Hugo Chávez: ¿Persuasión Retórica o Demagógica?

byMaría Cardalliaguet Gómez-Málaga
After leading a coup d'ítat on 4 February 1992 and failing to capture President Carlos Andrés Pérez and high–ranking military officials in Caracas, Hugo Chavez intervened on a brief television appearance to encourage his colleagues in the MBR–200 (Movimiento Bolivariano Revolucionario) not to lay down their arms. These words made him extremely well liked amongst the popular classes in the country that were key for the changes that were to come later on.
Comrades: unfortunately, for the moment, the objectives that we had set for ourselves have not been achieved in the capital. That's to say that those of us here in Caracas have not been able to seize power. Where you are, you have performed well, but now is the time for a rethink; new possibilities will arise again and the county will be able to move definitively towards a better future. So listen to what I have to say, listen to comandante Chávez who is sending you this message, and, please, think deeply. Lay down your arms, for in truth the objectives that we set ourselves at a national level are not within our grasp. Comrades, listen to this message of solidarity. I am grateful for your loyalty, for your courage, and for your selfless generosity; before the country and before you, I alone shoulder the responsibility for this Bolivarian military uprising. Thank you. 1

With both the coup and this minute–long powerful speech, Chávez transformed Venezuelan politics radically. By showing preparedness to accept responsibility for the failure, by using "for the moment" as a promise of change and using symbols such as the red beret he draw the attention of many who were ready for a change, especially the less favored and popular classes.

This is the same Hugo Chávez who now has his own television show called Aló Presidente 2 in which he has no problem calling George Bush a "donkey" or "Mr. Danger" or calling ex–president (elected democratically) José María Aznar a fascist. He has no shame insulting and libeling other statesmen (or women) such as Angela Merkel, Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderon and many others who do not share his political ideas or who, for whatever reason, become his enemies. The same Chávez often wears a red shirt or a red beret or a jacket with the Venezuelan flag as a populist strategy, showing up in markets and factories in the fashion of a populist leader. He clearly masters all the techniques to persuade Venezuelans. But this theme has many ramifications: Is his style of rhetoric admissible? Is he just a demagogue? Why do people respond to him in the way they do? Where is the limit for him?

The first time I read Professor Garsten´s seminar description for Persuasion and Public Opinion in Democratic Politics, I knew it would be a perfect fit for me. As a World Language/Spanish instructor, I need to teach not only the linguistic part of the language but also history, literature, art, music, politics and other cultural aspects that are key to understanding the language as a whole. The seminar will equip me with the tools to "persuade" my students about the importance of language (how to deliver an idea or opinion,) of using critical thinking (when reading/interpreting a speech) and of reasoning independently, as well as to be able understand and value other cultures, countries and backgrounds.

Many students, especially freshmen and sophomores, are not quivering with enthusiasm to learn a foreign language. As a Spanish teacher I always try to implement the "5Cs"– Cultures, Connections (among disciplines), Comparisons (between cultures), Communication, and Communities– that the National Standards of Foreign Language Learning promote. 3 This unit will allow me to introduce interdisciplinary activities and strategies in a meaningful and fun way to my students, as well as a couple of collaboratively mini–projects with both our Latin/Greek teacher 4 and one of the History teachers.

As a result of the unit, students will be able to learn about Aristotle's definition of rhetoric and difference between logos, ethos and pathos; historical events, politics and other important facts of Venezuela; what sort of language is persuasive; how some leaders use language and persuasion as a weapon; and how to recognize, analyze and filter demagoguery. The unit will serve me as a perfect vehicle to practice the Reading for Information section of the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT), the state–mandate standardized test.

The unit is to be taught at Hill Regional Career High School in New Haven. Career, is magnet school for students interested in health sciences, business, and technology. The school has a student body of about 700 students of which approximately, a 53% are African American, 27% Hispanic, 17% White, 3% Asian. About 67% of the students receive reduced lunch.

I will use this unit with my Spanish 1 and 2 students, who have a Novice Level on the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) Performance Guidelines for K–12 5. Students will hone their higher order thinking skills as they learn to express complex opinions and analyze rhetorical, demagogic and persuasive elements and tactics in various sources.

Most of the class activities and texts for this unit will be conducted in English, but Spanish will be used whenever possible. With proper modifications (language, difficulty, etc.,) the unit could also be taught in Spanish 3 or Spanish 4.

The material will be covered throughout the end of the second marking period in about 8–9 sessions, each of which will be eighty minutes in length; these long periods will allow me to implement more complex strategies and a variety of activities without many interruptions.

Background Material

Basic Historical and Political Facts About Venezuela


(The Bolivarian Republic of) Venezuela is geographically located in the northern hemisphere, near the Equator. It occupies most of the South American northern coast, on the Caribbean Sea bordering with thirteen different political units such as The United States (Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands), The Netherlands/ Netherland Antilles (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba and Saint Eustatius), France (Trinidad and Tobago), Colombia (still pending for delimitation), the United Kingdom (Montserrat), Dominica, Saint Christopher and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Guyana, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada. The country also shares borders with Brazil to the south, Guyana to the east and Colombia to the west. The country is geographically divided into four zones: central, west, east and south. The central area includes Venezuela's largest cities as well as the northern coast; the Andes dominate the west, where jungles and plateaus are common, to the east of the Orinoco are the plains ("Los Llanos" in Spanish) and, in the south there is a reserve for the Yanomami tribes, as well as the largest waterfall in the world: Angel Falls. The territory is divided into 23 federal states, a capital district which includes the city of Caracas (also the country's capital) and federal agencies, made up of more than 311 islands and cays.

Venezuela is a developing country whose economy is primarily based on the extraction and refinement of oil and other minerals, as well as agricultural and industrial activities. It is also one of the 19 most biologically diverse countries in the world, combining rugged arid regions, forests, vast savannas of the Llanos and Andean environments. Despite the country's wealth in natural resources, during the latest part of the twentieth century, Venezuela experienced a recession. As a result, Venezuelans lived in poverty and most of the country's power was held by a handful of the elite. It has all the most extensive protected area in Latin America, "Areas Under Special Administration Regime," that covers approximately 63% of the country.

The country's population is about 28 million people: numerous mestizo, integrating indigenous races, African, European and in a lesser quantity, Asian.

As stated in Article 2 of the Constitution of 1999, "Venezuela is established as a democratic and social state of Law and Justice, which holds/advocates as superior values of its legal system and its performance, life, freedom, justice, equality, solidarity, democracy, social responsibility and in general, the preeminence of human rights, ethics and political pluralism." 6 It is an independent and sovereign state since its Declaration of Independence– Venezuela was one of the first Latin American colonies to revolt in 1810, winning independence in 1821 from the Spanish Crown in the Battle of Carabobo.

When Christopher Columbus explored Venezuela in his third voyage in 1498, he found major Amerindian groups such as the Carib, Arawak, Caracas and Chibcha. Shortly after the Spanish begun conquering the coastal regions and some of the Islands. They named the area Venezuela ("little Venice") because the homes built on stilts reminded the Italian explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci of Venice.

Hugo Chávez

Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías was born on July 1954, in Sabaneta, a small farming village. Both Hugo's parents were teachers, yet the family –like most Venezuelan families– struggled economically. As the skillful baseball player he was, Hugo was offered a scholarship to the Venezuelan Academy of Military Sciences where he achieved a degree in military science. He then joined the army and soon after became head of an elite paratrooper unit. Afterwards, Chávez pursued graduate studies in political science at the Universidad Simón Bolívar (1989–1990) but left before getting a degree.

Troubled by the increase of poverty, inflation, unemployment and the corruption he saw among some of the high–ranking military officers and how the wealth was concentrating in the hands of a few during Carlos Andrés Pérez's second presidency (1989–1993), he established a secret political cell called Movimiento Bolivariano Revolucionario (Revolutionary Bolivarian Movement–200 or MBR–200) on July 24, 1983 – the bicentenary of Simón Bolívar's birth, – as a political and social movement, setting among its goals to follow Bolívar's ideals by means of a "Bolivarian Revolution," and as anticorruption organization. The long–term plan was to formalize a revolution against the Venezuelan State.

Simón Bolívar is considered a hero in Latin America since he played a key role in many countries´ independence from the Spanish Empire in the 19 th century. After a triumph over the Spanish Monarchy, Bolívar participated in the creation of the first union of independent nations in Latin America, called Gran Colombia, of which he was the president from 1819 to 1830. Latin Americans recognize him as a visionary, a hero and a liberator since he led countries like Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Panamá, Perú and Venezuela to independence. He was also responsible of laying the foundations for democratic ideology in a large section of Hispanic America.

Chávez, by making the Bolivar connection, was securing the movement's and therefore his own place as a heir to the hero of independence.

Years later, on February 4, 1992 Chávez organized an unsuccessful coup with the participation of a group of radical young officers to overthrow Pérez, "advancing to Caracas and capturing the president and the senior generals." 7 Although his attempt failed, and he ended up behind bars/in prison for two years, his action ended up helping him in his political career since, due to the media, he came across as a passionate and caring leader whose broadcast of about a minute evidenced his determination to change the country's political situation.

The military personnel participating in the coup justified their action pointing out the lack of democratic accountability and inclusion in the Republic.

A series of twist and turns took place and Carlos Andrés Pérez was impeached for corruption in 1993. Rafael Calderón the new elected president and his government (1994–1999) pardoned Hugo Chávez's and the other coup leaders the 2 years they had to remain imprisoned.

Over the years after the coup, the members of the MBR–200 and Chávez in particular redefined their ideology and their thinking moving toward three major figures in Venezuelan history: Simón Bolívar, already part of their previous political ideology, Simon Rodríguez and Ezequiel Zamora. Taking from Bolívar the symbol of equilibrium between dualism of rebellion and ideology, force and consent and the idea of freedom. 8 Taking from Rodríguez the requirement for autochthonous ideological originality and finally, from Ezequiel Zamora, the rebellion, the popular protest.

The MBR–200 evolved into the Movimiento de la Quinta República (the Fifth Republic Movement in English). The main goal for this reinvented movement was to summon a Constitutional Congress to rewrite the Venezuelan Republic.

Hugo Chávez, claiming to represent the needs of the poor, was the favorite in the presidential election of 1998 and he indeed was elected since he also had the support of Polo Patriótico (the Patriotic Pole), a party coalition. He fostered a new constitution and a complete social reform approved by referendum on December 1999. Under this new constitution, Chávez dissolved the bicameral parliament, established a single National Assembly and gave greater powers to the president. These reforms polarized the country increasingly and led into violent antigovernment protests. In 2002, in a massive strike in Caracas, some of the protestors were shot. All this anger led into a new military coup by which Chávez was replaced, only for a couple of days, by Pedro Carmona, a business man.

The political struggle went on with a general strike that paralyzed the country for about nine weeks. Chávez survived it and was re–elected in 2006. The opposition claimed it was not a clear process. Since the mentioned opposition decided to boycott the Parliament, Chávez has been able to proceed with his agenda making decisions such as nationalizing sectors of telecommunications and energy industries, trying to have the total control of the military forces or approving the possibility of a continuous re–election. Some of these changes have not materialized because they were rejected on the 2007 referendum.

As for the present, Chávez has manifested the United States is a declared enemy. Venezuela is meanwhile cooperating with Russia, China and Vietnam in energy and military activity, etc. Many reports give account of the impoverishment of the country, corruption in the judicial system, the increase of crime rates, control of the media. Chavez has also been accused of helping terrorist from E.T.A and members of Colombian FARC, but this has yet to be proved.

Elements of Persuasion

I should begin with the point that persuasion is intrinsically part of both rhetoric and demagoguery. As a matter of fact some scholars affirm demagoguery is a specific kind of rhetoric with its own features.


From Greek Rhetoric is the "arte de bien decir, de dar al lenguaje escrito o hablado eficacia bastante para deleitar, persuadir o conmover." 9

Many are the concepts, definitions and information that could be included in this section but I consider it would be more beneficial for my students to focus only in the basics since the present unit is designed for freshmen and we will be working with various different concepts and disciplines.

Rhetoric is discipline that touches upon different fields of knowledge such as literature, political science, advertising and journalism, and that has its origins in ancient Greece. It studies and systematizes techniques that deal with the use of language with persuasion as a goal, adding to it a communicative purpose. In a few words, rhetoric is the art of using language effectively, that is, persuading the audience. Rhetoric is very concerned about what works. It involves three audience appeals called logos, ethos and pathos.

The rhetorician should be able to find all the persuasion tools available in any situation. 1 0 The first thing to do so is to consider who the audience is, then to then contemplate the timing and setting (what Aristotle called kairos) and questions related to the best moment to make the appeal, whether or not the audience is in a position to be persuaded, etc.

Another key point for the rhetorician would be to follow the five steps Cicero recommended (the 5 canons of rhetoric): invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery. All of these steps should be followed in order, starting with invention.

In the first step and most important one, the rhetorician should brainstorm ideas about all the possible ways to be persuasive, trying to find techniques of looking trustworthy and credible (ethos); deciding which arguments and reasons will be most persuasive and will work the best in the situation (logos); and finally deciding what he/she would like his/her audience to feel when finished and how to create those feelings in them (pathos). If the rhetorician wants the audience feel to guilty, he/she would make them angry, if wanting to bring people together, he/she would make the audience fear a common enemy or be proud of a common achievement and so on. Through the arrangement step, the rhetorician should organize the speech deciding in what order to use the strategies that he/she had brainstormed, establishing his credibility first, giving his/her arguments next to end up creating the emotions. The third step, by which the rhetorician should choose the language to use, as well as the tone, the metaphors, figures of speech and stories, etc, is style. The following step is memory; the rhetorician should become very familiar with the speech or memorize it. The fifth and final step is delivery; the part in which he/she decides the pace of delivery, the volume, gestures, the tone, what to wear and all the external components of the speech.


From Greek demagoguery is a "degeneración de la democracia, consistente en que los políticos, mediante concesiones y halagos a los sentimientos elementales de los ciudadanos, tratan de conseguir o mantener el poder." 1 1

According to Patricia Roberts–Miller demagoguery as a field of rhetorical scholarship has lately more or less disappeared from journals and books. There is not "a definition" of demagoguery, that is why people uses the term mistakenly and few people– including myself prior taking this seminar– really know what it really is and how to recognize it. "Demagoguery, rather than being a specific kind of rhetoric is simply a term abuse that people apply to rhetors with whom they disagree." 1 2

Demagoguery is deeply related to democracy and its principle by which there should be free and open dialogue between government and the general public. The purpose is to engage into discourse between citizens and their representatives, something that is in the realm of rhetoric. At this point the problem arises, in one hand, as Robert–Miller declares, because there are restrictions regarding "reasonable" behavior that have always acted excluding marginalized groups but on the other hand, there always should be some kind of restriction regarding threats, violence and coercion because it no longer be deliberation. The dilemma is how to restrict public discourse and decide between the approach of inclusion or the need for rules. The dilemma, she affirms, could be solved renewing interest on part of rhetoric teachers, theorists and critics in demagoguery. There is no longer interest on demagoguery, it highest point in the 50´s and 60´s because of recent experience with demagogues such as Adolf Hitler, Theodor Bilbo and Joseph McCarthy. Rhetoric scholars have moved away from demagoguery since the tendency is an abandonment of rhetoric as a critical discipline, instead of promoting its ethical aspects, the trend is to move toward its effectiveness.

There are many definitions for demagoguery. The ethical definition Charles W. Lomas gives emphasis the motives and morals of the rhetorist: "demagoguery may be described as the process whereby skillful speakers and writers seek to influence public opinion by employing the traditional tools of rhetoric with complete indifference to truth. In addition, although demagoguery does not necessarily seek ends contrary to public interest, its primary motivation is personal gain." 1 3

Reinhardt Luthin's approach 1 4 focuses on demagogues striving for power exacerbating religious and racial hostility, adopting an ethos of a common man, relying on irrationality and spectacle, giving simple explanations for complicated solutions, controlling the media and education. Roberts–Miller suggests a definition that would enable rhetoric theorists to be critical and rhetoric to be normative but without condemning all activist rhetoric, something in the lines of "demagoguery is polarizing propaganda that motivates members of an ingroup to hate and scapegoat some outgroups largely by promising certainty, stability, and what Erich Fromm famously called "an escape from freedom"" 1 5

Some of the strategies demagogues use include polarizing situations by presenting two options, their own and another obviously impractical and stupid one, most of the time they insist in and practice the "those who are not with us, are against us." By doing this, they foster difference, stereotypes and anger. Along with this, they emphasize the division between the "ingroup" and "outgroup" promoting hatred of the second one, that way the demagogue increases his/her superiority and potentially power.

Hugo Chavez's Speeches

Who has not heard about Hugo Chavez's polemic speeches or his many apparitions in public? He is considered a master of the media, he sings, tells jokes, tells stories about his childhood and so on. He is a master of the media, he started his own TV program, Aló Presidente March 2, 2008, a "Sunday show" in which he talks about different topics every week, appears in different places; it is not easy to explain it but these do not have any resemblance to a presidential address. He improvises most of the content keeping the tension all the time and having no time restriction: Venezuelans know when the show starts, but never when it ends, going for five hours on occasion. Chavez understands perfectly the power of the media and he proved it in the short appearance he made on February 2, 1992 (already mentioned.) He does know he has all the support from the popular classes and addresses them using his best demagoguery. He presents himself as the new Bolívar who will bring the country independence from the empire, the United States; therefore the States are Venezuela's worst enemy. Hugo Chavez knew what he was doing when he decided to fashion himself after Bolívar and his spectacular journey, doing what would later on open many doors for him, to the point that he restated Bolívar's oath (Bolívar's Doctrinal 4) almost word by word: " I swear in the name of the God of my parents; I swear on my homeland that I won't give peace to my soul until I have seen broken the chains that oppress my people, by order of the powerful. Popular election, free men and lands, horror to the oligarchy." 1 6 With this oath on December 17, 1982 he formalized his plans for a revolution against the Venezuelan state.

Many are the speeches that could be included in this section, but I am just going to focus in two of them, since I consider them fairly important for the purposes of the present unit.

Probably one of the most controversial of his speeches is the one he delivered to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, on September 20, 2006. Not just because of the use of props –– he started the elocution holding one of Noam Chomsky's works –– but also due to the many times he referred to President Bush as the devil: "I think that the first people who should read this book are our brothers and sisters in the United States, because their threat is in their own house. The devil is right at home. The devil –– the devil, himself, is right in the house. And the devil came here yesterday." And he goes on: "Yesterday, the devil came here. Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of," "An Alfred Hitchcock movie could use it as a scenario. I would even propose a title: "The Devil's Recipe"" 1 7

There are cases in which leaders are critical of other countries within the United Nations and times in which they are not say to tell each other what they think, using colorful insults, but never in such a fashion, becoming an scurrilous attack. He might have had his reasons to disagree with Bush, he might even believe that the Bush Administration tried to overthrow him in the 2002 coup, but he really went too far, especially at a time when Venezuela was trying to get a seat in the U.N. Security Council. The election was to take place two weeks after the speech. He probably was trying to hold onto the votes of the radical element in the U.N. and the world community, but did his ethos and pathos reach his goal with such a colorful speech? Did his demagoguery work as well is it works with most of his fellow countrymen? I will have my students read the speech and argue about it.

The speech President Chavez delivered on March 9, 2007 goes along with the previous one in terms of demagoguery and personal attacks on George W. Bush, but the audience to which is addressed to is quite different. This speech was an "anti–imperialist political rally performed in a soccer stadium in Buenos Aires, in front of a supporting crowd – most of the people there were members of trade unions, radical left–wingers and human rights organizations. It was part of a "shadow tour" to counter President's Bush visits to some South American countries such as Brazil and Guatemala. It seemed like both were embroiled in a battle for support in Latin America. Many demagogic elements are to be found in his elocution: Chavez exacerbates the political animosities talking about how the empire "is the main cause of misery here!" urging President Bush to go back "Gringo go home!" He added at some point "we need to tell him (Bush) North America is for North Americans and South America is for South Americans– this is our America." (Referencing Monroe's Doctrine.) He kept insulting the empire and its head in order to get the audience's approval by calling him "the little man of the North" or referring to him as a "political cadaver." He goes even further to judge Bush's approval in his country.

According to Steve Ellner, for a long time a political science professor in the Universidad de Oriente (in Caracas), President Chávez had cordial relations with Bill Clinton, even though he denied him a visa in 1998. Things seemed to start going sour after 9/11 when Chavez criticized the bombings in Afghanistan, Colin Powell started attacking Chavez and the United States withdrawal of its ambassador in Caracas. Even after the 2002 coup, when the American ambassador met with the leader of the revolt, diplomatic relations were still moderate. It was in 2003, after the general strike, that things started to get more and more radical.


This unit will serve as an introduction to the geography, history and politics of Venezuela, as well as a vehicle to learn about rhetoric and how Aristotle, and later on Quintilian, defined and structured it. Students will also learn about demagoguery in order to tackle some primary sources and a number of Chavez's speeches to put all this theory into practice.

By the end of the unit, students will be able to:

  • Read, understand, analyze, and interpret short articles (of all sorts) and or newspaper excerpts on Venezuela and/or its history and government.
  • Learn basic notions of rhetoric, demagoguery and persuasion.
  • Analyze and interpret speeches (written and oral) dissecting them in different parts and analyzing them in terms of pathos, ethos and logos.
  • Discuss and interpret main historical events in Venezuela.
  • Practice Reading For Information (RFI) that the Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) requires.


The present unit will serve as a pedagogical tool that will enable me to reach a multilayered set of goals that will help my students understand the political development of what used to be a colony and how a democracy, with the necessary ingredients, can turn into a military state closer to the practices of a dictatorship. The second main goal I want my students to achieve has to do with the necessity of identifying main ideas of a text and being able to identify the purpose of the author. A third goal is having students read, interpret and analyze speeches and some of the Venezuelan "propagandistic literature" to identify rhetorical/persuasive elements and strategies. This goal, I believe, goes along with the first two. Finally, I want my students to look back at ideas from Aristotle's Rhetoric and Quintilian's Institutio Oratoria to learn the basics of persuasive speech.

Interpreting History

All through the duration of the unit, I will furnish students with the necessary tools to become familiar with the history and the government of Venezuela, to make connections to some other countries in Latin America in terms of Democratic standards. I will provide them with appropriate activities by which they will practice reading and writing both in English and Spanish, as well as trigger their critical thinking skills.

Persuading an audience

Learning from the Classics

Students will learn the basics of Aristotle's Rhetoric and basic ideas of Quintilian's Institutio Oratoria in order to grasp a general knowledge of the Art of Rhetoric, as well as to practice the RFI (Reading For Information) skills the Connecticut standardized test requires sophomores to pass.

As for the strategies, students will be asked to fill in general graphic organizers as well as questionnaires in order to become more familiar with authors such as Aristotle, Cicero and Quintilian.

Playing Jeopardy

As part of the Rhetoric section of the unit, students will have to write questions about the above mentioned author –following directions and with assistance of the teacher– in order to get a bank of questions in order to play Jeopardy. For this activity, Latin 1 and 2 as well as Greek students will join to have a mini–competition in the Library–Media Center.


Students will be divided in two groups: one of them will defend the Chavismo (the name given to the left–wing political ideology based on the ideas, programs and government style associated with the present president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez) 1 0 and the other will defend the idea that Venezuela is not a democracy as we understand it nowadays. Students will have to provide valid points/ideas, as well as use all the rhetoric strategies learned throughout the unit.


As a final project, students will have to produce a piece of advertisement reflecting any of the topics learned during the duration of the unit. They will receive a detailed rubric in which three options will be exposed: one of them will consist of a poster reflecting a historical moment in Venezuela (e.g. one of the Hugo Chavez's political campaign), a brief video giving a mini–political speech…

Not only will this project will help students learn about the importance of advertisement as a vehicle of persuasion, but they also will be able to practice all the rhetoric and history they have learned, as well as practice writing. Those who are visual learners, will be able bring out their artistic skills in a school that does not offer art in its curriculum.

Interpreting Texts and Speeches

Reading for Information

Students will read texts about Hugo Chavez and Venezuela as well as excerpts of some of the President's speeches in order to practice the so important Reading for Information.

Sample Lesson Plans

All of unit's lesson plans are to be developed in 82–minute classes. However, they can easily be changed according to teachers' needs.

Lesson 1: Government and Politics in Venezuela


Understand the difference between political systems (anarchy, democracy, monarchy, republic, etc) as well as the implications of a coup d´ítat.

Learning Objectives

As a result of this lesson students will be able to:

  1. Students demonstrate and understanding of the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the counties studied. (Standard 2.1)
  2. Students demonstrate and understanding of the relationship between history and politics. (Standard 2.2)
  3. Reinforce and further their knowledge of other disciplines –history and government– through Spanish. (Standard 3.1)

Special Needs

Students are already familiar with the definition and concept different political systems, covered in previous lessons.


LCD projector, computer with Internet access, computers for students with Internet access, Power Point presentation and copies of "Sistemas Políticos" graphic organizer, questionnaire about the Power Point presentation.


"Pass the bull" strategy: I start all of my lessons asking students questions while passing around a foam toy (a bull). All these questions are related to material we have previously covered: grammar, vocabulary, and cultural aspects. It is a fun, useful strategy because it allows me to assess students daily and it helps to start the class on a good tone, since students like it. This time students will be asked to conjugate different verbs in the present tense and also easy questions about different political systems.

Students and teacher will then go over a Power Point presentation on the different political systems. Some students will be asked to read the slides out loud. When done, students will complete the graphic organizer in pairs. Teacher will call on volunteer students to go to the board and write in the different sections. Afterwards, students will be asked to move into a computer to complete the questionnaire about political systems and what systems countries in Latin and South America have, looking information up in web pages posted in the questionnaire handout. Students will be asked to turn their work in at the end of the period.


Students will be asked to translate all the political systems in Spanish as well as giving an example of each in Spanish Speaking countries in Latin–South America.

Lesson 2: Rhetorician for a day


Understand the basics of rhetoric and some of its techniques to be persuasive.

Learning Objectives

As a result of this lesson students will:

  1. Engage in conversations, provide and obtain information, express feelings and emotions and exchange opinions. (Standard 1.1)
  2. Students understand and interpret written and spoken language on a variety of topics. (Standard 1.3)
  3. Students reinforce and further their knowledge of other disciplines through the foreign language. (Standard 3.1)

Special Needs

Students will already be familiar with the concepts of ethos, logos, pathos and kairos, as well as some of the rhetoric techniques or strategies.


Rubric with all the details about the project "Rhetorician for a day, " copies of the a sample short speech.


"Pass the bull: " ask students questions about rhetoric: What is ethos, etc? Students will read the sample short speech and with students and teachers will analyze it together in order to learn how to do it. The teacher will then distribute the project rubric in which the whole process is explained in detail. Students will have to write a speech that they will have to deliver in front of the class eventually. Some of the topics will be in the lines of banning beauty contests, euthanasia, keeping animals in zoos, privacy rights, school uniforms, recycling and so on. The idea is to have one student in favor and one against every topic. Using professor Garsten´s "rhetoric guide," they will start planning what the pattern of their speech will be.


Students will be asked to work on an activity the teacher will distribute before the end of the period. The activity will ask questions about the theme of their speech– to see if they have understood– as well as the stage where they are in the process of writing their speech.

(There will be a follow up lesson in which students will share their mini–speeches with the rest of the class.)

Lesson 3: Reading for Information– Hugo Chávez


Practice for the Reading For Information part of the CAPT test.

Learning Objectives

As a result of this lesson students will be able to:

  1. Understand and interpret written language on a variety of topics. (Standard 1.3)
  2. Reinforce and further their knowledge of other disciplines through the foreign language. (Standard 3.1)

Special Needs

Students know all the requirements for the rhetoric component of the unit and have already written questions for the Jeopardy practice before competing with the Latin classes.


LCD projector connected with a computer, jeopardy Power Point game.


Teacher will facilitate a copy of Hugo Chavez´s adapted speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, on September 20, 2006. Students will work individually on this RFI practice for 40 minutes. Then, the teacher will divide students in groups of three and we will play Rhetoric Jeopardy for the rest of the period.


Students will write a 30–line long paragraph guided reflection on Chávez´s speech.


  1. Richard Gott, In the Shadow of the Liberator: Hugo Chávez and the Transformation of Venezuela. (London: Verso, 2000,) pp.70–71

    In Spanish:

    Primero que nada quiero dar buenos días a todo el pueblo de Venezuela, y este mensaje bolivariano va dirigido a los valientes soldados que se encuentran en el Regimiento de Paracaidistas de Aragua y en la Brigada Blindada de Valencia. Compañeros: Lamentablemente, por ahora, los objetivos que nos planteamos no fueron logrados en la ciudad capital. Es decir, nosotros, acá en Caracas, no logramos controlar el poder. Ustedes lo hicieron muy bien por allá, pero ya es tiempo de evitar más derramamiento de sangre, ya es tiempo de reflexionar y vendrán nuevas situaciones y el país tiene que enrumbarse definitivamente hacia un destino mejor. Así que oigan mi palabra. Oigan al comandante Chávez, quien les lanza este mensaje para que, por favor, reflexionen y depongan las armas porque ya, en verdad, los objetivos que nos hemos trazado a nivel nacional es imposible que los logremos. Compañeros: Oigan este mensaje solidario. Les agradezco su lealtad, les agradezco su valentía, su desprendimiento, y yo, ante el país y ante ustedes, asumo la responsabilidad de este movimiento militar bolivariano. Muchas gracias. (accessed August 5, 2010.)

  2. (Accessed July 20, 2010)
  3. National Standards for Foreign Language Education. (accessed July 9, 2010.)
  4. Students at Career High School have to take at least one year of Latin if they are part of the Business Program and two years of it if they are part of the Health Program.
  5. ACTFL Performance Guidelines: Samples of Performance Descriptions. (accessed July 9, 2010.)
  6. Translated by María Cardalliaguet "Venezuela se constituye en un Estado democrático y social de Derecho y de Justicia, que propugna como valores superiores de su ordenamiento jurídico y de su actuación, la vida, la libertad, la justicia, la igualdad, la solidaridad, la democracia, la responsabilidad social y en general, la preeminencia de los derechos humanos, la ética y el pluralismo politico." (Translated by María Cardalliaguet.)
  7. Richard Gott, Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution. (New York: Verso, 2005,) p. 54.
  8. Christopher Conway. The Cult of Bolivar in Latin American Literature. (Miami: University Press of Florida, 2003,) p
  9. Diccionario de la Real Academia, vigésima segunda edición. (accessed July 11, 2010.)
  10. Bryan Garsten. Lectures in the Yale National Initiative's Seminar " Persuasion and Public Opinion in Democratic Politics," Yale University, New Haven, July 7–8, 2010.
  11. Diccionario de la Real Academia, vigésima segunda edición. (accessed July 11, 2010.)
  12. Patricia Roberts–Miller, "Democracy, Demagoguery, and Critical Rhetoric" in Rhetoric & Public affairs. Vol. 8, No 5, 2005, pp 459–476.
  13. Charles W. Lomas, "The Rhetoric of Demagoguery," Western Speech 25 (1961): 161.
  14. Reinhard Luthin, American Demagogues: Twentieth Century. (Glocester, MA: P. Smith, 1959.)
  15. Roberts–Miller, ibid.
  16. Conaway, ibid, p.151.
  17. Remarks to U.N. General Assembly, New York, September 20 th, 2006. (accessed August 11, 2010)


Albadalejo Mayordomo, Tomás. Retórica. Editorial Síntesis: Madrid, 1989.

Exhaustive study of rhetoric.

Aristóteles. Retórica. Editorial Aguilar: Madrid, 1968.

Ancient treatise on rhetoric.

Caballero, Manuel. La gestación de Hugo Chávez: 40 años de luces y sombras en la democracia venezolana. Editorial Catarata: Madrid, c2000.

Interpretation of the events happened in Venezuela in the 40 years of "puntofijismo."

Cannon, Barry. Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution. Manchester University Press: New York, 2009.

Comprehensive and critical analysis of Chavez´s emergence, his economic, social and foreign policies.

Chávez Frías, Hugo. Frases. Ministerio de Comunicación e Información: Caracas, 2006. Good example of propagandistic literature.

Gott, Richard. Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. Verso: New York, 2005.

Comprehensive grasp of the history of Venezuela.

Gott, Richard. In the Shadow of the Liberator: Hugo Chávez and the Transformation of Venezuela. London: Verso, 2000.

Close look to Hugo Chávez and his controversial figure from a historical perspective.

Grijelmo, Alex. La seducción de las palabras: un recorrido por las manipulaciones del pensamiento. Taurus: Madrid, 2000.

This work analyzes countless examples on how to use language and words in order to alter others perception of reality.

Kozloff, Nicolás. Hugo Chávez: Oil, Politics and the Challenge to the United States. Palgrave Macmillan: New York, c.2006.

Exhaustive look at Venezuela´s president.

López Eire, Antonio y Santiago Guervós, Javier de. Retórica y comunicación política. Cátedra: Madrid, 2000.

Manual of Rhetoric.

Marcano, Cristina. Hugo Chávez sin uniforme. Random House: New York, 2007.

Biographical information about Chávez, the work offers materials to approach the personality and ideas of the politician.

Plett, Heinrich F. Retórica: posturas críticas sobre el estado de la investigación. Visor Libros: Madrid, 2002.

The work deepens into central questions of traditional rhetoric. Exhaustive vision of rhetoric. Easy to read.

Roberts Miller, Patricia. "Democracy, Demagogue, and Critical Rhetoric" in Rhetoric & Public Affairs. Vol. 8, No. 3, 2005, pp. 459–476.

Detailed well–written article on demagoguery. Very complete and easy to read.

Temprano, Emilio. Contra la demagogia: introducción al arte de manipular a las masas. Editorial Tecnos: Madrid, c1999.

Complete analysis on demagoguery and its features.

Other Resources

–Diccionario de la Real Academia, vigésima segunda edición. (accessed July 11, 2010.)

–Information, Proquest, and Learning. World Edition, 2010: CultureGrams: The Americas, Volume 4. New York: Proquest Information And Learning, 2010.

Personalidades de la Cultura Hispana. UW Madison Department of Spanish and Portuguese. 29 Oct. 2006. Web. Transcript. (It is in MLA, I do not know how to cite it in Chicago)

–Post, Jerrold M. "El Fenómeno Chávez" Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Modern Day Bolívar. (accessed June 28, 2010.)

Project MUSE. Project MUSE. (accessed August 12, 2010).

–NPR. Chavez´s "Devil" Remark & Global Protocol. (accessed August 11, 2010)


Amaneció de Golpe (Venezuela–Spain–Canadá–Cuba, Carlos Uzpúrua, 1998.)

South of the Border (USA, Oliver Stone, 2009.)

Speaking Freely Volume 5 (USA, Philippe Diaz, 2008.)

The Hugo Chavez's Show. Frontline documentary. (November 25, 2008.)


Selection of interesting Speeches for Analysis:

–President Chavez's Speech to the United Nations. September 16, 2005. (accessed August 5, 2010)

–Chavez's Speech at the United Nations. Wednesday, 20 September 2006 (accessed August 5, 2010)

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