Will the Real Hugo Chávez Please Stand Up? An Analysis of President Hugo Chavez’s Campaign Speeches throughout the 2012 Venezuelan Presidential Election

TitleWill the Real Hugo Chávez Please Stand Up? An Analysis of President Hugo Chavez’s Campaign Speeches throughout the 2012 Venezuelan Presidential Election
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Alzuru, M. T.
Affiliation (1st Author)The New School
Section or WGPolitical Communication Research Section
DateSat 29 June
Slot CodePOLS1b
Slot Code (Keyword)POLS1b
Time of Session9:00-10:30
Session TitleCommunication and political leaders
Submission ID5533

Over the last fourteen years, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has been a source of intense debate both inside and outside of Venezuela.  The Venezuelan population has become extremely polarized between pro-Chávez or chavista and antichavista factions and the Venezuelan media has tragically fallen to one side or the other as well.  Even foreign media has had a difficult time remaining neutral on the issue of President Chávez.  The Venezuelan president has been the subject of numerous journalistic and documentary[1] pieces, all of which are subject to criticism for taking a political stance for or against the president.   In Venezuela’s most recent presidential election on October 7, 2012, many reports claimed that this election would be a tight one, and many from the opposition hoped that they could, once unified behind a single candidate—Henrique Capriles Radonsky—defeat President Chávez.  Nevertheless, President Chávez won a resounding victory with 55.07% of the vote.  While some lay blame on the repeated mistakes of the opposition and their inability to engage the large sector of the population that lives in poverty, others focus on Chávez’s specific ability to connect with Venezuela’s poor.    From this point rises the objective of this paper: to analyze the discourse of President Chávez directly to the Venezuelan people.  The goal is to bypass secondhand versions of the Venezuelan president that are constantly on one end or the other of a polarized spectrum and to get directly at what the man himself is saying.  What is the image that Chávez creates through his own words in terms of himself, his followers, and, of course, his opponents?  This question is answered via textual analysis of twenty full-length speeches delivered by President Chávez during the electoral campaign period between June 10 and October 7 of 2012.  The study draws from Maria Zaleska’s Rhetoric and Politics: Central/Eastern European Perspectives (2012), which elaborates three different parameters contributing to a speaker’s self-characterization and, furthermore, three different patterns of persuasion. The paper identifies what parameters and patterns can be found in the Chávez’s discourses.  In addition, it examines the media landscape within which President Chávez operates to put out said images and how this media landscape has evolved throughout his presidency.     Author’s Brief Profile: María Teresa Alzuru is a second-year graduate student at The New School in New York, pursuing a Master of Arts degree in International Affairs with a concentration in Media and Culture. She holds an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Columbia University. [1] Three such documentaries include: The Revolution Will not be Televised (2003), PBS Frontline’s The Hugo Chávez Show (2008), and South of the Border (2009).

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