In the Loop

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.

Comments (14)

If you're gonna get on people about their weight, how about Rush Limbaugh? He deserves a slagging. Chávez, on the other hand, is improving his country--something no right-wing radio fatty can do.

Posted by WTF Dude | January 12, 2009 8:23 PM

One thing that struck me during the 2008 election was how often the republicans resorted to attacking the physical appearance of their opponents. isn't there something more important about Hugo Chavez to comment on besides his weight? Like expelling the Isaraeli ambassador in support of Palestine or reinstating the heating oil for the poor in America? Too bad in America we get such a one sided (distorted) view of Hugo Chavez. He is called a dictator when in reality he is elected by the people. He hordes his oil ( in fact shares with the poor). I have to find alternative news sources to get a real picture of who the man is.I certainly won't get it from the american press.

Posted by gina smith | January 12, 2009 9:51 PM

Considering Hugo is one of the only foreign leaders to truly take a stand against North American imperialist arrogance, no wonder the best this person can do when it comes to attacking him is to attack his weight.

Posted by michael | January 13, 2009 7:51 AM

Actually, Chavez was svelte once; his dapper form left an indelible impression on Venezuelan audiences when he first appeared on TV in 1992.

The PBS documentary showed this moment. It was a time when the young Chavez, disillusioned with the repression and corruption of prior governments, attempted to take power through a coup. He spent two years in jail, and luckily, was convinced that electoral democracy is the best route to office.

PBS's version of "Alo Presidente" was an entertaining caricature. However, the reality is not quite so bazaar. The show resembles the "fireside chats" that FDR did during the great depression. Intimate and informative, and aimed at engaging the public.

"Alo Presidente" is an example of Chavez's oratory skill, if not a testament to the transparency of his policies. The curious will never have to wonder what their elected officials are really up to, for anyone can simply tune in on Sunday. Sounds nice, doesn't it?

Posted by Milagros Metz | January 13, 2009 8:59 AM

Maybe the US presidents leave office all gaunt, gray, and haggard because imperialism, greed, and war suck the life right out of them. People with blood on their hands tend to lose that lively sparkle and their chubby cheeks. Chavez's clear lack of facial wasting might be a sign that he's doing the right thing.

Posted by LaLa | January 13, 2009 9:10 AM

This blog makes for excellent propaganda for the State Department. If we want to talk about weight and obesity how about mentioning that we have our own obesity epidemic here in the USA?

If you were serious in your critiques of Mr. Chavez you would also mention that extreme poverty has been reduced by 54% since he began his presidency.

Posted by Juan | January 13, 2009 9:12 AM

Hugo Chavez has recently warmed up the world that Castro's death is imminent. Watch this pan out, the bearded Cuban has but a few weeks left. As far as Hugo's weight, who cares.

Posted by Frank Simon | January 13, 2009 10:15 AM

Wow, Jeff. It really is too bad that with so many important and legitimate Venezuela related issues that a publicly funded radio station could talk about, the discourse is lowered like this. How about Minnesota Public Radio dedicate their resources to providing unbiased reporting on something of substance like Citgo's continued support of a free heating oil program that helps many low income Americans in states like my home state of Maine.

Posted by chris | January 13, 2009 10:25 AM

he is a terrorist cause he is so ugly that scare me and produce terror reactions in the venezuelan beautifull people

Posted by manwanwa | January 13, 2009 10:56 AM

I'm always glad for such wide-spread agreement with my point-of-view. But surely *somebody* disagrees with me? After all, Chavez is a controversial figure.

Posted by Jeff Horwich | January 13, 2009 2:06 PM

What a fatuous article Jeff.
You really should get out more.

Posted by One who knows | January 13, 2009 4:53 PM

"One who knows" what? That I need to get out more? (Honey, is that you?)

And to where? Venezuela? Or are there Hugo Chavez house parties in the metro area that no one's been telling me about?

Didn't know so many humorless Hugo Chavez fans were following our blog.

Posted by Jeff Horwich | January 14, 2009 11:20 AM

Of course mentioning that part of the alleged fatness is because he needs to use a bulletproof vest would not force our valiant author to issue an apology, would it?

Posted by Biblio | January 20, 2009 12:35 AM

His head. His head looks fat. Is there a bullet-proof vest on his face?


Posted by Jeff Horwich | January 20, 2009 12:10 PM

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