Alo Presidente is the weekly transmission from the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias. For some in the west the concept of a president speaking to the nation for 5 hours on a sunday seems crazy. Who would tune in to listen to 5 hours of Gordon Brown, or Kevin Rudd? There are few figures in political history who would attempt to hold public interest in such a way. More than this what would our rich world leaders speak about? A concession for another mining company, cuts to university spending or putting public infrastructure in private hands? This is the last thing our governments want the public to start thinking about. Out governments only speak to us when they want to scare us.
In Venezuela the situation is different. The population is in transition from a state in servitude to the United States and the interests of an elite few, to a self sufficient socialist nation. In the first 10 years of revolution there have been major advances in health, infrastructure, communication, agriculture, education and culture which are acknowledged by the united nations and only denied by the most cynical commentators (http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/indicators). The amount of work required to transform a country with more than 50% of the population in poverty to a self sufficient country where everyone lives in dignity is impossible to quantify but this is the challenge being undertaken by the Venezuelan people.
In episode 330 of Alo Presidente a new dairy production plant was inaugurated which is producing a variety of dairy products for consumption by school and university students who are provided with free meals every school day. The plant uses technology from Iran as part of a cooperative agreements between the two countries. The products will also arrive to the market through government initiatives such as Mercal, PDVAL and community council outlets where they will be sold without a series of profit making intermediaries (http://alopresidente.gob.ve/noticia/inaugurada-planta-procesadora-de-leche-en-boconoito.html). This new model for production of essential foods has scared capitalist producers and resulted in sabotage campaigns that have created shortages of milk in recent years as a tactic to destabilize the government. Within the next four or five years Venezuela will become self sufficient in terms of dairy production. This advance is the result of the impulse from the national government which has included turning over the land from unproductive large estate holders to small farmers (campesinos) (http://alopresidente.gob.ve/noticia/investigacion-agricola-en-venezuela-dejara-de-ser-una-practica-dispersa.html). Venezuela will soon be transformed from a major food importer dependent on international markets to an exporter capable of fighting famine and shortage.
The new education centre for agricultural initiatives was also demonstrated as a work in progress. In the past there hasn’t been any central coordination of agriculture education for small scale producers. The centre will use Chinese and Cuban educators as well as Venezuelan’s to improve the quality of production in Venezuela.
Tractors, planters and other productive machinery were presented to a local community council which consists of more than 70 small parcels of land. The machines are community property which will be payed off at 0% interest. The total value of the machinery is around $270 000 US (http://alopresidente.gob.ve/noticia/beneficiados-con-creditos-de-maquinaria-agricola-72-parceleros-barineses.html).
A visit to an Afro-descendent community which was celebrating it’s cultural roots and the cultural diversity of Venezuela also featured afro-descendants speaking about the emancipation of a people held down during more than 200 years of supposed independence.
A visit to another community where a new cement road had recently been laid down allowed the local people to personally thank the government and ask for better access to public transport because at the moment they are relying on a rented bus. This organic interaction between the public and a president is something very few leaders are willing to risk in these times of media exaggeration and sound bite politics.
Mercal Hogar is a new initiative from the Venezuelan government which aims to create equal access to white goods amongst the Venezuelan population. They demonstrated a fridge, a stove and a washing machine produced in China to be sold at 30-50% discount to comparative goods produced for the capitalist market. These goods are available at between 2-4% interest to be paid off over the course of up to 80 months. The goods are also energy efficient to the extent of using 20-50% less energy than new comparable models and around five times less than older models. This initiative will allow many of those previously excluded from using technology to gain access. Four women took up the offer in front of the national audience (http://alopresidente.gob.ve/noticia/inicio-programa-mercal-hogar-con-electrodomesticos-para-familias-venezolanas.html).
President Chavez thanked Australian visitors who are members of the Australian Venezuelan Solidarity Network. They gave him the book that they have published which recounts individuals stories of how the revolution has effected the lives of hundreds of Venezuelans. The president went on to say that socialism will be the saviour of Venezuela just as the Chinese ambassador to Venezuela stated in the words of Mao, that Socialism will be the savior of China.
He spoke a number of times about the new mobile phone produced by the recently nationalized CANTV. The "vergetario" was the first model released which is made with Venezuelan technology at a cost of 50% of that of similar models produced by capitalist means (http://alopresidente.gob.ve/noticia/el-vergatario-agotado-a-pocas-horas-de-su-lanzamiento.html). CANTV has managed to reduce the cost and increase the quality of telecommunications services as well as create new technology like its mobile phone range which will soon achieve production of 1,000,000 phones. At the same time the investment made by the state to purchase CANTV will have paid for itself within 2 years (http://www.cantv.com.ve/seccion.asp?pid=1&sid=144&NotID=3366). One of the major investments to be made with these public funds is in the construction of a new generic medicines production plant which will be capable of supplying basic medicines to all ALBA member countries.
President Chavez also spoke at length about the incoherent and malicious attacks made against the socialist movement and against the President himself by private media. Its continued attempts to foment violence against supporters of the government and against Chavez himself have continued since the coup in 2001. He also spoke about the attempt to create chaos following the minor earthquake that occurred recently in Venezuela. The president vowed to end these actions, in the same way that these actions wouldn’t be tolerated in China or the United States or Spain they won’t be tolerated in Venezuela. The secretary of FELAP (The Federation of Latin American Journalists) also made a statement about the extreme amount of liberty in the press in Veneuzela and that Globovision is dedicated to creating aggression (http://www.aporrea.org/medios/n134975.html).
Equally for those who enjoy the manner of Chavez or for those who don’t enjoy his presentations it’s difficult not to be drawn in by the massive projects being undertaken in Venezuela for the benefit of all Venezuelan’s with the hope of supporting the continent of Latin America, political allies in other regions and the entire planet.
The scale of change in Venezuela and the contrast between it’s politics and those of the minority world is sometimes difficult to put in perspective. "Alo Presidente" is definitely one way to see the creation of socialism in action with real images of human joy and enthusiasm for the Bolivarian revolution. For those who dream of a better world but don’t yet speak Spanish I recommend that you start learning because the example being created in Latin America is the greatest hope for humanity and should be studied by everyone who wants to create a better world.