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Setback for CIA

Venezuela pulls plug on pro-coup TV

Published Jun 7, 2007 1:59 AM

Venezuelan counter-revolutionaries, with the full support of the U.S. and other imperialist governments, have been attempting to use the non-renewal of Radio Caracas Television’s (RCTV) broadcasting license to destabilize the popular progressive government of President Hugo Chávez.

Some background will help explain these events and the reasons why it is important to defend Chávez’s Bolivarian government.

After his landslide December 2006 re-election victory, Chávez reaffirmed his promises to consolidate the Bolivarian Revolution, nationalize industries that had previously been privatized and, most importantly, rebuild society on a socialist base. He announced then that RCTV’s license would be allowed to expire on May 27, 2007.

This private station had used public airwaves for 54 years. Since Chávez took office in 1999, RCTV has been a vicious arm of opposition to the Bolivarian revolution, using racist and vulgar attacks against Chávez while demanding his removal. Yet in spite of RCTV’s role in actually promoting an aborted military coup in April 2002, it was not closed or silenced.

Airwaves are limited and are public by law. Venezuela’s government has a constitutional right to deny RCTV’s license renewal.

According to Andrés Izarra, the former manager of RCTV who resigned in 2002 to protest its having supported the failed coup, RCTV broadcast on VHF, which has the widest range and therefore largest reception nationally. The state-owned stations have a narrower reach than multi-million-dollar private stations like RCTV, Venevision and Globovision have.

A public-service television station, TVes, will replace RCTV. This will encourage the participation of the people and of independent producers.

Izarra, who is now managing Telesur, said in an interview with El Universal that “The fundamental thing is to impel a cultural revolution, and that change needs the creation of consensuses ... and in my opinion this is a fundamental tool for those changes towards socialism that the country is considering.”

Aim to disrupt the revolution

Since Chávez’s December announcement, RCTV and the anti-Chávez forces have mounted a campaign against the government. Although they have dominated the airwaves, they hypocritically use “lack of freedom of speech” as their slogan to try to destabilize the revolution.

These forces are now staging daily protests, which they describe as “peaceful,” but during which they throw not only insults but stones and glass bottles at the pro-government forces. During a demonstration at CONATEL, the state communication office, counter-revolutionaries fired shots that wounded at least one police official.

The contras have mobilized students from wealthy private colleges to hold daily demonstrations, which are then shown all over the world. They give teary interviews to the national and international imperialist media monopolies from these “spontaneous” protests, calling for help to end the alleged “silencing of the opposition.”

At a news conference, the vice president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Desiree Santos Amaral, revealed audio from two phone conversations involving Alfonso Marquina, leader of the new opposition party Un Nuevo Tiempo (A New Time), that showed the protests were not at all spontaneous. These conversations reveal the connection and coordination between the students and the leaders of the opposition. They implicate RCTV owner Marcel Granier with the right-wing Comando Nacional de Resistencia (National Resistance Command) and the students’ demonstrations.

An urgent public communiqué from Venezuela circulated by the Internet on May 30 states: “In the last few days documents have been made public that show the payment in dollars to ... these two television stations (RCTV and Globovision) by the government of the United States, through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which is tied to the U.S. Department of State and the CIA through Freedom House.”

Progressive individuals and organizations in the United States have joined many others around the world in issuing a statement supporting the Bolivarian Revolution in this latest confrontation. A letter circulated by the International Action Center (IAC) and signed by organizations, political activists and well-known personalities is being sent to President George W. Bush and his administration, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, members of the U.S. Congress and print and electronic U.S. media. This is its text:

“We the undersigned repudiate the role, overt or covert, of the United States government and media in the campaign of destabilization of the legitimate government of Venezuela and would like to confirm our support for the democratically elected president of Venezuela, Honorable Hugo Chávez Frías and the Bolivarian Revolution.

“A hostile campaign against the Venezuelan government under the name of ‘Free Expression’ has been opened up by the opposition forces in Venezuela and their allies abroad, particularly in the United States, after the announcement that the broadcasting license of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) would not be renewed once it expired on May 27, 2007.

“The Venezuelan government’s decision is a legal and legitimate one based on their constitution, which guarantees and regulates the access and use of airwaves for the benefit of the general public. RCTV broke these laws and consequently lost its license. It has not been silenced, for it can continue broadcasting by cable, satellite and Internet!

“RCTV has consistently worked against the interests of the majority of Venezuelan people. Its programming has been sexist, racist and pejorative. Most importantly, it actively participated in the 2002 coup against President Chávez. After he was reinstated to office by millions of Venezuelans, RCTV prohibited its reporters to broadcast ANY of this information, therefore denying its audience vital information about their democratically elected government. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, that action in the USA ‘would not have lasted more than a few minutes with the FCC.’ RCTV was not closed then and had been broadcasting until this past May 27!

“Although the opposition and their allies claim that the action against RCTV reflects a lack of freedom of expression (meaning criticism of the president) by private media, it is important to note that 80 percent of TV and radio in that country is in private hands and has not been ‘silenced.’

“The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution last week stating ‘profound concern’ for the Venezuelan government’s action and requesting measures from the OAS, which is currently meeting in Panama. This was followed by a statement from U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi stating her ‘concern about his [Chávez’s] leadership.’

“The U.S. Congress, which became predominantly Democratic due to anti-war voters in the Nov. 7 elections, and which has recently voted to fund a criminal war that has cost thousands of Iraqi and U.S. lives, ignoring the voices of their constituents, has no moral or legal right to interfere in Venezuelan politics, let alone accuse President Chávez for suspending RCTV’s license. U.S. congresspeople should instead learn from President Chávez on how to listen to the people.

“In February 1997 Temple University administrators stopped the Pacifica radio station from broadcasting through TU radio station WRTI in the city of the U.S. Constitution, Philadelphia. They shut it for the sole reason that it was the only station broadcasting the political commentaries of award-winning journalist and former Black Panther, Mumia Abu-Jamal—who remains today on death row in Pennsylvania, a victim of a frame-up. Where was the media and Congress outrage? In fact, in the United States, the voices of the opposition to the war or to U.S. foreign and domestic policy are very rarely heard in the main broadcasting stations or papers. Their coverage of the situation in Venezuela has mostly been one-sided, on the side of the opposition!

“Many countries have supported Venezuela’s government action. Among them are Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, several countries in Asia, Alpha Konaré, ex-president of the African Union, the European Union and China.

“We urge the President Bush administration, the U.S. Congress and the U.S. media to cease and desist your campaign of destabilization against Bolivarian Venezuela, its leader President Hugo Chávez, and its people and to respect their right to sovereignty.”

Among the initial signers are Ramsey Clark; actors Vinie Burrows and Peter Coyote; George McCollough, director of Princeton Community TV; Cynthia

McKinney, former U.S. Congresswoman; Pastor Carla Harris, WURD 900AM radio host; Jon Jonik, cartoonist; Teresa Gutiérrez, May 1st Coalition; Larry Holmes, Troops Out Now Coalition; Sara Flounders, IAC co-director; David Sole, president UAW Local 2334, Detroit; Larry Hales, FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together); John Catalinotto, managing editor, Workers World newspaper; the Women’s International Democratic Federation and the National Women’s Fightback Network.