Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro – now legally declared a dictator following the illegal suppression of a constitutional recall against him – launched a new tropical music radio program this week titled Salsa Time.
The show will reportedly feature discussions about the Cuban, Puerto Rican, and New York music genre as well as extemporaneous monologues from the president. Maduro already hosts a separate talk show, In Contact with Maduro, and clocks many hours on television in what are known as cadenas, or chains, a broadcast carried by force on all the nation’s television networks in which Maduro gives his opinions on the political matters of the day. The Spanish newspaper El Mundo, notes that monitors estimate Maduro has spent nearly 600 hours broadcasting on television since taking over for late dictator Hugo Chávez in 2013.
At least superficially, Salsa Time will present different content than Maduro’s other media ventures. According to the government’s description of the program, Maduro will “share our Caribbean culture, our miscegenation, the soul of our people that the oligarchy will never understand.” In its first episode, Maduro vowed to broadcast “from Saudi Arabia, Moscow, Beijing, or Havana.”
In his first episodes, Maduro argued that “a Venezuelan invented salsa” – as mentioned above, the genre has its origins in Cuban son and evolved into its modern form through the work of Cuban and Puerto Rican artists in New York– and picked a fight with salsa legend Ruben Blades.
“I admire Ruben Blades beyond his flawed opinions on Venezuela and the Revolution… as a political leader you have not managed to make heads or tails of this, but you’re Ruben, we forgive anything,” Maduro said. Blades has been vocally critical of Maduro’s socialist dictatorship.
Given the nature of the show, Maduro also used the outlet to showcase his dancing skills.
The new show launches as the National Assembly, led by the anti-socialist Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), has proclaimed that Maduro is acting outside of the realm of his constitutional privileges and as such should be removed from power. Venezuela’s constitution, passed in 2002 under Chávez, allows for no impeachment process, leaving the legislature’s hands tied. Instead, the lawmakers have called a hearing to find whether Maduro has abandoned the charges of the presidency through gross negligence, citing the collapse of the economy and widespread hunger as evidence that he has not fulfilled his oath of office.
A recent study found that 15 percent of Venezuelans eat garbage to survive. Most struggle to find three meals’ worth of food a day, and many schools and universities struggle to keep their students fed. This week, students shut down a university in Miranda, citing their lack of food as a hurdle towards being able to properly receive their education.
In the past, Maduro has responded to demands he remedy the famine situation by joking that food shortages are part of “Maduro’s diet” and that such malnutrition “makes you hard.”