In the Loop

In the Loop: January 12, 2009 Archive

Hugo Chavez is huge. No, really -- he's HUGE.

Posted at 1:52 PM on January 12, 2009 by Jeff Horwich (14 Comments)

Flipping through my WSJ this morning, as usual I was skimming the articles and mostly looking at the pictures.

Juan Barreto/AFP
And I couldn't help but notice that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is turning into some kind of bloated caricature of himself. Whereas the American presidency seems to leave its occupants drawn, gaunt and gray, apparently leading Venezuela has quite the opposite effect.

The picture on the right is from Friday. Granted, Chavez has never (at least as president) really cut a svelte figure. But interestingly, as oil revenues dry up for his country (and his government), the president himself seems to be swelling. Perhaps he thinks that by stockpiling oil inside is own head, he can raise the price...Maybe the figurative swollen head has finally given way to a literal one.

Evaristo Sa/AFP
Over the holidays, while I was catching up on my PBS viewing, one of the best docs I spent some time with was a Frontline episode called The Hugo Chavez Show. While it covers a lot of historical ground, the episode centers itself around one mind-blowing weekly event: "Alo Presidente," Chavez's weekly television show -- which begins at its appointed time and basically just goes until he's finished. He pontificates before an audience of red-shirted sycophants and government officials who are compelled to attend (and sometimes be embarrassed and attacked by their own boss). And he makes shoot-from-the-hip policy decisions, like ordering a general (who was in the audience) to send battalions to the Columbian border. It's something to witness (and you can watch the whole episode online).

With all this time on television, though, you'd think he'd be a little more concerned with maintaining his girlish figure. Instead, he seems to be the John Goodman of Latin American politics -- the longer he stays in the spotlight, the bigger he gets.

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