Venezuela bans Hugo Chavez TV series

2 min

Caracas (AFP)

Venezuela has banned TV networks from broadcasting a new series on late president Hugo Chavez, calling the US-Colombian production an attack on the legacy of the charismatic socialist firebrand.

"El Comandante," a 60-episode series on Chavez's life, premiered Monday night in Colombia. It is also due to air in seven other Latin American countries and the United States from Tuesday.

But in Venezuela, the National Telecommunications Commission banned the series and launched a campaign Tuesday urging Venezuelans to "report any cable channel that insults Hugo Chavez's legacy by broadcasting the series 'El Comandante.'"

"Here we don't speak badly of Chavez," it said on Twitter.

The move comes after Chavez's successor, President Nicolas Maduro, branded the series "trash," and urged Venezuelan filmmakers to respond with their own productions showing "the deep truth of a giant man like Hugo Chavez."

Maduro's culture minister, Adan Chavez -- the late leader's brother -- announced Sunday on the president's weekly TV show that two new Venezuelan productions would faithfully retell Chavez's story: a film called "Chavez, El Comandante" and a series called "Chavez de Verdad" (The True Chavez).

Venezuelan state TV is also due to broadcast a series of documentaries on Chavez starting Tuesday.

"El Comandante" stars Colombian actor Andres Parra, who previously played Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar in another series, "El Patron del Mal" (The Boss of Bad).

Produced by Sony Pictures Television, the series is airing on the RCN network in Colombia and on cable channel TNT in other Latin American countries.

RCN calls it "a tale of action and suspense, combining politics and romance."

Filmed entirely in Colombia, it takes liberties with the facts but is based on "meticulous research" by the creator, Venezuelan writer Moises Naim, the network said.

Naim, an opinion columnist and former trade minister, is a well-known opponent of Chavez and Maduro.

Chavez ruled Venezuela from 1999 until his death from cancer in 2013 with a mix of authoritarianism and charisma, using the oil giant's booming crude revenues to fund a populist economic model.

But Venezuela has gone off the rails since his death, as low oil prices have strained his "21st-century socialism" to the breaking point, leading to food shortages and a nosedive in Maduro's popularity.

The pilot episode of "El Comandante" follows Chavez from boyhood up to his failed coup attempt against president Carlos Andres Perez as a paratroop officer in 1992 -- the event that launched his political career.

Despite a heavy marketing campaign, the premiere got lukewarm ratings in Colombia: the audience size scored four points out of a possible 10, according to W Radio.