Video Digest: November 16, 2007

This week the Spanish Prime Minister told Hugo Chávez to shut up. The complete video circus as Meave Gallagher digs into Chávez's image problems in western media.

Last weekend, during an Ibero-American conference, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez called former Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar a fascist. Why? It wasn’t quite clear. Current Spanish PM José Zapatero did his dignified best to defend his compatriot, and boy did Chávez give him a bad time—heckling and talking back and trying to shout over everything Zapatero said. That’s when the King of Spain gave him what’s what:

Doesn’t he sound like he’s yelling at some kids in a movie theater? I love it. I told my boyfriend all about it later, how our Venezuelan friend finally shut up his big fat face and how happy it was making the English-speaking press. “What do you think of Chávez?” Joel asked me. Well, I told him, I’m all for South and Central American economic strength and independence, and I’m tired of horrible stories about dictators put in place by the CIA, but I thought Chávez wasn’t much better. Doesn’t he force every TV station in the country to play his weekly program? Isn’t he the guy who’s a close ally of Iran, who called Bush “the Devil” at the U.N. conference?

That’s when he told me about what he knew about our friend Hugo, learned from a book called Armed Madhouse, by Greg Palast. I had checked it out from the library after watching University of Florida student Andrew Mayer get Tased by police after recommending the same book to John Kerry last September.

Did you know, asked Joel, that Chávez actually sold heating oil through CitGo to poor people in Chicago and New York at dirt-cheap prices, which he was able to do because he kicked all the multinational oil companies out of Venezuela? Did you know how much oil Venezuela actually has? Lucky for me, who didn’t read the book, there’s a good section on Chávez on YouTube, sort of like a music video for a book-on-tape. Here’s part one:

So hang on a second, I said, you mean he doesn’t just sit before an audience with that big fat face in the middle of that enormous head and pontificate?

It would seem that our media has an image of friend Hugo that they would like us to share. Look, crazy Cindy Sheehan loves Chávez, and even the Democrats don’t like her anymore, what with her campaign against Nancy Pelosi for Congress.

Larry King is in on it, too, luring Poppa Bush into speaking his mind on live television. Not that a loose-lipped Bush is a rare creature.

What to think? Obviously Chávez is complicated, and forming an educated opinion on him is not as easy as taking a “Who Represents You?” quiz starring the ‘08 presidential candidates (Kucinich! Woo!). I’m grateful that Juan Carlos got annoyed enough to yell at Chávez at that conference because it piqued my interest in good ol’ Hugo, and at least now I know there’s more to him than name-calling and weekends with Fidel.

Besides, he charmed the pants of Barbara Walters and she was in cold hard bitch mode. Maybe that doesn’t make him a great leader, but it does speak well of his personality, which is half the battle on U.S. TV.

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