In 2013, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro famously said that his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, appeared to him as a “little bird” and “blessed” him shortly after dying of cancer. After a few minutes of stunned silence, social media erupted with jokes and memes across Latin America.
Two years later, a Chilean cellphone company has revived that old incident in a new bid to attract customers.
WOM, a mobile phone company known for catchy social media marketing, has posted a video mocking Maduro's famous “little bird” speech with a reenactment that shows the Venezuelan president whistling to communicate with the "Chavez" parakeet.
After the bird gives the hapless Maduro his blessing and tells him to “head towards victory,” the company delivers its sales pitch: “If you’re also getting a bad signal, let’s talk about coverage," a narrator says. "Switch to WOM and discover the benefits of our network.”
The commercial, which was posted last week, has since gone viral on Twitter and Youtube. The humor seems to be resonating in a region where Venezuela — with its product shortages and blundering political missteps and gaffes — is increasingly becoming the butt of many jokes.
In addition to the talking bird, Maduro has raised chuckles when he announced that Hugo Chavez’s face appeared in a subway tunnel, when he said he sometimes sleeps in Chávez's tomb to commune with the former leader, when he wiped out on a bike tour, when he proclaimed that Portugal and Venezuela are on the same continent, and when he misquoted the New Testament passage about Jesus multiplying "penises" instead of bread (the two words sound similar in Spanish).
But the "little bird" speech is still his greatest hit.
Yet not everyone is laughing. Venezuela's economic crisis, caused by mismanagement and tanking oil prices, has led to very serious product shortages and hardships for many Venezuelans. As the country struggles with the world’s highest inflation rate, and people make increasingly long lines for all sorts of basic products, most Venezuelans are worried about issues much greater than a bad cell-phone signal.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.