Other parts of the economy suffered. Most factories had to shut down. Multi-national operations closed. Little by little, the country was paralyzed.

Wilmer Ruperti decided to help the president.

WILMER RUPERTI: Everybody in PDVSA was against the president. I have many friends in PDVSA. I told them not to do it, and nobody cares. Nobody cares at that moment about my opinion. And I say, "Well, I'm sorry, but I have to be against you. You are my friends, but besides that, I cannot accept that situation."

NARRATOR: He used his contacts and influence with the shipping companies to rent tankers and ferry gasoline and oil in and out of Venezuela.

WILMER RUPERTI: What I did was bring the vessels needed in Venezuela to be loaded and bring in the gasoline, as well, to be consumed by the people.

NARRATOR: Once the oil began to flow safely, the other tankers joined in. The back of the strike was broken.

As for Wilmer Ruperti, he did well for himself. He was decorated by Chávez and went from having one tanker to having 19, from being an unknown businessman to an oil magnate. He is said to have made his money because of his close relations with the government. He denies it.

WILMER RUPERTI: My relation is a standard relation with the government. Twenty-five years ago, I start my business in oil, and I am maintaining myself in oil.

NARRATOR: The press calls him a "Boligarch," one of a new class of wealthy oligarchs rising on the back of the Bolivarian revolution. They print allegations of questionable deals and undue profits. He says he doesn't care. All he wants now is to do what he enjoys most, write and listen to poetry, believing that the best is yet to come.

WILMER RUPERTI: Yes, we are going to do something better, we are going to be a better country, thanks to Chávez.

NARRATOR: Things were not better for PDVSA. It was payback time for Chávez. The old company was decimated.

HUMBERTO BERTI, Minister of Energy, 1989-1993: Twenty thousand people, 50 percent of the personnel of the Oil Institute, was dismissed. They brought around 30,000 people, new people without any knowledge at all. They don't produce the oil they were producing before. They are not refining the same amount of oil they were refining before. And they are doing a lot of things which don't have anything to do with the oil sector.

ELIE HABALIAN, Representative to OPEC, 2003: PDVSA is an instrument of the government. Not only the government, PDVSA is an instrument, a direct instrument, unconditional instrument, of the president, of Hugo Chávez.

HUMBERTO BERTI: Chávez can use that money for political purposes outside of Venezuela. When Chávez goes to any place and he promises $100 million, $50 million, that money comes from PDVSA, and that money again comes from United States and comes from other countries because you pay for the oil.

NARRATOR: Sixty percent of Venezuela's oil is bought and paid for by the U.S., money that helps Chávez subsidize Central American leaders who are hostile to U.S. policy in the region. Among them, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Rafael Correa of Equador, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and most of all, Fidel Castro of Cuba.

Determined to re-align his country away from the United States, Chávez has forged alliances with countries like China, made arms deals with Russia and embraced Iran.

But a good chunk of the money would go towards his socialist vision at home.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Almost all the people here were unemployed, living in misery.

NARRATOR: The ideas were worthy and generous- health care, education, training programs called missiones. People with no work skills were paid to be trained and helped to a job, socialist-style.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] And the Venezuelan socialist model gives rise to the cooperatives. Thus the mission Vuelvan Caras was born. Today we are graduating-

NARRATOR: On March 29, 2007, Chávez celebrated that year's graduating class from the program Vuelvan Caras, "Turn Around."

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Raise your hand if you are graduating.

NARRATOR: After a year of training, these graduates received certificates and government loans to set up their textile cooperative.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Congratulations. Here's your little golden book of credit.

NARRATOR: Nucleo Endogeno, in the west of Caracas, is a cluster of cooperatives recommended to foreign visitors. It was founded in 2003. There were 220 workers in the textile cooperative when it started. Today there are 105, all women, mostly single mothers. Their average salary is $240 a month, and 75 percent of the work is ordered by the government.

But other cooperatives are not that lucky. Three years ago, Maria Moreno and her colleagues also graduated from Vuelvan Caras and also established a textile cooperative. The machines are clean and ready, but most of the people are gone. There were 59 of them three years ago. Now there are less than 10.

MARIA MORENO: [through interpreter] When the cooperative began, the government gave us work, the same as the missione. But afterwards, they no longer gave us any resources or work.

NARRATOR: They only make about $150 a month. Maria Rengifo says that after three years in the cooperative, she still doesn't make enough money to live.

MARIA RENGIFO: [through interpreter] I am among the poorest people in Venezuela. The president has to know, in order to form a cooperative, we have to have income.

NARRATOR: A major problem is that they know almost nothing about business.

MARIA MORENO: [through interpreter] At no time do they teach us how to develop a business, how to keep going.

NARRATOR: Without marketing experience, they are waiting for the orders to come to them.

MARIA MORENO: [through interpreter] If there's no more work, busted! In Venezuela, we say that, busted- without friends and without money. So I say that president Hugo Chávez Frias, Venezuelan, has to advocate for the cooperatives. He has to know what's going on. Why aren't they working? Why aren't they producing? Why isn't there anything to produce?

ALBERTO BARRERA, Author, Hugo Chávez: [through interpreter] This is a society that has no auditing. There's no idea how much money is being spent. We don't know the real results of cooperatives, what they produce or don't produce. We know only what Chávez tells us.

NARRATOR: But Chávez doesn't tell and perhaps doesn't even know what's really happening in his programs.

In October 2007, the first stage of an ambitious housing project in a place called La Suiza was completed. It was celebrated on Alo Presidente. The minister of housing introduced the project as part of a plan called the Grand Caracas. The minister of mines expressed the gratitude of the community, who for the first time had access to decent housing. He proclaimed the houses "awesome."

The president was delighted.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] The new homes, the new communities, God willing, all of Caracas will be like this.

NARRATOR: They toured the interior of the houses and praised the attention to details and workmanship. But the man who had built seven of these houses wasn't there to celebrate.

BENITO CARDOZO, Master Builder: [through interpreter] They budgeted $5,000 for building each house. It was such a low amount that the other cooperatives simply left. That price for a construction of this size was something no one even wanted to consider. But we are responsible and we are good workers, so we stayed and we did the job. We built seven houses.

NARRATOR: Benito Cardozo, master builder, founded a small cooperative in 2004 which included his wife and daughter. The project at La Suiza was their first commission. They had high hopes.

Mrs. CARDOZO: [through interpreter] Of all the cooperatives, we were the only ones that stayed.

NARRATOR: They are still proud of the fact that they were the ones who had hung on. They stayed on, but they were left in a financial hole.

BENITO CARDOZO: [through interpreter] The president said that when you begin work, you must be paid half, and when you finish, the other half. But now, all these months later, they still haven't paid us.

NARRATOR: Six months after the broadcast, we went to look at La Suiza. Not a single new house had been completed and the work on the nearby project seemed, for the moment at least, abandoned.

With all the country's wealth, the question is, why does it seem so difficult to make things work?

TEODORO PETKOFF: [through interpreter] This is the question we are all asking. The government is very inefficient. Remember, Chávez did not come to power at the head of a party which had been solidified for years, with a capable leading elite that had studied the country's problems. He came at the head of an amorphous mass which he picked from left and right, military and civilian. So of course, when they did away with the old elites who'd governed us for half a century, they substituted improvised, incompetent, unformed teams, and this is the result.

NARRATOR: As for the president, he never stops looking for solutions. Hearing him tell the story, he was flying over a piece of land in the mountains to the north of Caracas when he realized that it could be turned into a new city, a socialist city.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Here will be the first socialist city.

NARRATOR: He devoted his Sunday program on July 22, 2007, to the new city and the eventual relocation of the people there. The first residents to be moved, according to the plan, would be from Federico Quiroz, a shantytown in the north of Caracas.

Nelson Mora is an activist in the barrio. He firmly believes in the president and his policies.

NELSON MORA, Community Organizer: [through interpreter] We are very proud to have a president who is identified with the people and wants to help the masses, including a whole variety of people who had been excluded for 40 years. And we want to help the president.

NARRATOR: But as he talked and met with people in the neighborhood, he found that many of them were not ready to relocate to the new city.

NELSON MORA: [through interpreter] We have people with degrees, lawyers, accountants, politicians, people that were born here and still live here.

NARRATOR: The more Nelson listened, the more he felt that he had to speak up for his community.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Raise your hand, those who will move there.

NELSON MORA: [subtitles] Good afternoon, Mr. President. We are a team or organizers-

NARRATOR: He attended Alo Presidente nervous but determined.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] From what communal council, comrade?

NELSON MORA: [subtitles] Federico Quiroz.

NARRATOR: Gathering his courage, he tried to tell the president that most of the residents of Federico Quiroz would not agree to relocate, and if he, the president, had been told otherwise, he had been deceived.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Look, you are saying I'm being deceived. From where did you get that?

NARRATOR: The president barely heard him out.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] It's a lie.

NARRATOR: He couldn't have been deceived. There was no way. Where did he get that idea?

NELSON MORA: [through interpreter] At that moment I felt bad. I closed my eyes and felt tears. And I said, "My God, why does the president treat me like this, the commander-in-chief, the leader of this process?"

NARRATOR: "I suspect," he said, "that Nelson Mora might be defending other interests." In other words, he was an infiltrator because here he was, attacking and throwing stones at everybody, at Alo Presidente, at Chávez, at the ministers, everyone.

TEODORO PETKOFF: [through interpreter] There is a paradox here. The freedom of expression exists. Even though the president attacks us constantly, we do have freedom of expression because we are not afraid of the president and his bluster. The people who do not have freedom of expression are his supporters.

NARRATOR: This was a lesson learned by Eleazar Diaz Rangel, the editor of the most popular paper in Venezuela, Ultimas Noticias, one of Chávez's most staunch allies. But in February 2008, Ultimas Noticias came out with a front page headline that public health care was in a coma. Almost immediately, Chávez was on television.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] I would ask Ultimas Noticias, in honor of objective journalism-

This is a good example for a teacher of ethical journalism. How much truth it lacks.

TEODORO PETKOFF: [through interpreter] Chávez attacked the editor on television for 50 minutes, scolding him and the owners of the paper, questioning their ethics. He made sure that everyone understood that he was attacking his staunchest ally, a heavyweight, the most respected journalist in Venezuela.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] This is a media war! Not even Ultimas Noticias is exempt from using their heavy guns in the interests of the oligarchy and the Yankee imperialism!

NARRATOR: When we asked Diaz Rangel his reaction, he defended the president.

ELEAZAR DIAZ RANGEL, Editor, Ultimas Noticias: [through interpreter] People don't like criticism. It's human nature. And since the president is always criticized by the opposition, when he hears criticism from his own side, even with no bad intention, he looks at it in the same way as if it is said by the opposition.

TEODORO PETKOFF: [through interpreter] No one dares to voice the slightest criticism of the government, not even Diaz Rangel. So the message to his followers was, "If I do it to Rangel, who is the editor of one of the most popular papers in Venezuela, who is my friend, I am capable of doing it to others." And he has.

[www.pbs.org: Read the interview]

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Greetings to the new minister of interior and justice-

NARRATOR: Chávez has made over 130 changes to his cabinet in the last nine years.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Congratulations. You are ratified.

NARRATOR: January 2008 was the sixth major reshuffle.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Congratulations. You are ratified.

NARRATOR: They would all become familiar to the people through their required weekly participation in Alo Presidente.

PHIL GUNSON, The Economist: You can't be a member of the team who says, "You know what? I don't want to go to Alo Presidente this week. I've got serious things to do down at the ministry." Can't say that because the next thing that happens is that, you know, they change the locks on your office door, and you know, your desk is cleared.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Minister of labor and social security.

PHIL GUNSON: I once asked a minister what he felt about being forced to listen to Chávez's speeches for five and six hours at a time. And he just grinned and he said, "No comment."

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Minister of native people.

NARRATOR: Many of the ministers only see the president at the broadcasts, where they have to come prepared for any question thrown at them on live television.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] What are our resources for this year, David?

MINISTER: [subtitles] Mr. President, we have given 1.4 billion bolivars approximately.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] What are those seven, Mantilla? Please, name them quickly.

NARRATOR: Some make it, others don't.

Prof. COLETTE CAPRILIES, Simon Bolivar University: [through interpreter] We have seen how the ministers tremble at the possibility of being questioned during the show, something the president will do.

MINISTER: [subtitles] My commander, in Aragua, we have the municipality Antonio Sucre one-

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] No. Don't tell me the municipalities.

JON LEE ANDERSON, The New Yorker: It's created a kind of hothouse atmosphere, where people feel like they're walking on a tightrope. They feel exposed and vulnerable. There is in Chávez a recognition of this. I think he likes that situation.

NARRATOR: Chávez may like it that way, but his officials often emerge devastated.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] We can understand that there is idle land-

NARRATOR: Three hours into a generally calm program in Barinas, his home state, Chávez launched into the subject of unused lands. No one would come out unscathed.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Mr. State Secretary, Mr. General, commander of the zone, how do you tolerate these? I don't know how we allow it. Where is the president of the Institute of Land? Explain to me how you allow it.

MINISTER: [subtitles] Of course, my commander.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] What is happening? How do we do it? Where is the government? Where is the Institute of Land? Where are you all? There's no one here? Do I have to come and take the land?

COLETTE CAPRILES: [through interpreter] The president's Sunday show becomes not only a place where decisions are made, but a place where decision-making is exhibited, showing how the president makes the good decisions while the ministers make mistakes.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Minister of food, how many beans did we import?

MINISTER: [subtitles] Eighty percent.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Eighty percent of the beans we are importing. And milk. And meat. It cannot be.

COLETTE CAPRILES: [through interpreter] It's a mechanism, a device to keep the president from bad decision-making. Those who always appear guilty of the mistakes are the ministers, who are judged by the president in front of 15 million viewers.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Loyo, how do we do it?

MINISTER: [subtitles] Commander, there is no excuse, and I assume responsibility.

[www.pbs.org: More about Chávez's TV show]

NARRATOR: An abject apology and promises to do better met with the audience's approval.

NEDO PANIZ, Architect: [through interpreter] They are seals applauding. It's people who only pay attention to what the boss says- applaud him, praise him, but never contradict him.

TEODORO PETKOFF: [through interpreter] I see left-wing old friends, irreverent, fighters, sitting there like perfect idiots. That's a painful spectacle.

NARRATOR: There was one old fighter who wouldn't play the game, the old mentor, the one who shared with Chávez the early dreams of an enlightened socialist democracy and who warned him of the dangers ahead, Luis Miquilena.

LUIS MIQUILENA, Former Adviser: [through interpreter] I separated from him and would not accept any sort of reconciliation. Each time, he crosses another line. Each time, he becomes more distant from me. More and more, he is denying what he once offered the country, denying what he promised to Venezuela, this country of ours that has been subject to one of the most spectacular frauds known in history.

NARRATOR: After Miquilena departed, the one person who Chávez admired and listened to was Castro. Chávez had been to Cuba after he was released from prison. Then he went back as president in 2000 with his wife at his side. He made a speech at the University of Havana. Journalist Jon Lee Anderson was in the audience.

JON LEE ANDERSON: Fidel, Raul and the other members of the Cuban politburo listened in rapt attention to Hugo Chávez as he spoke about his plans, about his hopes for a revolutionary union in the Americas, for a new kind of a relationship between developing countries and the great powers of the world. Fidel was probably thinking to himself, "Where was this kid 30 years ago when I needed him," you know, oil-rich, willing to build revolution, willing to turn Venezuela into an ally of isolated Cuba. But there- you know, there it was beginning to happen.

[www.pbs.org: Read the interview]

NARRATOR: Miquilena, who was still supporting Chávez at that time, had been worried about Chávez trying to imitate Castro.

LUIS MIQUILENA: [through interpreter] I told Chávez, "You can't do what Castro did after the Sierra Maestra. You can't do that after an election. These are totally different situations." Chávez did not have a clear idea of the difference between a revolution and a social transformation, with different changes and reforms that the country really needed at that time.

NARRATOR: They were united by ideological affinity, hostility towards the U.S. and affection for each other.

JON LEE ANDERSON: Chávez broke the mold in terms of the kind of regard and respect that most Latin American leaders paid to Fidel. It was clear that he looked to him as a mentor, as a kind of philosophical soulmate, as someone he truly admired as a hero in an almost boyish way.

NARRATOR: In his first few years, Chávez hardly mentioned the "Empire," as he now calls the United States. But as his friendship with Castro grew, his rhetoric became more and more incendiary.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] The CIA is everywhere. Recently, Fidel Castro told me, "Take care of yourself because it is the most perfect killing machine that has ever been invented."

Venezuela is at the very top of the Empire's list of its laboratory for psychological warfare, economic warfare, sabotage.

ALBERTO BARRERA: [through interpreter] Chávez is in urgent need of an epic. He doesn't have an epic story, and I think it pains him very much. Chávez didn't get to power by toppling a dictator. He hasn't been invaded by anyone. He's yelling at Bush to see if he gets a response. He needs great enemies because you can't maintain such high verbal temperature and keep saying, "I'm a great revolutionary" if you are not dangerous.

PHIL GUNSON, The Economist: And he's absolutely convinced that- or appears to be anyway, you know, that George Bush goes to bed every night thinking of ways to assassinate Hugo Chávez.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] You think it's a coincidence that George Bush, the imperial president, said recently, attacking us, saying that we are terrorists-

HUMBERTO BERTI, Minister of Energy, 1989-'93: It's only a matter of speeches. Big speeches doesn't happen. You know why? Because Venezuela is selling about 1.5 million barrels per day of crude and products to the United States. Most of the crude oil which goes to the United States is heavy crude. That heavy crude is processed in some special refineries in the United States, and that crude cannot go to other places. Then Chávez cannot cut the supplies to the United States. If Chávez cuts the supplies to the United States, he will remain in power a few weeks.

NARRATOR: The relations with Castro became even closer. Seeing the two together in the media became routine. They were seen in official meetings, unofficial meetings and celebrations. Then there were the agreements- Chávez gave oil, Castro gave good advice, experts, doctors, and key security forces.

JON LEE ANDERSON: Cuba today is by and large subsidized by Venezuela.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: How are you, Fidel? Very well, thank you. And you? Very well.

NARRATOR: It is a rare Sunday when Chávez does not mention Fidel in his broadcast. No matter the subject of the day, he calls out to him.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: How are you, Fidel? [subtitles] Greetings from this land that loves you very much.

How are you, Fidel?

NARRATOR: Why he greets him in English is not clear, but it's obvious that Castro is never too far from his mind.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Let's stand up to embrace our brother!

JON LEE ANDERSON: Chávez has essentially saved Fidel Castro's revolution on the very eve of his death. I mean, Fidel can go more or less peacefully into the night, knowing that at least for some years more, as long as Chávez is alive, Cuba will be all right.

NARRATOR: Chávez makes sure that Castro knows that. He gives him a signed copy of the painting he painted when he was in prison and sings the song that as a youngster he used to sing about Che Guevara.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] I used to sing it in our barracks. [singing] Walking through valleys and mountains, your image of a guerrilla is always roaming and your blood now flows in our veins, stirring our Bolivian chest. [speaking]_ I sing badly, but I sing from the heart.

NARRATOR: Unlike Fidel, back home, Chávez had to deal with a democratic opposition. By 2004, they had gathered over three million signatures for a petition to recall the president, as permitted by the constitution. The opposition lost. Then to their horror, they saw their names and details leaked to the Internet, effectively circulating as a blacklist. Jobs were lost, careers ruined. It was a warning not to oppose the Bolivarian revolution.

Two years later, with his new social programs under way, Chávez rallied his supporters and won his reelection.

[www.pbs.org: Watch on line in English/Spanish]

STEVE ELLNER, Political Historian: He won by the highest percentage of any presidential election since democracy began in 1958, so that there was this feeling that he was invincible.

MARGARITA LOPEZ MAYA, Sociologist: So I think at that moment, Chávez says, "OK, I have solid support. I've been here eight years and people agree with me," which I think is true. People agreed that they liked this kind of democracy, this participatory democracy. They agreed that the money that comes in from oil must be distributed for social policies, that the missions are doing their job. People voted, I think, for that. But Chávez had in his head something else besides that. And that idea that he has, he begins to develop it in 2007.

NARRATOR: The idea was a further turn to the left, to be carried out through a reform to the constitution. He also found an opportunity to silence one of his most vociferous critics, RCTV, Radio Caracas Television.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] That license is not forever. The license expires in March.

NARRATOR: In the spring of 2007, Chávez announced that the 20-year broadcast license for RCTV would not be renewed. He made no secret of his feelings.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] There will be no renewal of the license for that conspirator TV station called Radio Caracas Television. The license has ended!

PHIL GUNSON: Chávez saw RCTV as a political opponent. His supporters saw it as the channel on which they saw their soap operas in the evening. And the fact that Chávez was able to close that down without taking into account the needs and wishes of the ordinary people seems to have started people thinking, "Well, maybe this man is not necessarily- Chávez is not necessarily on our side."

NARRATOR: The closing was widely unpopular and became a cause for university students, who took to the streets in the name of freedom of speech. Ignoring the protests, which were reported all over the world, Chávez went on with his main agenda, the constitutional reform.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] The main theme in today's show, friends from Venezuela and the world, is the constitution, the proposal for the constitutional reform, and its essence.

NARRATOR: The essence of his reform, according to the president, was a transition towards a 21st century socialism. The slogan was "Popular Power." Sixty-nine articles were to be modified, some of which would make fundamental changes to the constitution.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] What will happen in December is decisive for the revolution.

NARRATOR: The most controversial changes dealt with strengthening the state's involvement in the economy and centralization of power in the hands of the president, who would have the right to be reelected indefinitely.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] I am only proposing. The decision is in your hands. I am sure that the great majority will approve it. I am not the owner of the truth. Of course, I am in agreement, more than in agreement. I request, I want improvements to the proposal I have made.

NARRATOR: That Sunday, the show was attended by members of the international press.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] From Asia Weekly. let's have a round of applause. Welcome. We have with us a French Canadian citizen, works in Cuba for the daily Granma. We also have a journalist from Great Britain, Rory Carroll.

NARRATOR: Rory Carroll is a journalist for The Guardian, a liberal British newspaper. He was attending Alo Presidente for the first time.

RORY CARROLL: Suddenly, the TV cameras turn on to me, and I can see myself on the TV cameras and I'm aware that I'm actually on live Venezuelan TV.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Rory, you speak Spanish?

RORY CARROLL: [subtitles] Some.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Since you are from Great Britain-

RORY CARROLL: [subtitles] I'm actually Irish.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Ah! You're Irish. What is your question for me?

RORY CARROLL: Well, then he asked me what was my question. Stupidly- and it was stupid on my part- I hadn't actually prepared one, really. So I had to kind of think fast.

NARRATOR: Rory's question was about the reform, why the president wanted the right to be elected indefinitely, while not granting the same rights to the 23 state governors.

INTERVIEWER: Good question.

RORY CARROLL: Yeah. I mean, a fairly straightforward, almost banal question, really. But of course, the answer was extraordinary.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Rory works for a daily newspaper from London. So sure, in Europe there is a lot of cynicism. Europe, where you come from, Rory.

RORY CARROLL: So the answer started off with the cynicism my question had betrayed, the cynicism not just of me personally but also the cynicism of the fact of what I represented. And certainly, I represented Europe.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] What a thing, Europe. Europe! The cultured Europe! We are the barbarians, the Indians, the blacks, the southerners. How cynical is Europe. Chávez the tyrant! Chávez the strongman! Chávez, who wants to stay forever. While there, they have kings, my friend! Someone has elected a king? I'm asking you, do you elect a king?

NARRATOR: He wanted to know Rory's opinion about royalty.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] What is your opinion on this?

NARRATOR: Rory replied that he was both Irish and republican, so it wasn't a system that he wanted to defend. He also added modestly that it didn't really matter what someone like him thought.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] He says it's not important, that it's only about this country. For me, it's important.

RORY CARROLL: And then he kind of looked around to the people, like, "Did you hear what he said? Did you guys hear what he said?" And at this point, my heart sank and I was thinking, "Oh, God, now what's going to happen," because I was thinking, "What did I say?"

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] He comes to tell me that my question is not important. How come not important? To us, it's important. Everything that happens in the world is important. We care about the fate of your people, the Irish. We care about the fate of the European people, of the African people. Everything is important to us! It's the fate of us all! We all live on this planet.

NARRATOR: An hour-and-a-half into the show, he came back to answer Rory's question about why the president and not the governors would have the right to repeated reelection.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] That is how I conceive it.

NARRATOR: This time, he was more direct.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] It's a political conception.

NARRATOR: This was the way he wanted it, his own political concept.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] The 7th of October. We are going to dedicate this program to the people of Venezuela, to the popular power, to the reform.

NARRATOR: For the next few weeks, he would continue to campaign for the reform. He was in love, he sang, with the reform, in love with the motherland, in love with the revolution and in love with the people. But many of those people, his people, were hurting.

There were long lines in the government food store, Mercal, which sells price-controlled goods. With high inflation and shortages of basic foods, there was not much to buy. In the meantime, subsidized foodstuffs were carried across the porous border to Colombia, where they could be sold for a large markup. A tank of gas bought in Venezuela for 12 cents a gallon could bring a fast $50 profit a few steps away in Colombia.

And there was the problem of safety. Caracas has had the second highest rate of murders in all of the Americas, and the numbers are growing every month, as are the numbers of armed robberies. Bars help sometimes, but not much.

"I put up the bars for protection," said the pharmacist. "Have there been robberies?" "Every week."

Chávez has been criticized that he won't address the problems of crime. He denies it.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] This is one of our most serious problems, public security. There's a lot of delinquency, one of the biggest problems of the world, the capitalist world. They attack me for this. They say I don't care about the problems of public safety. Of course I care. This is what the reform deals with.

NARRATOR: In the meantime, there have been kidnappings and murders, especially in the border towns. There were over 2,000 kidnappings in the last nine years, almost all for money.

Porfirio Davilla is a veterinarian. Two years ago, his father, a farmer, stepped out of his house in the morning and didn't return. The family received calls asking for hundreds of thousands in U.S. dollars, which they didn't have and couldn't get. Then the calls stopped. The father never came home.

PORFIRIO DAVILLA, Veterinarian: [through interpreter] And in all this time, we didn't get one call or support from any politician or anyone who should be responsible for our security in an official manner. We are only ciphers, numbers, statistics.

It gives me great pain to tell you on international television that Venezuela is not ours. Venezuela has been transformed into a region of crime, a region where life is worthless, where there are 100,000 homicides a year and we are not even at war, 1,600 kidnappings and we are not at war. Our government is socialist, but it's the poor who are unimportant. They don't assassinate the rich, they assassinate the poor.

JON LEE ANDERSON: It's shocking to come in to Caracas nearly a decade on and see that most of what Hugo Chávez was railing in anger about being left with - you know, a failed society, misery, insecurity, unequal distribution of wealth - is still here, that despite surely thousands of hours of speeches and many billions of dollars of oil wealth pumped into the economy, we don't see huge changes. We see, in fact, that most of Hugo Chávez's revolutionary programs, his inventions to ameliorate and alleviate the social ills at home, simply have not worked.

NARRATOR: Francia will have none of that.

FRANCIA URBINA, Neighborhood Leader: [through interpreter] It's a lie. Look here, my friend. If it were not for Chávez, things would be much worse. I'm not a learned person. I'm not educated. I was taught by the streets. I was trampled on. I was used. But my president taught me to value myself, to love myself. We have never had a president like President Chávez. He is the best, the very best.

TEODORO PETKOFF, Editor, Tal Cual: [through interpreter] I believe that history will have to acknowledge that Chávez has turned the social question into the great Venezuelan theme, the most important issue of the country. In the 20 years before Chávez, the terrible impoverishment that took place in this country until 60 percent of the people were poor simply disappeared from the radar of the political parties that had governed Venezuela for half a century. Chávez rescued the hidden pain of an impoverished country and put it on the table. And today, in any political discourse - commercial, cultural, or any other - the theme of poverty is essential, thanks to Chávez.

NARRATOR: It was voting day for the reform, the reform that would allow Chávez to be reelected indefinitely. The two sides were hopeful. The race was tight. Then, surprise. Chávez lost. The margin was small, officially less than 2 percent, but for him and his supporters, it was huge. It was the first loss he had ever suffered.

Chávez accepted the defeat and comforted his crestfallen followers.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] Don't be sad. Don't be downcast. I believe that the Venezuelan democracy, as I said this morning when I was voting, will become more mature. Every process like this that we live through, every election day, every political event, will permit our democracy, our country, to continue maturing.

NARRATOR: But then, after two days of celebration by the opposition, Chávez reappeared on television, grim and angry.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] There is nothing to celebrate. We have not lost anything. And get ready because a new offensive is on its way for the proposed reform, this one transformed, simplified. But I am sure-

NARRATOR: He was not about to give up. Just as he had done once before, he would prevail.

Pres. HUGO Chávez: [subtitles] For me, it's not a defeat, it's another "Por ahora," for now.

[February 5, 1992] [subtitles] Companeros, unfortunately, for now, the objectives we established cannot be achieved in the city.

NARRATOR: After the defeat, the signs saying "Por Ahora..." - "For now..." - sprang up all over the city, trying to revive the magic that got Chávez to the presidency. But there was a difference. The first time, it was taken as a promise. Now it seemed more of a threat. The nation's decision will stand, he said, but only por ahora- for now.

[In the summer of 2008, Chávez 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 held November 23, 2008, Chávez barred hundreds of opposition candidates from running. Chávez's party lost those elections.]

The Hugo Chávez Show

Ofra Bikel

Susan Fanshel

Ted Gesing

Monica Henriquez

Marcela Gaviria

Will Lyman

Gustavo Aguilar
Mark Rublee

Brian Keane

Mario Nazoa

Luis Ortiz

Osiel Ruiz
Cara Leroy
Nathan Russell
Temsy Chen

Robert Burke
Ted Gesing
Mara Sanchez

Mark Thompson

Jim Ferguson

Jim Sullivan

Daniela Dearden
Elizabeth Nunez
Erica Berenstein
Alejandra Parra
Valeria Arinez

Pat Casteel Transcripts

AP/Wide World Photos
APTN Archive
Reuters Photos
Downtown Community Television
Radio Caracas Television
Fernando Jaurequi
Cine Bolivar Films
Vertigo Producciones
Ciudadani Activa
Paul Mannix
Miami Herald Company

Armando Chirinos
Felipe Gamba
Francisco Rodriguez
Irene Sosa
Alejandro Velasco


Pamela A. Aguilar

Alejandra Parra

Frank Rodriguez

Nicolas Villamizar
Jorge Drosten
Gy Mirano

Christopher D. Anderson


Tim Mangini

Chris Fournelle

Missy Frederick

Jim Ferguson
John MacGibbon
Michael H. Amundson

Mark Dugas
Tyrra Turner

Megan McGough

Mason Daring
Martin Brody

Diane Buxton

Alissa Rooney

Sandy St. Louis

Jessica Smith

Peter Lyons

Beth Lowell

Lisa Palone

Eric Brass
Jay Fialkov
Janice Flood
Scott Kardel

Cynthia Salvatori
Lisa Sullivan

Mary Sullivan

Tobee Phipps

Maya Carmel

Bill Rockwood

Gretchen Gavett
David Kieley

Richard Parr

Sarah Moughty

Sam Bailey

Robin Parmelee

Catherine Wright

Sharon Tiller

Ken Dornstein

Marrie Campbell

Michael Sullivan

Jim Bracciale

Raney Aronson-Rath

Louis Wiley Jr.

David Fanning

A FRONTLINE Co-production with Ofra Bikel Productions Corp.

FRONTLINE is a production of WGBH/Boston, which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2008
WGBH Educational Foundation

ANNOUNCER: There's more to discover about Hugo Chávez on FRONTLINE's Web site, where you can watch the program again on line in English or in Spanish, read an interview with the film's producer, Ofra Bikel, explore her interviews with Chávez's associates and others who have closely observed Chávez over the years. And then join the discussion about this program at PBS.org.

Next time on FRONTLINE:

- Baby Boomers will be facing a very different retirement than their parents.

ANNOUNCER: You've saved.

- They just throw the money in the pot and hope it grows.

ANNOUNCER: You've invested.

- I thought when he retired, it was going to be a lot different, you know, money-wise.

ANNOUNCER: You've dreamed of retiring.

- One of your biggest problems is you're all going to live too long.

- It's the end of retirement.

ANNOUNCER: Can You Afford to Retire? next time on FRONTLINE.

FRONTLINE's The Hugo Chávez Show is available on DVD with Spanish secondary audio. To order, visit Shoppbs.org or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS. [$24.99 & s/h]

FRONTLINE is made possible by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you. Thank you.

With major funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, helping to build a more just world. And additional funding from the Park Foundation.

posted november 19, 2008

the hugo chavez show · dvd/transcript · credits · site map
FRONTLINE series home · privacy policy · journalistic guidelines

FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of wgbh educational foundation.
main photograph © corbis, all rights reserved
web site copyright 1995-2009 WGBH educational foundation