Racist Comments in Venezuelan TV “an Offense to the African People”, African Ambassadors Say

A comparison between the President of Zimbabwe and “The Planet of the Apes” in a Venezuelan TV show, caused outrage among African Ambassadors to Venezuela

By Edgar Hernandez and Martin Sanchez - Venezuelanalysis.com
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Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe shown on a big screen during his speech at the Summit of the Group of the 15, held last February in Caracas, Venezuela.
Photo: Reuters.

See video clip of the show ridiculing President Mugabe (Windows Media format, 731 Kbs, digitized by Luigino Bracci)

Caracas, Mar 14 (Venezuelanalysis.com).- As “a grotesque and indecent spectacle full of racist content” a group of Ambassadors from African nations in Venezuela described the ridicule of the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe in a local TV show broadcasted by the commercial network Globovision.

A letter sent to the General Manager of Globovision, Alberto Federico Ravell, by representatives of several diplomatic missions from Africa (including Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Saharawi, South Africa and Nigeria) expressed deep rejection and astonishment for what they consider to be offensive remarks “against the African people and human dignity”.

The television show broadcasted by the Globovision network, which openly opposes President Hugo Chavez, showed the Zimbabwean President closing his eyes during one of the speeches by other Presidents during the course of the Summit of the Group of the 15, held in Caracas at the end of February. It is not clear if Mugabe was falling asleep due to "jet-lag", or if he was just lowering his head to read a document.

The clip featured humorous music and snoring sounds in the background while the show’s host Leopoldo Castillo mentioned that it reminded him of the movie “The Planet of the Apes”. One of the show’s guest, Humberto Calderon Berti, added that the Mugabe incident reminded him “of a little dog falling off a taxicab”. Berti is a former president of the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA and former president of OPEC during the governments headed by the parties that ruled the country for more than forty years, and which are now seeking to oust Chavez. Leopoldo Castillo also enjoyed privileges during previous governments as Venezuela's ambassador to El Salvador in the 80's. The other show host, Marisabel Párraga, also laughed at Mugabe.

"Aló Ciudadano" host and Chavez opponent Leopoldo Castillo laughs at the President of Zimbabwe, who reminded him of the movie “The Planet of the Apes”.
Photo: Globovision TV.

It was "Indecent and grotesque show, filled with vulgar effects, despicable expressions and gestures, and racist content," says the letter signed by the ambassadors from African nations.

The Globovision show is called "Aló Ciudadano" (Hello Citizen), and it continuously criticizes the government of Hugo Chavez by manipulating and playing political videos along with humorous music. Globovision is currently engaged in a battle with the government over unpaid taxes and the illegal use of microwave broadcasting frequencies.

Racism in Venezuelan commercial TV

The Chavez administration is the only government in the history of Venezuela to allow the local media to make fun of government politicians or the President. In spite of that, the opposition and the commercial media who oppose Chavez call the government “a Castro-communist dictatorship.” However, this is the first incident in which the leader of a country is ridiculed in such manner.

The Minister of Education, Aristobulo Isturiz, who is black, has been called “a monkey” and “an ape”, by commercial media political commentators who oppose the government.

Opponents of the President argue that there is no racism in Venezuela, and that current claims of racism in the country have been artificially raised by the President in order to advance his political agenda.
 
In a country where 80% of the population is of mixed race, commercial TV is dominated by whites or light skinned people. In popular local soap operas, blacks or dark skinned people are often relegated to play roles as servants or criminals.

This latest incident helps confirm the existence of a certain degree of racism and discrimination in Venezuelan society. “Denying the existence of racism merely makes it worse,” said Jesus “Chucho” Garcia, one of the founders of the Afro-Venezuelan Network.

The letter from the African Ambassadors to Globovision follows:

Caracas, March 11, 2004

Mr. Alberto Federico Ravell
General Director of Globovisión

"We, the Group of African Ambassadors with credentials before the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, write to you to express our real astonishment and deep ill-feelings due to the content of your television program Aló Ciudadano (Hello Citizen) broadcasted on the 28th of February, 2004 during the visit of the President of Zimbabwe, S.E. Robert Mugabe to Caracas, as a guest of the Summit of the Group of the 15 (G-15).
 
As we have been able to observe, your TV program "Aló Ciudadano" presented in repeated occasions some sort of parody concentrating around the figure of President Mugabe, a respected head of state over eighty years old and a well known fighter for independence and against racial discrimination in the African continent.  More than a discourteous treatment towards a high ranking foreign dignitary in an official visit to your country, we believe that your network has incurred in what in full display has been a deplorable and reiterated insult to human dignity.

Simply speaking, Mr. Director, your network's television viewers have been presented with a very grotesque and indecent spectacle, full of vulgar effects, despicable expressions and many ridicules and gestures full of racist content.  By the way, this is a behavior that leaves too much to be desired, about the democratic talent, the manners and the intellectual moral of the producers of this television program.

The replay on the 7th of March, of the same TV program, this time with details not so humorous, but rather degrading, transform the protagonists into sinister individuals insulting African people and human dignity.

Concluding, we salute you, sincerely,

Ambassador of the Democratic and Popular Argelian Republic
Ambassador of the Arabic Republic of Egypt
Ambassador of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
Ambassador of Saharawi
Business Representative of the Republic of South Africa
Business Representative of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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