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Venezuela's contest that features songs of praise for the authoritarian leader

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Imagine a program a little like "America's Got Talent," except every act celebrates an unpopular autocrat. John Otis reports you can find that in Venezuela.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE M FACTOR")

WINSTON VALLENILLA: (Speaking Spanish).

JOHN OTIS, BYLINE: Host Winston Vallenilla, who's wearing a lime green suit, welcomes viewers to "The M Factor." It's a reality show on Venezuelan TV. The M stands for Maduro, as in Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's authoritarian president.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE M FACTOR")

VALLENILLA: (Speaking Spanish).

(APPLAUSE)

OTIS: Vallenilla explains that amateurs are competing for the grand prize of having their composition adopted as the official campaign song for Maduro ahead of the July 20 presidential election.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE M FACTOR")

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST #1: (Singing in Spanish).

OTIS: The musical styles are diverse, from calypso to reggaeton to salsa. What they all have in common are bootlicking lyrics about Nicolas Maduro.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE M FACTOR")

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST #2: (Singing in Spanish).

OTIS: This song is called" Let's Go, Nico!" Another, called "Red Tide," refers to the color of the ruling Socialist Party and how it will sweep to victory.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE M FACTOR")

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST #3: (Singing in Spanish).

OTIS: In it, the aspiring chanteuse declares, here, we all follow our president, Nicolas Maduro, our loyal combatant.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CAMILLA FABRI: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: Camilla Fabri, the show's producer, says it came about because fervent fans kept sending in songs for Maduro to use on the campaign trail. But her claims are a little hard to swallow. Maduro has led Venezuela into its worst economic crisis in history while nearly destroying its democracy. Now he's using his near-total control over the Venezuelan media to seize the advantage ahead of the election.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE M FACTOR")

VALLENILLA: (Speaking Spanish).

(APPLAUSE)

OTIS: "The M Factor" is broadcast on state television, which constantly promotes Maduro while blacklisting the opposition. Even so, polls show that if this summer's election is free and fair, Maduro would lose.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE M FACTOR")

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST #2: (Singing in Spanish).

OTIS: It turns out that the nonstop propaganda, including all these songs glorifying Maduro, may be falling on deaf ears.

For NPR News, I'm John Otis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.