As if Venezuelans do not have enough challenges.
Facing a 50% devaluation in their currency (announced by Chavez this past weekend), record crime rates, power outages, collapsing industrial infrastructure and food shortages, President Chavez is asking film producers to alter Venezuela’s beloved soap operas or telenovelas to make “socialist soap operas” as part of his plan to reduce the amount of capitalism on television.
This movement by Chavez is not a total surprise. Chavez has made it clear that he wants to eradicate free-markets and capitalism from the country. In the process, gaining control of the media – especially TV and radio programming – has been an important element of his government. Over the years, Chavez has established many limitations on television and radio – suspending licenses of stations that aired opposition programming, expanding government control over broadcasters and using political pressure to alter programs in ways that support the government’s socialist agenda.
However, Venezuela is one of the largest producers of telenovelas in the world. Programs are diverse and have romantic, criminal, comedic, working class and other angles. They are a popular draw for actors and actresses from different Spanish-speaking countries, and generate a sense of pride in Venezuelans (as well as provide a valuable source of regular entertainment).
Chavez has indicated that his model of replacement would be Cuban soap operas. But Cuban programming, subjects to its tough state controls, tends to not only be low-budget, but include bland socialist political philosophy that render programs dull. Gone are typical dynamics seen in most latin telenovelas today.
How exactly Venezuelans will react to one of their leading and most popular enterprises undergoing such drastic content changes is unclear. But with so many challenges facing the country, Chavez’s latest effort to control the masses to build his socialist state could have the reverse effect his desires and bring about a more steady erosion of this popularity over the next year.