• Video: Chavez Rules
May 11, 2006 10:34 p.m.
You're watching a Yankee game. The Yankees are playing the Red Sox. They're up by one, but already deep in the bullpen in the sixth inning. For some reason they can't hit Wakefield. The announcers are in Spanish, but you can hear the American announcers underneath the Spanish.
But then, the screen changes. It is an ad, no, a taped speech of the President. It goes on longer than an ad, and you get a sinking feeling. It is a montage of speeches. The President is smiling, beaming, greeting ordinary people with humility, and the humble people are so honored to shake his hand and listen to his wisdom. Then it is the President somewhere else, and a big voice comes on — a big, kind voice to instruct you more, to encourage you more. Then there are new scenes of the President and more wisdom. And the game has been taken away from you.
A "cadena" is when the President comes on every channel, TV and radio. It's the law. If you don't put him on, you go to jail. There are no time limits. And these guys can talk. They can come on at nine and go until 12, and any channel you turn to, you can't get away.
May 11, 2006 10:40 a.m.
We got a hold of some video that shows the U.S. ambassador’s convoy here being attacked by people on motorcycles with eggs and rocks. They ride two to a bike, some are women, and some are armed. The ambassador has been attacked on six different occasions here, most recently while distributing baseball equipment in a poor neighborhood. Once a crowd would not allow him and his entourage to leave an Italian club for several hours.
Gasoline is 12 cents a gallon here, the cheapest in the world. The last time the government tried to raise the price, there were deadly riots. You see a lot of old Dodge Darts on the road with in-line sixes, which the Boy Scout swears by.
The president here says the country is preparing for a war of resistance against the U.S., that they will fight in the mountains, in the barrios, in the cities, to resist U.S. slavery.
May 9, 2006 8:27 p.m.
I was told to eat steak by our fixer. I went with a T-bone. Not a lot of flavor. The driver ate with us and took a doggie bag of his, mine and RonJon's. He also took my vegetables.
We have a 4 a.m. flight to somewhere east to interview the candidate who opposes the president. No one thinks he has a chance. Breakfast is not served that early. When I was a fixer, I always had food for my team when there was an early call. In Russia you had to travel with a gray equipment case of food. When you got to a place at night, you'd sit around and open up the salami.
There are a lot of guards in the hotel. It’s a big cinderblock structure — feels a little like old Iraq or old Sov, but not as bad. I watched the president's show on TV Sunday. He was on for five hours. Five hours of talking. He's on some weeks for 15 to 20 hours. He can come up on every channel, and radio as well. He can come up at 9:00 a.m. and talk to you until midnight.
I remember I bought my first TV in the Soviet Union, a little black-and-white that was sold at a diplomatic store for foreigners. I got it back to the dorm and plugged it in, only to find there were two channels. One was a guy on a tractor. The other was the Supreme Soviet, communist speeches.
• E-mail Harrigan
Thanks for coming to Venezuela and reporting on what is going on here... The country has a great income now that the petroleum price is high again, but the economy is still like a poor third world country with street vendors everywhere, because they can't fine any other work. I could write a book about all the things that are going wrong...
I want to thank you for finally reporting some truth about the current situation in Venezuela. I am from there, but living in the U.S. now as a citizen and I am constantly disgusted by the media’s attempts to make Hugo Chavez appear as a left-wing icon, a liberator. From Hollywood idiots to supporters of a corrupt, communist regime I keep hearing all the ‘good’ and humanitarian things Chavez does when in fact, my family has suffered for voting against him! It is just like the Old Soviet Union.
Welcome to the last year of my life, senor. I just got back from spending a full year in Caracas and in another couple months, I'm going back for more. With time, the you learn to drown out the presidental speeches with constant honking rising, at least in my residence, from the Fransico de Miranda below. I'm curious though, have you gotten the national anthem memorized yet? At least the harmony? The speeches and the repeated airing of the national anthem were the two staples of my television viewing in Venezuela. Within a few months I bought an overly priced DVD player and became a honest consumer in the DVD bootlegging market sprawling across Sabana Grande. After returning, I find myself reading everything coming out of Venezuela and as bad as it seems for foreign diplomats, or anybody in authority, it's generally the complete opposite for a simple traveler like myself. I couldn't fathom meeting a greater group of people as the ones I encountered in my year in Caracas.
The poor people in Venezuela are the victims. I don't believe that their lives are any better. Are they more educated? Is he diversifying the economy? Is the medium income increasing? Is he creating a stronger business climate? This needs to be answered. Any leader that wants his picture placed on every corner, arrests you if you oppose his policies, gives continual speeches that interrupt television programs on a weekly basis and obtains votes through intimidation is a dictator.
I depend on FOXNews.com for my daily feeding of news. I have looked for your blogs every day.
It’s great to see you back. I always look forward to your video reports – they are so incisive and articulate. I’ve also enjoyed your blogs for many months – you’re not only a great reporter but a terrific writer; you have an amazing talent for crafting the details of a location which practically put the reader there with you. I believe you are the best reporter on any network; you educate the viewer in an egoless manner without bias. FOX News is very fortunate to have you. Please stay safe.
Buenas Dias Esteben: Como has estado? When we were children and would visit our grandparents in Panama (both grandparents spoke English and Spanish) we would die of thirst unless we asked for a drink in Spanish, while watching Plaza Sesamo (Sesame Street) in Spanish and when we were older, the letters we wrote to them would be returned with red pen marking all the errors. We almost went nuts. Today my bro and I are totally bilingual and thankful for it. Keep up the good work, and if you are trying, most people will overlook an incorrect verb tense.
El Paso, TX
I read most of your stories and enjoy your view of this world and its' people.
Please stay safe.
M J Looney
I loved the Colombian stories...they demonstrate a human side of Colombia. I personally love the country and the people. The GOOD still far outnumber the bad. Someone should tell Hollywood and the mainstream media.
I'll tell you I'm about 83, but I saw you live on FOX News one time a few years ago, and decided you were someone I could trust. You were back from Afgahnastan. Just read your article about learning Spanish, which I learned years ago is school.
I had to give up extended cable, so don't have FOX, but whenever I see your name, I light up.
Hope you're as real as you seem.
OK, here’s what it’s like on this end:
Day 1: Searching, searching, searching on FOXNews.com. Nope. Bummer.
Day 4: Aaack!
Day 8: My hair is starting to frizz.
Day 11: Emergency run for ice cream.
Day 15: Visions of Lucy pulling that football away from Charlie Brown dance in my head.
Day 18: Considering a tattoo. Maybe a fly that says, “Help me!”