Chavez in song: Venezuela vote has live soundtrack

By: AP
By: AP
(AP Photo/Howard Yanes)

(AP Photo/Howard Yanes)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Sunday's elections in Venezuela will be a key test for President Hugo Chavez a year after voters defeated his effort to change the constitution, and the socialist leader isn't missing a beat as he campaigns for his allies.

Breaking into song at rallies, Chavez draws applause and occasional laughter from his red-clad supporters. One of his favorites is a folkloric ode he sings to a 19th-century rebel leader he claims as his great-grandfather. It appears on a compact disc released last week by the ruling party titled "Songs for the Battle."

With a cover image of a clenched fist raised in the air, the CD also includes "Militants With Chavez," a reggae-rap track that samples the president's speeches; and "Comrade" by Ali Alejandro Primera, the nephew of late singer-songwriter Ali Primera, a musical icon among Venezuela's leftists in the 1960s.

Radio jingles and blaring sound trucks are time-tested campaign tools in Latin America, and Chavez opponents also are joining in, with thumping speakers at campaign stops where sympathizers swing their hips to lyrics that promote candidates and ridicule opponents.

Artists on both sides of Venezuela's political divide say music is being used as a campaign tool more than ever.

"There's much more this year," Alexander Garcia, who sings with the pro-Chavez band "Flavor of the People," said during a backstage interview.

Opposition parties are holding a series of concerts featuring gaita, an earsplitting merengue and calypso-influenced genre that has long poked fun at politicians. Gaita songs emerged in Venezuela during the 17th century, when African slaves sang protest chants accompanied by drums and rattles. Over the years, musicians added guitars and horns.

"Gaita has always challenged those in positions of power, so it should come as no surprise that our songs harshly criticize Chavez and his obsession with power," said Valmore Albornoz, a 54-year-old drummer who hopes the Chavistas will be defeated in Sunday's state and local elections.

Voters narrowly rejected the president's proposal last year to scrap term limits and intensify his control over government and society, but the Chavistas hope to put the constitutional amendments to another vote next year.

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