A few moments in the life of Hugo Chávez

The tenth anniversary, on 11 April, of the (sort of) coup d’état in 2002 against Hugo Chávez passed largely unnoticed but it set me off on an extended Venezuela kick that encompassed a book, rival documentaries, and numerous articles and left me feeling like Errol Morris on one of his extended examinations in the New York Times of the representation of truth.  I’ll write more about that in another post — maybe, Morris-style, in several posts — but along the way I was reminded of these two frivolous moments in the life of Hugo Chávez.  The one above comes from Aló Presidente, the call-in TV show that Chávez hosts.  This is an unorthodox undertaking, reflecting the personal nature of his presidency: at its best, you can say the show allows a nation normally kept at a great distance from its political leadership to connect to them directly; at worst, it allows a man given to inexhaustible verbosity and colorful imagery a five-hour vacuum to fill with whatever goes through his head.  In this clip, Chávez’s spirits got the better of him.  He begins “You messed up with me, birdie” — an unconventional term of endearment for George W. Bush, who will turn out to be the object of this rant and addressed subsequently (in English) as “Mr. Danger” — and then, perhaps inspired by the farm setting visible in the background, repeatedly calls Bush a donkey.  But it is not all animal imagery: Bush is also a drunk, an ignorant, a coward, and plenty more.  After all this abuse, no wonder Bush reacted so nonchalantly to the (comparatively civilized) flying shoe that came on a visit to Iraq late in his presidency.

The second video came at the Ibero-American summit in 2007: José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, then the Spanish prime minister, is speaking — or trying to, anyway, but  Chávez keeps interrupting him.  They go back and forth in what counts, by the understated rules of such diplomatic meetings, as an argument and then King Juan Carlos I of Spain intervenes and tells Chávez, ¿Por qué no te callas? — “Why don’t you shut up.”  Improbably, this question became a popular cellphone ringtone and inspired a number of dance remixes, such as the one below, in which you’ll hear the King over a disco beat.

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