Public image of Hugo Chávez

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Hugo Chávez, the President of Venezuela from 1999 until 2013, has elicited a variety of public perceptions regarding his policies, personality, and performance as a head of state.

Domestic media[edit]

Private media[edit]

Initial coverage[edit]

Private Venezuelan media officials stated that the majority of the media supported Chávez and the change he promised when originally elected in 1998, but after they reported the "negative realities" occurring in Venezuela, the Venezuelan government began to portray the media as an enemy.[1] The relationship between Chávez's government and the media was then in dispute over press freedom, with the Venezuelan government threatening to revoke licenses of media organizations.[2] Media owners, managers, and commentators working for the five major private mainstream television networks and largest mainstream newspapers then stated their opposition to Chávez's policies.[3] These media outlets accused the Chávez administration of intimidating their journalists using specially dispatched gangs.[3] Chávez in turn alleged that the owners of these networks had primary allegiance not to Venezuela but to the United States, and that they sought the advancement of neoliberalism via corporate propaganda.[citation needed]

Coverage of the 2002 coup[edit]

The private media was accused of assisting the 2002 coup against Hugo Chávez due to actions performed before and during the events that unfolded.[4] On 11 April, the anti-government march, the message "remove Chávez", and the call to redirect the march to the presidential palace in Milaflores, were "widely announced, promoted, and covered by private television channels, whose explicit support for the opposition became evident."[3] The media ran ads encouraging viewers to protest and news coverage was biased and even manipulated, with a Foreign Policy blog citing Chávez supporters stating that "[s]uch tactics were crucial to the coup's strength."[5][better source needed] On the first morning after the 2002 coup, many of the new Carmona government's highest-ranking members appeared on-air to offer their appreciation to the private media for their support. Once the counter-coup was launched by Chavistas and loyalist elements of the Palace Guard, stations censored any reporting on the events[3] and chose to broadcast classic films and sitcom reruns.[2] Media officials instead attributed this to safety concerns[6] and further denied taking part in the coup: while admitting that they made mistakes, they stated that factual coverage was impeded by the confusion surrounding the coup attempt.[1]

Later coverage[edit]

In 2006, President Chávez announced that the terrestrial broadcast license for RCTV—Venezuela's second largest TV channel—would not be renewed.[7] The channel's terrestrial broadcasts ended on 28 May 2007 and were replaced with a state network.[8] RCTV was accused of supporting the coup against Chávez in April 2002, and the oil strike in 2002-2003. It was also accused by the government of violating the Law on the Social Responsibility of Radio and Television.[9] The director of the station, Marcel Granier, denied taking part in the coup.[10] This action was condemned by a multitude of international organizations.[10][11][12][13] Greg Grandin, professor of Latin American history at New York University stated that "[The Venezuelan] media is chronically obsessed with Chávez, and critical in a way that would be completely alien for most US observers." After the media-backed 2002 coup attempt, Venezuela passed 'social responsibility' legislation regulating the media.[14][better source needed] Leftist media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) also questioned whether, in the event a television station openly supported and collaborated with coup leaders, the station in question would not be subject to even more serious consequences in the United States or any other Western nation.[15]

In a poll conducted by Datanalisis, almost 70 percent of Venezuelans polled opposed the shut-down, but most cited the loss of their favorite soap operas rather than concerns about limits on freedom of expression.[8] After RCTV lost its terrestrial broadcast licence in 2007, private television media remained opposed to the Chavez government, but in most cases moderated that opposition by presenting more government spokesmen.[16] By 2008, Reporters Without Borders reported that following "years of 'media war,' Hugo Chavez and his government took control of almost the entire broadcast sector".[17]

Globovision then became perhaps the most vocally and stridently anti-Chavez television station.[18] The Venezuelan Government proceeded to file a complaint against Globovision with the Attorney General Office on this matter.[19] In 2009, Venezuela's telecommunications regulator launched an investigation into Globovisión after the Venezuelan government stated that the network used an earthquake as an opportunity to attack the government. The government said Globovision was illegally inciting fear and violated the public's right to access critical information in a time of crisis, in particular by claiming that Venezuelan institutions were unaware of the quake and that the only information was available from the US (although in fact the US data had come from Venezuela’s National Seismological Institute). The Director of Globovision, who intervened personally on air, claiming to have been unable to reach Venezuelan authorities.[20][better source needed][21][better source needed][22] Chávez demanded sanctions against Globovisión, calling station director Alberto Federico Ravell "a crazy man with a cannon".[23][17] This action was criticized by two officials who monitor freedom of speech, Frank La Rue of the United Nations and Catalina Botero of the OAS.[24] Globovision was fined $4.1m in 2009, for illegal broadcasting on unauthorized microwaves and unpaid taxes from the years 2002-2003 on political advertising airtime donated by Globovision. [25][26]

The private media in Venezuela was eventually pressured by the Venezuelan government into self-censorship.[27] Reporters Without Borders said that the media in Venezuela is "almost entirely dominated by the government and its obligatory announcements, called cadenas[28] while Freedom House stated that "many previously opposition-aligned outlets have altered their editorial stances to avoid drawing the government’s ire" with censorship increasing significantly during the final years of Chávez's presidency.[27] Since Chávez's death, private media organizations such as El Universal, Globovisión and Ultimas Noticias were bought by individuals linked to the Venezuelan government.[29]

State media[edit]

Aló Presidente[edit]

In 2001, Chavez turned Aló Presidente from a radio show to a full-fledged live, unscripted, television show on public-owned media that ran during all hours of the day promoting the Bolivarian Revolution.[30] The show aired every Sunday, depicting Chávez (wearing red, the color of the revolution) as the charismatic leader, passionate about the well being of his country.[31] Many Venezuelans tuned in because Chávez was known for unveiling new financial assistance packages every weekend.[32] Chávez spent an average of 40 hours a week on television.[33] The show was considered the principal link between the Venezuelan government and its citizens, and was a source of information for both official and opposition media and at international level. The show featured Chávez addressing topics of the day, taking phone calls from the audience, and touring locations where government social welfare programs were active.

On 11 June 2009, Chavez inaugurated a "theoretical" edition of his show, in which he wanted to promote "the study, reading and deepening of the revolutionary ideals" in order to strengthen socialism. This program aired on Thursday afternoons.[34]

Bolivarian propaganda[edit]

Hugo Chávez used propaganda that took advantage of emotional arguments to gain attention, exploit the fears (either real or imagined) of the population, created external enemies for scapegoat purposes, and produced nationalism within the population, causing feelings of betrayal for support of the opposition.[35] In 2007, The World Politics Review stated that "As Chávez pushes on with transforming Venezuela into a socialist state, government propaganda plays an important role in maintaining and mobilizing government supporters".[36][37] A 2011 New York Times article said that Venezuela had an "expanding state propaganda complex"[38] while The Boston Globe described Chávez as "a media savvy, forward-thinking propagandist [who] has the oil wealth to influence public opinion".[30]

Chávez used television both domestically through cadenas and international through outlets like TeleSUR[39][40][41] for propaganda purposes[42] while websites like, Radio Nacional de Venezuela,, were allegedly used by the Venezuelan government for propaganda purposes.[43] Chávez was also promoted through educational systems introduced by his government in Venezuela which focused on achievements made under his policies.[44][45][46] A cult of personality was then created around Chávez in Venezuela among his supporters.[47]

International media[edit]


According to PBS, Hugo Chávez was popular among anti-globalization individuals of the press in Europe, including former director of Le Monde diplomatique, Ignacio Ramonet.[48]

North America[edit]


On 13 March 2007 the Ontario Press Council upheld a complaint that a series of articles published in the Toronto Star in May 2006 lacked balance due to the absence of comment from Venezuelan government representatives and did not attribute figures about murder rate, poverty and unemployment to opposition sources.[49][50]

United States[edit]

Media outlets in the United States, and in other parts of the world, have consistently suggested that Hugo Chávez is a "dictator" or is "headed in that direction" in spite of the fact that he and his party have won numerous national elections certified by international observers, and confirmed by independent international polling companies.[citation needed] The leftist media watchdog FAIR frequently criticized media coverage of the Chávez government.[51][52][53][54][55] The Venezuelan government also attempted to improve the image of Hugo Chávez through the Venezuela Information Office.[56][57]


  • Eva Golinger, esq., "The Media War Against the People: A Case Study of Media Concentration and Power in Venezuela," in Olivia Burlingame Goumbri, The Venezuela Reader, Washington D.C. U.S.A., 2005. A version of this is available online here.
  • Gill, J. et al. (2006), "Covering Chavez in US media: how elite newspaper reports a controversial international figure", Investigación y Desarrollo 14(2)
  • Manwaring, Max G. (2005). "Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, Bolivarian socialism, and asymmetric warfare" (PDF). The Strategic Studies Institute.
  • Schoen, Douglas (2009). The Threat Closer to Home. New York: Free Press. ISBN 978-1-4165-9477-2.


  1. ^ a b "CODEL BALLENGER 4/27 DINNER WITH MEDIA OWNERS" (PDF). United States Department of State. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b David Adams and Phil Gunson, St. Petersburg Times, 18 April 2002, Media accused in failed coup Archived 7 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b c d Dinges, John. Columbia Journalism Review (July 2005). "Soul Search", Vol. 44 Issue 2, July–August 2005, pp52-8 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "CJR" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  4. ^ Maurice Lemoine, Le Monde Diplomatique, August 2002, (French)"Coups d'Etat sans frontière", (Portuguese)"Golpes Sem Fronteiras".
  5. ^ Fossett, Katelyn. "How the Venezuelan Government Made the Media into Its Most Powerful Ally". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  6. ^ Nelson, Brian A. (2009). The silence and the scorpion : the coup against Chávez and the making of modern Venezuela (online ed.). New York: Nation Books. p. 26. ISBN 1568584180.
  7. ^ BBC NEWS. Chavez to shut down opposition TV. (29 December 2006).
  8. ^ a b "Venezuela replaces opposition TV with state network". Reuters. 28 May 2007.
  9. ^ Declaraciones del Ministerio de Comunicación e Información
  10. ^ a b Forero, Juan. (The Washington Post, 18 January 2007). "Pulling the Plug on Anti-Chavez TV". Retrieved 18 January 2007.
  11. ^ Joel Simon, Executive Director CPJ urges Chávez to allow RCTV to stay on the air Archived 5 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine Committee to Protect Journalists Accessed 29 May 2007.
  12. ^ Venezuela (2006). Freedom House. Accessed 29 May 2007.
  13. ^ IPI condemns shutdown of RCTV television station in Venezuela Archived 17 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine International Press Institute Accessed 29 May 2007.
  14. ^ Democracy Now! Thursday, 21 September 2006. [1] Retrieved 4 October 2006.
  15. ^ "Coup Co-Conspirators as Free-Speech Martyrs".
  16. ^ CounterPunch, 21 June 2007, An Analysis of How the Network Has Deliberately Misinformed Its Viewers: Fox News and Venezuela Archived 30 November 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ a b Arthur Brice (5 June 2009). "Venezuela takes actions against critical TV station". CNN.
  18. ^ Venezuelanalysis, 22 May 2009, Globovision: The Loose Cannon of Venezuelan Media
  19. ^ El Universal Archived 1 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ Axis of Logic, 27 June 2009, Reporters Without Borders’ Lies about Venezuela
  21. ^ Venezuelanalysis, 11 June 2009, Venezuela's Media Quake
  22. ^ Juan Forero (11 June 2009). "Chávez Raising Pressure On Defiant TV Network". The Washington Post.
  23. ^ Tyler Bridges (12 May 2009). "Venezuela's Chávez threatens to shut down TV station". The Christian Science Monitor.
  24. ^ "Venezuelan diplomat defends probe of anti-government TV station". CBC and The Associated Press. 23 May 2009.
  25. ^ Venezuelanalysis, 17 June 2009, Venezuela Investigates Private TV Station Globovision for Inciting Assassination, Other Crimes
  26. ^ Venezuelanalysis, 6 June 2009, Venezuelan Government Fines Opposition TV Globovision
  27. ^ a b "Venezuela - 2014 Scores". Freedom House. Archived from the original on 14 June 2015. Retrieved 16 June 2015. pressure from the central government on private media ... fosters systematic self-censorshipCS1 maint: Unfit url (link)
  28. ^ "Americas". Reporters Without Borders. Archived from the original on 3 March 2014. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  29. ^ Minaya, Ezequiel (7 September 2014). "Venezuela's Press Crackdown Stokes Growth of Online Media". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  30. ^ a b Lakshmanan, Indira (27 July 2005). "Channeling his energies Venezuelans riveted by president's TV show". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  31. ^ Kraft, Michael (24 July 2007). "Chávez Propaganda Machine". Charlotte Conservative. Retrieved 10 March 2012.
  32. ^ McCaughan (2005), p. 196.
  33. ^ Schoen (2009), p. 154.
  34. ^ "Aló, Presidente Teórico es un espacio para afianzar el socialismo" Bolivarian News Agency, 11 June 2009 (in Spanish) (Retrieved on 15 July 2009)
  35. ^ Manwaring (2005), p. 11.
  36. ^ Moloney, Anastasia (29 January 2007). "Photo Feature: Chavez's Propaganda". World Politics Review. Retrieved 10 March 2012.
  37. ^ Grant, Will (23 November 2010). "Venezuela bans unauthorised use of Hugo Chávez's image". BBC News. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
  38. ^ Romero, Simon (4 February 2011). "In Venezuela, an American Has the President's Ear". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
  39. ^ "Using oil to spread revolution". The Economist. 28 July 2005. Retrieved 10 June 2015.
  40. ^ "Chávez bid to counter Hollywood". BBC News. 4 June 2006. Retrieved 26 April 2012.
  41. ^ Sreeharsha, Vinod (22 November 2005). "Telesur tested by Chávez video". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 26 April 2012. These clips bolster critics who claim the network is and will be a propaganda tool for Chávez.
  42. ^ Manwaring (2005), p. 12.
  43. ^ "The ABCs Of The Venezuelan Government's Political Propaganda Strategy". WikiLeaks. Government of the United States. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  44. ^ Nichols and Morse (2010), p. 230.
  45. ^ Clarembaux, Patricia (24 June 2014). "Denuncian adoctrinamiento chavista en la educación infantil". Infobae. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  46. ^ "El chavismo reescribe la historia de Venezuela para adoctrinar a los niños". El Nuevo Herald. 25 April 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  47. ^ James, Ian (24 January 2013). "Hugo Chavez Personality Cult Flourishes In Venezuela". Huffington Post. Associated Press. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  48. ^ Gonzalez, Angel (August 2003). "Chavez's Remarkable Staying Power Chavez in Person: The President As a Master of Improvisation". PBS. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  49. ^ "Star stories on Venezuela lacked balance, panel rules". Toronto Star. 13 March 2007. Retrieved 9 July 2007.
  50. ^ "News Stories". Ontario Press Council. Retrieved 9 July 2007.
  51. ^ "Region: Venezuela". FAIR. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  52. ^ "Coup Co-Conspirators as Free-Speech Martyrs". 11 April 2002. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  53. ^ Naureckas, Jim (24 September 2006). "Inexplicable Tongue-Lashing". Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  54. ^ Rendall, Steve. "The Myth of the Muzzled Media". Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  55. ^ "NYT Hypes Venezuelan Threat". 25 February 2007. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  56. ^ "Lumina Strategies' filing to US DoJ Foreign Agent Registration Unit" (PDF). United States Department of Justice. Retrieved 7 February 2009.
  57. ^ Collier, Robert (21 August 2004). "Venezuelan politics suit Bay Area activists' talents". Hearst Communications Inc., Hearst Newspapers Division. San Francisco Chronicle.

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