Chavez's "Alo Presidente" returns to Venezuelan TV

Sun Jan 8, 2012 5:42pm EST
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By Daniel Wallis

CARACAS (Reuters) - President Hugo Chavez's signature "Alo Presidente" TV show returned to Venezuelan screens on Sunday in the latest milestone of his recovery from cancer at the start of an election year.

The 57-year-old leader has often been on television in recent weeks, looking stronger and boasting a new head of hair as he hosted regional leaders in Caracas last month, then made his first official foreign trip since having surgery in June.

The formal relaunch of the program ("Hello President") - consisting of often hours-long folksy monologues that the socialist leader uses to tell stories, croon songs, order the nationalization of companies and bait foes - will cheer his supporters ahead of the October 7 vote.

"Here we are in 'Alo Presidente!' ... we have to coordinate a bit better," Chavez said after technical problems caused the audio to be cut for a few minutes at the start of the show.

The program is shown live on state media and is often broadcast from different locations around the country.

Chavez used Sunday's show, which ran for six hours and was transmitted from the giant Petromonagas oil facility, to make a big announcement: that Venezuela would not recognize any ruling by a World Bank tribunal in a multibillion-dollar arbitration case with Exxon Mobil Corp.

And he laughed off a U.S. warning to avoid close ties with Tehran, denouncing what he said was Washington's attempt to dominate the world as he prepared to welcome Iran's president to the South American nation.

"The return of the weekly show, along with the president's visibly renewed hairline, suggests Chavez is recovering from his recent bout of cancer. 'Alo Presidente' ... is much more than a chat show," said the UK-based LatinNews think tank.   Continued...