|Presented by||Hugo Chávez|
|Country of origin||Venezuela|
|Original network||Venezolana de Televisión|
|Original release||23 May 1999 –|
29 January 2012
Aló Presidente (English: Hello, Mr. President) was an unscripted propaganda talk show that was hosted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. It was broadcast on Venezuelan state television, by Venezolana de Televisión, and radio stations every Sunday from 11:00 am.
The show has been criticized for being similar in style to, and having the appeal of, absurdist humor while actually being run by the leader of a populous country, as well as for being samey to itself and becoming tedious to watch after only a few hours.
In Venezuela, the show was a powerful tool in creating and maintaining the ideals of Chavismo within the population.
The show featured Chávez addressing topics of the day and touring locations where government social welfare programs were active. The first broadcast was made on May 23, 1999 — about three months after Chávez took office — on radio. The show did not air between June 5, 2011 and January 8, 2012 while Chávez was receiving cancer treatment in Cuba. A total of 378 shows aired. He spent a large amount of time on the show denouncing capitalism—over 1,500 hours in total.
One of the most memorable and "infamous" episodes is said to be a 2006 broadcast where the show was instead recorded in a field, with cows wandering around Chávez' desk; in 2007, he took his desk to the beach and recorded a 7-hour episode that discussed his views on European imperialism by accident. Another famous moment was during the March 2, 2008 airing when Chávez ordered a top general to send ten battalions of troops to the border with Colombia in response to a bombing by Colombian forces inside Ecuador which killed Raúl Reyes, a top member of FARC. The battalions were ultimately not deployed, but the decision largely caused the 2008 Andean diplomatic crisis.
The format of the show changed over time. At first, it was mainly a call-in show in which Venezuelans expressed grievances and talked to Chávez. Over time, fewer and fewer "regular people" called in and instead Chávez talked about his favorite topics and personal life. More artistic performances were added as the years went on. Throughout its run, the show remained unscripted. Chávez tried to broadcast from a different location each week.
Broadcast as a cadena nacional, citizens were required to tune in to the show each week. Many Venezuelans tuned in because Chávez was known for unveiling new financial assistance packages every weekend. The program did not have a fixed ending time, but usually ended by 5:00 pm, or as the program dynamics permitted. The show promoted the Bolivarian Revolution and blamed Venezuelan economic problems on its northern neighbor, the United States. George W. Bush was referred to in the show as "Míster Danger", the villain character in famous Venezuelan novel Doña Bárbara.
Government ministers were required to attend the program. They could be questioned by the president about anything, and sometimes policy — even military policy — was made on the show. The battalions were ultimately not deployed, but the decision contributed to the 2008 Andean diplomatic crisis. Another topic the show was frequently used to discuss, and often denounce, was U.S. foreign policy. Sometimes, the show went out to the streets and stopped citizens at random to ask them if they watched the show; without fail, they all said they loved it, which has been viewed as fake.
Rachel Nolan of The New York Times described the show as looking "for all the world like a 'Daily Show' parody" because of its "cheap" and "quirky" opening titles: a ribbon in the colors of the Venezuelan flag unfurls with a drum roll before the title appears on screen, followed by a trumpet call with dramatic block letters showing the words "humanity," "struggle," and "socialism." Nolan also notes the political imagery of Chávez' appearance in the title sequence; he was always dressed entirely in red or in a military uniform, often wearing a Che Guevara beret, and was swarmed with fans outside the presidential palace before the show started and he applauded himself live at his desk.
Chávez also had a catchphrase on the show, akin to Donald Trump's "You're Fired!". A common activity Chávez was filmed doing for the show was expropriating buildings owned by rich people, which he dramatized by pointing at the building and shouting "Exprópiese!".
Aló Presidente spawned similar programs by leaders in other Latin American countries, including Bolivia, Ecuador, and El Salvador, led by Presidents Evo Morales, Rafael Correa, and Mauricio Funes respectively. Some of these leaders had previously been pseudo-interviewed on Aló Presidente. A later similar program, created by Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez in September 2019 was delivered via WhatsApp. Despite the international copies, Nolan opined that, "with the exception of the logorrheic Fidel Castro, it's hard to imagine another political figure with the combination of manic exhibitionism and entertainer's stamina required to star in this sort of show".
It was suggested by historian Enrique Krauze that the show was somewhat enjoyed by Venezuelans because it gave them "at least the appearance of contact with power, through [Chávez'] verbal and visual presence, which may be welcomed by people who have spent most of their lives being ignored."