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The Hugo Chavez Show

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What do you think of Hugo Chávez, his savvy use of the media, and his plans for Venezuela's revolutionary future?

Dear FRONTLINE,

I greet Frontline's initiative to broadcast to American audiences the current political and social in Venezuela. Becasue several comments in this forum make me believe that like in Europe, some people in the US have a romance with socialism, I decided to participate as well.

A message claiming social justice, equality, and opportunities is always going to appeal; that is the Venezuela's tragedy.

As your documentary properly portrays, structural problems inherited from a highly corrupted and inefficient democracy bolted Mr. Chavez to power. After 10 years of his government, these problems are only worse.

Paradoxically, this situation happens in the midst of biggest windfall of oil revenues in the country's history, a social polarization that skirts hatred, and the first biggest exodus of the Venezuelan middle class (now mostly living overseas). The message is still there, every Sunday in his "Alo Presidente", but that is about it.

Things that were missed in your investigation are: the use of radical violence for Mr. Chavez' sopporters against opposition (which not entirely belong to middle class, as recent elections show), the direct penetration of state institutions (Supreme Court, National Assembly, National Electoral Collegue) by Mr. Chavez, the political prisioners currently in jails because of illed-judiciary processes, and the permanent persecution of public dissidents and oppostion in general. Finally, I respectfully believe the PDVSA conflict of 2002-2003 was portreyed improperly. Although most PDVSA managers were certainly well-educated and viewed as sort of elite, PDVSA itself was not perceived by the country as such, but as an institution of merit and progress. Many modest and humble but hard-working and academically talented people worked there (including myself), and believe me, I never felt discriminated while working there until Mr. Chavez took its control.

As I learned while living there in the US several years ago, the solution to social injustice are not hand-outs from a "caudillo. Forget about what only appeals and let's have a romance with things that have really matter; let's live for democracy.

Carlos Smith-Russo
Caracas, Venezuela

Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm Venezuelan, born and raised. Currently residing in the US, and missing the country I grew up in and the people I love back home.I just want to mention something

If anything, the documentary was too kind in the way they presented the venezuelan government and the deteriorating situation in the country. Understand that in this case it's EASY to paint the venezuelan government on a negative light, that's because considering the facts, very little has been accomplished in 10 years of government (TEN years and counting).

Considering insecurity, inflation, education, health, infraestructure, not a single of those aspects is in better shape than a decade ago. There're arguments on both sides, health issues? - He brought in cuban "doctors" to help; yes, but our own doctors are better trained, abundant ready and willing to work.

People are getting sicker from the herbs being prescribed by those "specialists" and have to turn to an actual certified doctor with 7 years of medical education under his belt to help, sometimes too late. The situation is worse off because, what little funding hospitals that could actually help received, was diverted to an initiative (with maybe good intentions) but ultimately carried out in as innefficient a manner as possible, it was in reality more a publicity stunt than an actual remedy. Same with the educational and employment programs.

There's freedom of expression, certainly, but at your own and very real, risk. Reporters have been attacked while working, public figures are prosecuted and harrased. If anyone is to doubt that risk, consider the case of RCTV, a TV channel closed after 75 years of -almost- non-stop airing. It was only closed for a few days during the dictatorship of Marcos Perez Jimenez... Closing one of the TV networks with highest audience in the country (and then appropriating their equipment), and hanging that same threat over the other media heads was all it took to "keep them in line", so to speak. News shows now only portray pro-officialist news (which is hard to find, so there's rarely any news at all). Negative reports are no longer aired, this doesn't limit to criticism of the government, this also includes crime and inflation numbers.

Alasia Delgado
Kirkland, Washington.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I watched with interest your show. I lived in Venezuela when I was younger and can understand why the poor admire and follow Chavez. I can also understand why the middle and upper classes loath him.

He represents the (false) hope of millions who have nothing. But to be sure, many of the ailments that the Venezuelan poor suffer are a product of their own doing.

As I remember from my youth, the basic failure of the Venezuelan society in general is the total lack of a work ethic. I remember people demanding that they deserved and be provided a better house and more money simply because Venezuela is a "rich" country. They never considered the possibility that they needed to spend time and effort working to produce the wealth necessary to afford such lifestyle.

I also remember how many holidays are celebrated in Venezuela, almost every month has one and if it happened to occur on a Tuesday or Thursday, a "puente" (bridge) was created, resulting in four days off. With so many people not doing anything for such lengthy periods of time throughout the year, it's no wonder water is scarce, electric power is unreliable at best, etc. I am sure that Chavez has added new holidays and reduced the number of working hours.

With Chavez or no Chavez, the result for the poor will always be the same. They demand jobs that pay well but are not willing to work. Employing thousands of people that do nothing, results in nothing. Like someone else said before, 100 years from now, Venezuela will still be the same.

God have mercy on the oligarchs (as Chavez calls them) because they dared work for what they have...

L Blanco
Austin, TX

Dear FRONTLINE,

As an American, I lived in Venezuela for 6 years back in the 70's. I have step-family who are Venezuelans and I frequently hear about the antics of Chavez. The state of their country has deteriorated so much that I am fearful to take my children down there to see where I grew up as a teenager. I am disappointed that the US government has not taken a greater interest in monitoring the events that take place there.

Chavez is all about Chavez - and his mark on history. He puts himself first and his people second. He gives away money to other countries to ingratiate himself and buy friendships - money that could have been spent on bettering Venezuela. He openly speaks ill of those he does not like (Bush), coming off like an uneducated ass. I can only imagine the embarrassment he brings to educated Venezuelans in the process. If it were not for oil, he would be a two-bit wannabe leader and nobody would take notice.

PBS - I commend you for airing a show that speaks the minds of millions - something that most political leaders are hesitant to do. It is my hope that all Venezuelan's will wise up to his ways and ultimately vote him out of office.

Arlington, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

Bikel has repeatedly called Petkoff representative of the "left". It's common knowledge that this is highly contestable and whatever history that Petkoff has of running with leftist-oriented parties is long past. It simply doesn't work to make U.S. "equivalents" of Petkoff to 'the left'.

What is terrific is the forum and the access to the 'live chat'. In a way, this conversation becomes much more revealing and engaging even if we are meeting in the living room of the people who served (and continue to serve) this whole thing up. (Conveniently within the PBS teachers program, so it can be broadcast to our children) Now, PBS, that you have gathered us to this forum, and heard from people who are outraged that our public tax dollars - at a time of world-wide crisis - is being squandered by incompetence and misguided judgment - what will PBS do? Ignore its listeners or step up to the plate and democratize our media? I think its clear that the documentary violated the fairness rules posted on this web site, and I would hope that an investigation of that breech be next on the agenda, and that its details also be posted on this site. Bikel may have been fabulous at her long list of accomplishments, but this documentary hurts and she and other producers need to be held accountable for it.

Angela Marino Segura
New York, NY

Dear FRONTLINE,

I see now why Communist and Socialist dictators fail.They all seem to have good intentions, but are incompetent individuals.

Hugo Chavez appears to be incompetent, and a dangerous megalomainiac.Venezuela has much potential.It is a shame that the people are still living in abject poverty, and Crime is going out of control.When will South Americans realize that Communism is a failed peolitical system?

The Frontline documentary, was excellent.Again we receive news, that the other networks fail to report on , or are afraid to report.Keep up the Good work Frontline.Another show, where I just couldn't change the T.V. channel

V Palmer
Brooklyn, New

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank You.

For the first time in 10 years I've been able to watch a documentary produced to inform and tell the truth in an intelligent way about the situation in my country.

I believe no venezuelan is expecting any supernatural power or any other nation to end this shameful period of our history, we should all assume this crisis, however, we need to make the world aware of the truth and the horror we live on a daily basis.

Hugo's 21st Century Socialist Revolution, has taken thousands of lives, including two of my family and friends. Most venezuelans today have someone in their own family or know of someone that has been killed, assolted, rubbed or kidnapped.

In ten years his regime has failed to provide the basics to a nation, and when I say basics, I mean really basic, like food, access to health care and safety. When a man is sick hungry and fears for his life, he has very little energy and courriage to think about the revolution and its heroes. So to all of those hopeful communists who look up to this as a model to follow, look elsewhere this is not the your man. I discovered that right after I voted for him, when he put me down, insulted me, and blended me into the brainless mass of red uniformed clowns full of fears that follows his every mandate.

Paris, Ile de France

Dear FRONTLINE,

The "Frontline" program about Hugo Chavez was slanted and inaccurate, against Chavez. The show took every opportunity to be critical, and did not report the many positive changes in Venezuela in recent years. As one example, it talked about the prevalence of violence in Venezuela, without mentioning that violence is much worse in neighboring Colombia.

Robert Thatch
Kansas City, MO

Dear FRONTLINE,

I lived in Venezuela for 8 years from 1968 to 1976 and it became my second home. I love the people and the entire country. It is with much sadness that I read and see what Chavez has done to the beautiful country and hope that some day he will be voted out of office.

Many of my Venezuelan friends have had to leave the country because of his oppressive regime and hopefully someday we will all be able to come home.

Jane Schweitzer
Sagamore hills, Ohio

Dear FRONTLINE,

I live in Barquisimeto, Venezuela and I have a deep understanding of the reality that we (Venezuelans) have to go through every day.

Some people complain about the lack of essentials used on a daily basis, but nobody realizes that the business owners are the ones hiding these supplies to later finger point and blame the President Chavez but the Government is going after them and also bringing those supplies from abroad, but nobody would admit that.

There are also lots of complain about the poor economy in the country, but the acquisition of new cars has doubled from last year (The financing system in Venezuela requires any potential car buyer to pay at least 30% of total amount as a down payment in order to qualify for an auto-loan).

Some people complain about the high prices of new housing, but they are not agreeing with the housing plan the Government supports. In Venezuela, employees can enjoy the highest minimum salary in Latin America, plus at the end of the year they receive up to 3 months worth of salary as a Christmas bonus. Not income tax is taken from anybodys salary..Never So, are we struggling economically?

I do not believe in politicians at all, but I believe on what I see everyday. I see a growing country at a very fast pace.

Luis Macero
Barquisimeto, Lara

Dear FRONTLINE,

Although it is probably not likely or true. it would be of some comfort to think that one or all of the western intelligence agencies were actively trying to take this dictator out, in an effort to liberate Venezuela. However, a real attempt to stop importing Venezuelan heavy crude would have the same effect.

Paul Fay
Kingston, Ontario

Dear FRONTLINE,

One of the things pointed out in some comments here is the "racial" issue which also is one of the mottos used by Chavez and his government propaganda machine.

As a Venezuelan, I can tell you that before Chavez there was not racial issues at all. Certainly there was this kind of issue through our history since colonial times but during the 20th century we overcome this, first of all because everybody in Venezuela is a "mixed breed" (mestizo) even the whiter one.

Everybody in Venezuela has ancestors from different races and origins. The country is a melting pot which is a good thing. There is not race discrimination, however we must admit that the discrimination have existed in terms of "social class" or economic position. We have had leaders, presidents, scientists, musicians and profesionals from every race and mixed races as well. So don't come to offer the racist excuse in this discussion because it is nonsense...

Jose R. Zerpa
Calgary, Alberta

Dear FRONTLINE,

The filmmakers seemed uninformed about many of the governments programs. It showed a traffic jam in Caracas rather than new electric trolleys, metros and the ongoing construction of a national passenger rail system. It showed lines at a Mission Mercal store, but failed to explain that these were stores set up to offer at-cost food to lower income Venezuelans. The filmmakers show one uncompleted housing project. I took the bus between Caracas and Barquisimeto in May and saw lots of new housing, completed and under construction.

Big issues in Venezuela like crime and corruption were barely alluded to. The role of the U.S. government in Venezuelan politics was not mentioned, except to portray Chavez as paranoid about the C.I.A. I found it interesting that the filmmakers chose to leave out Argentina when identifying nations with which Venezuela has close relations.

I was happy that the film showed Uribe and Chavez shaking hands; most of the American media portray Venezuela and Colombia as enemies.

John Regan
Olympia, WA

Dear FRONTLINE,

How come little was mentioned about U.S. involvementin the coup attempt ? Based on our penchant for CIAmeddling past and present, I'd bet that was the case.The show's absence of exploring this connection isglaring !

don campbell
milford, nj

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am not sure if Frontline will post this message. But I feel like this segment was very much written from a perspective of "white people know what is best for all colored people."

Before Hugo Chavez took power, millions of colored people suffered abject poverty while the Venezuelans of European origin prospered. Now that Hugo Chavez wants to reform his country, the white people who exploited the poor and colored, are throwing a fit. Have you noticed that almost everyone the producer interviewed was white? Secondly, Frontline made these wild accusations about people's life ruined after the Chavez takeover of the state owned oil company. But the producer did not find a single person whose life was ruined after the Chavez takeover. What about the leaking of recall petitioners on the internet? Couldn't you find anyone who was fired because he or she signed the petition to recall the president? I am pretty sure "conservative" The Economist magazine these rumors as facts and Frontline took them as truth.

O. Bold
Glendale, California

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posted november 19, 2008

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