After a seven-month hiatus, President Hugo Chávez is set to return to the Venezuelan airwaves. Yesterday, Minister of Communications and Information Andrés Izarra confirmed via his Twitter account that the president’s signature television address, Aló Presidente, would be back as of Sunday, January 8, though he did not specify the location from which the program would be re-launched.
This will be Chávez’ first broadcast since he was diagnosed with cancer last June. Following an operation for a pelvic abscess and several rounds of chemotherapy in Caracas and Havana that concluded last September, Chávez says he has fully recuperated and is ready for “a lot of work” in 2012—including the October presidential elections in which he will seek re-election to a fourth term.
Aló Presidente first aired in May 1999 in a radio broadcast recorded at the headquarters of Radio Nacional de Venezuela, after which it also began airing on state television. During the show, Chávez was known to improvise and often rambled as he unveiled new social policies, provided advice or broke into song; his longest broadcast clocked in at eight hours straight. He once made news by calling then-president George W. Bush a “donkey”; he has also hosted former Cuban President Fidel Castro on the program.
Aló Presidente is one component of the Chávez government’s broader media strategy. The government also owns a number of national television networks, community radio stations and newspapers, and has historically adopted a hostile attitude toward media it considers critical—including, for example, its 2007 decision not to renew the radio broadcast license of radio station and television network RCTV Internacional.