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Another chimed in: "On payday they never say, ‘We can't pay you because we're broke.'" On the whole, Azpúrua was considered a fair man.

On the day of this particular Aló Presidente broadcast, the owner, having fought a long and unsuccessful legal battle against the takeover, was refusing to vacate the premises, but Chávez moved in nevertheless, with camera crews and musicians and admirers from around the world, to announce from this spot the beginning of a reinforced land reform campaign.

The weather was calm, the view of the green land was exquisite, and the president was in a happy mood. "What a pretty woods this is! What fertile land, what good land! What a beautiful landscape that dawned this morning here in the savanna!" he said, greeting television viewers and also a local audience of perhaps a hundred people that included his father, who is the governor of Barinas. Possibly intoning a poem of his own, he continued, "This is where the immense Andean mountains embrace and kiss the infinite Venezuelan plain!"

Dressed in a dark green shirt that looked military, at ease in the steaming heat, Chávez addressed the camera without interruption for the next six hours. First-time viewers of Aló Pre-sidente might think that he rambles, even tends toward the delirious, but in fact he never loses sight of the central message. His warm-up on this occasion was typical: "What we must say, repeating Don Quixote's maxim, is, ‘If the dogs are barking at us, it is because we are galloping.' . . . And let us gallop, as Christ said. I think I am more Christian every day . . . and now I've got Fidel on the right path. Fidel is a Christian when it comes to social concerns." Fidel Castro, who is his mentor and best friend.

The monologue segued to history lessons—Chávez has admirable command of the military exploits of Simón Bolívar, the "liberator of the Americas," who is his greatest hero—plus a bit of audience participation, and a couple of short videos. There was also a brief account of the progress being made in the oil sector by the state-owned corporation Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). He used figures previous PDVSA managers would no doubt dispute.

But between meanderings, Chávez returned, time and again, to the same point: Large landholders should reconcile themselves to the fact that much of their land will be taken over—because there will be no turning back. "I appeal to those people who say they are owners of great expanses of land to accept a reality and not to let somebody . . . fill their hearts with hatred, or the hearts of their relatives, their children, their families, their friends. Because the usual suspects, the lackeys of imperialism who own television stations here, who own newspapers, who have radio stations . . . are trying to use this moment to try to take us again to a situation of open conflict . . . so that they can ask again, as they have before, for the intervention of peacemakers from North America. And now that the United Nations talks about the right to protect and the right to reconstruct countries—well, that fits their purpose like a glove."

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