Oliver Stone: Venezuela's Chavez is misunderstood

Fri May 28, 2010 5:19pm EDT
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By Eyanir Chinea

CARACAS (Reuters) - Film director Oliver Stone said on Friday Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was misunderstood by the Western media, but said the socialist president should consider cutting back on his hours-long television appearances.

Stone, in the Venezuelan capital Caracas for the local premiere of his documentary "South of the Border," which profiles Latin America's leftist leaders, told reporters he admired Chavez and his record since coming to power in 1999.

"He behaves well. I think he's compensating those businesses that he has nationalized. ... Most peoples' lives in this country have improved under Chavez," Stone said.

Venezuela's president says he is reversing decades of exploitation in the OPEC member nation with policies for the poor including free clinics and schools.

His opponents say his administration is scaring away investors and wrecking the economy in a country that should be one of the continent's richest, given its huge oil wealth.

"There is no question that the American press, the Anglo press, does not understand the way he speaks," Stone said.

"I'm not an expert on the local day-to-day issues, but I admire Hugo. I like him very much as a person. If I can say one thing, he shouldn't be on TV all the time."

Chavez is famous for his lengthy television appearances, including his weekly "Alo Presidente" show on Sundays, which can last for much of the day. He appears most evenings too.

The president said on Wednesday that a recession in Venezuela marked the death of capitalism and had nothing to do with his government's socialist revolution.

(Writing by Daniel Wallis; editing by Todd Eastham)