Reality Show Contestants Compete for an Authoritarian’s Campaign Jingle

The flashing neon lights. The cheering audience. The lively host with slicked back hair in a sea foam green suit. The panel of judges in dark sunglasses. The contestants who share emotional personal stories before belting their songs into a microphone.

It has all the elements of a typical singing competition. But this contest’s winner will not earn money or a recording contract.

Instead, contestants on the show, “M Factor,” write and perform songs in a competition to become the official campaign jingle for the party of President Nicolás Maduro, the authoritarian leader of Venezuela.

Mr. Maduro’s repressive government, which has been in power for over a decade, is under investigation by an international court for crimes against humanity.

But on the home front Mr. Maduro has tried, at times, to promote a softer side, using state-controlled media to portray his administration as goofy, fun-loving personalities working hard to save the nation from what they characterize as imperialist enemies, namely the United States.

In his own weekly television show Mr. Maduro appears next to brightly attired traditional singers and dancers who promote his policies in song. Another series on state television features a cartoon superhero named “Super Mustache” who bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Maduro rescuing the Venezuelan people from disaster.

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