Reporters on the Job

Listening to Hugo: Venezuela's Hugo Chávez has made clear his admiration for President Fidel Castro. Apparently, that admiration extends to emulating the longevity of his speeches.

Staff writer Sara Miller Llana got a taste of Venezuela's bureaucracy and its leader this past Thursday in Caracas. "The media were told to arrive at 8 a.m. for an 11 a.m. press conference. I got there late, but not late enough. We had to stand in lines for a series of security checks, four in all. But if you arrived late, I learned, you could simply skip the first three," she says.

When Chávez finally arrived, it was well after noon. "He started off by saying he was losing his voice. But he spoke for more than four hours," says Sara.

He said Venezuela was his social missions and that he was tackling poverty. He rattled off statistics to prove it. But there were plenty of tangents, too.

"He berated a local reporter for saying that he might not win the election," says Sara. "At one point, he started talking about the cold winds that mark the month of December – breaking into a folkloric song about the man after whom the winds are named – and then started reminiscing about a trip he once took to Moscow in January. It was freezing, he said, especially for him because he has big ears that felt like antennas!"

Follow up on a Monitor story

Canada's Liberals Vote: Stephane Dion, the former environment minister, was unexpectedly elected leader of Canada's opposition Liberals Saturday. As reported in the Nov. 30 story, "Why Canada's liberals could pick an Iraq-war supporter as their leader," former Harvard professor Michael Ignatieff was considered a frontrunner. But Mr. Dion made a strong speech and deftly struck deals with former opponents to beat Mr. Ignatieff in the last of four ballots.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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