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Page last updated at 22:21 GMT, Sunday, 31 May 2009 23:21 UK

Curious end for Chavez TV special

By Will Grant
BBC News, Caracas

Hugo Chavez presents Alo Presidente
The anniversary show was cancelled after 18 hours on air over two days

For the second consecutive day, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has cancelled his TV show Alo Presidente.

In the end, his four-day TV anniversary extravaganza was reduced to a handful of transmissions over just two days.

Having cancelled Saturday's programme with no official explanation, Sunday's show has now been suspended too.

The government cited "technical reasons". Saturday's cancellation came amid arguments with Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa about a live debate.

Public argument

Quite why the culmination of the 10th anniversary celebrations of Alo Presidente was dropped for the second day in a row is unclear.

The first two days of the programme were pretty much what the audience had been expecting: Mr Chavez hosted the show from an electrical plant in the west of the country, there were live satellite links to pro-government events around Venezuela, he railed against his critics and issued threats to the country's private media outlets.

In the evening show there was music and poetry recitals, all of it in an atmosphere of revelry for a television event which has become an institution in the socialist country.

But the second half of the planned festivities simply failed to materialise.

Predictions that Mr Chavez was holding back a major announcement for the final day or would try to break his own record - of eight hours 15 minutes on air without a break - came to nothing.

The decision comes amid a very public argument with the Peruvian writer, Mario Vargas Llosa, who was in Venezuela to attend a seminar critical of Mr Chavez, in which both sides traded insults over the question of holding a televised debate between President Chavez and his critics.

Despite being billed as the Alo Presidente to beat all others, the marathon event never really got going.



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