Monday, May 28, 2007

The revolution will no longer be televised

Last week, Venezuelan president and avowed socialist, Hugo Chavez, took another step in radicalizing his country's socialist revolution by shutting down the country's oldest private television station. The private station, Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) often led off its news broadcasts by announcing that Venezuela was in crisis. Here are some examples of typical lead stories by the station:
"Inflation is soaring...There are acute shortages of milk, eggs and meat...Violent crime is taking more than 100 lives every week...The government is in chaos...Corruption is draining the country's oil wealth."
The troublesome, anti-Chravez RCTV has been replaced with a new "public service" station run by Chavez appointees.

Chavez and RCTV have long endured a tempestuous relationship. Chavez has never forgiven the station's support of the 2002 coup attempt on his presidency. During the coup, the station openly supported the removal of Chavez from office, failing to maintain any semblance of journalistic integrity in its biased reporting on the event (including inexplicably failing to mention the tens of thousands of Venezuelans who manifested their support of the president), and blaming Chavez's government for the ensuing violence that racked the city when it was later proven to have been instigated by those responsible for the coup.

Chavez has never been shy about courting controversy. If you're not familiar with the man's story, you owe it to yourself to watch this video chronicling the aforementioned short-lived coup attempt on his presidency. In fact, the video highlights the roots of the row between Chavez and RCTV, pointing out how RCTV's biased media coverage helped lend credibility to a thinly guised coup possibly supported by the CIA.

The station's closure highlights a disturbing turn in the regime's politics. More than 70% of Venezuelans polled opposed the closure (and only 16% approved)—though most cited losing their favorite programs rather than erosion of free speech as the reason. Chavez's popularity in the country, however, remains high, at around than 65%. There were large protests in Caracas over the past few days by those both supportive and opposed to the decision. Chavez's soldiers have reportedly fired on RCTV supporters.

As this editorial in The Guardian points out, Chavez is resorting to dictatorial means in order to effect his high-minded political ideals, illustrating that the "Venezuelan people's will" is, in fact, nothing more than Chavez's own political agenda in which he stifles any opposition to his policies through increasingly authoritarian means.

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