Hugo Chávez has launched his latest radio venture, a programme called Suddenly with Chavez in which he can take to the airwaves any time of the day or night.
Heralded by the Venezuelan Government as a “communicational guerrilla” in its battle to advance the country’s Bolivarian revolution, the new show on state radio has no schedule and can be broadcast whenever Mr Chávez desires.
Inaugurating the new show yesterday, the President said that the programme could surprise viewers “at midnight or at dawn”, because “we have many things to report”.
The first edition took in Venezuelan-Argentinian relations, the World Boxing championship, the upcoming 200th anniversary of Latin American independence and the launch of a new state supermarket chain using stores expropriated from the French chain Exito.
“Sometimes I am awake at three in the morning, working or revising papers, and there are people who listen to the radio at this hour,” Mr Chávez said, suggesting he could sing them “romantic songs”.
Mr Chávez relishes his role as a TV and radio personality and often takes to the airwaves several times a day to set forth his political views.
He already has a weekly TV and radio show, Hello President, in which he often spends up to eight hours answering questions from viewers and expounding on subjects ranging from US imperialism to Venezuelan bathroom habits.
The shows are characterised by frequent bursts of presidential song and Mr Chávez’s earthy wit. He once spent six minutes describing in detail how he suffered an attack of diarrhoea when addressing the nation live on state television.
He is increasingly making use of a law that allows him to force private television and radio stations to broadcast his marathon speeches. On Saturday he took over the airwaves twice to lash out at opponents and outline his latest plans for communal property.
During one of the broadcasts, he mocked opponents who accuse him of turning Venezuela into another Cuba, saying his alliance with the Socialist island annoyed the “bourgoisie” so much he was going to talk about it “all the time”.
Mr Chávez’s ever-increasing dominance of the airwaves infuriates his critics and has led to confrontation with the owners of private TV stations, many of them wealthy opposition figures, who resent being forced to carry his lengthy broadcasts.
Last month, protests erupted across Caracas after the Government closed down the anti-Chávez channel RCTV after it refused to cut to a presidential speech.
The Government’s media offensive is in part a response to what it perceives as “media terrorism” by critical outlets, many of which supported a failed coup in 2002.
But his interference with regular programming often frustrates even his own supporters. His loss of a 2007 referendum on changing term limits is often blamed on an earlier confrontation with RCTV, whose broadcast licence the Government refused to renew.
That move provoked protests even in Chávez strongholds, often poor barrios where residents were enraged by the loss of their favourite soap operas.