CARACAS, Monday February 25, 2013 | Update

Informational opacity regarding Chávez works for unity and the myth

Uncertainty remains one week after the arrival of the Venezuelan Head of State

Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez shows up in images only (Handout photo)
Monday February 25, 2013  02:04 PM
He arrived from Havana, the government affirmed, at daybreak of Monday, February 18. However, nobody can see him. They claim that he was admitted to Caracas Military Hospital or stays in Tiuna Fort. However, nobody can attest to it. "The president continues suffering respiratory distress and his clinical symptoms are not favorable yet," Minister of Communication and Information Ernesto Villegas read out last Thursday, February 21. However, almost 24 hours later, Vice-President Nicolás Maduro reported that Chávez would meet with his government team for about five hours; that he communicates in written form, and that his breathing "continues, supported by a cannula."

"The government is not supplying true and accurate information, as set forth in Article 58 of the Constitution," reckon journalists specialized in the field of communication.

However, they are afraid that such uncertain, mixed-up versions form part of a faultless communication strategy on President Chávez's health condition.

"We have spent more than 70 days without the president being sworn in; with serious doubts about his government ability, yet in Venezuela there is no crisis as to lack of governance. There might be demonstrations, yet they are focused," said Andrés Cańizález, a researcher and professor with Andrés Bello Catholic University and the author of "La presidencia mediática" (The media presidency).

"Reports that say nothing are provided; pictures are shown; but at the end of the day, it is a message addressed to Chávez's grassroots supporters and the global community," the researcher maintains. As far as he is concerned, Chávez's absence for health reasons following the abuse of his image throughout 13 years is a major inflection point. "The government has managed to survive Chávezism without Chávez at this moment, from the communicational viewpoint, and that has been effective."

In the opinion of researcher and Professor Marcelino Bisbal, government informational opacity is present not only with regard to the president's health, but also in economic matters.  "They initially denied devaluation and later the exchange rate adjustment took place; this was the case for the VAT... One just stopped trusting the government information." Nonetheless, the issue of the president's health takes precedence over major subjects. "There is strategic handling of the communicational policy that has worked nicely for them, because the country media agenda is focused on the issue; the intention is making us forget about the number of problems."

Bisbal interprets that in this context of informational opacity, the announcement on the establishment of the National Bolivarian Communication and Information System cannot be put down to chance. It will be used not only to disseminate "contents at the level of the political challenge of our people, who elected President Chávez," as Villegas put it. It will also enhance the State hegemony over the media.

"Such a system is not new and it is addressed to Chávezism without Chávez. The president, without being among us, except for ads, in community media outlets and songs, has a symbolic presence. I feel that they are working on the president's image and his illness to create a myth in the style of Perón and Evita... and I think this is the way."

Translated by Conchita Delgado
The end of a cycle

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Brazil on March 13 to demand the ouster of embattled President Dilma Rousseff, carrying banners expressing anger at bribery scandals and economic woes. A banner read "We don't want a new Venezuela in Brazil."

fotter Estampas
fotter Estampas