Chávez and his Anti-Democracy Moves
Cross-posted from PoliBlog:
Reuters has an interesting piece on Hugo Chávez and the recent political confrontation over Venezuelan TV: Unpopular TV closure consolidates Chavez’s power.
Some key passages that get to the heart of the problem in terms of the threat to free speech in Venezuela:
dependent on the government for advertising revenue, major private stations have changed their editorial line to favor a president whose brief ouster they had openly supported in 2002.
The lone hold-out was RCTV.
That is certainly a good example of how governments can use their power to influence what is said.
There is also this:
Chavez, 52, granted other channels an extension but changed their contracts so that their licenses come up for renewal again a few months before he faces re-election in 2012.
That certainly sends a signal: that which is said in the lead-up to the elections will affect the licensing (and therefore the existence) of stations.
And, clearly, Chávez is seeking to intimidate those who might protest his moves:
After days of sometimes violent demonstrations in the polarized country, Chavez brought tens of thousands of his own supporters to the streets. He chillingly ordered shantytown dwellers in the hills around Caracas, many of whom are armed, to be “on alert.”
Student demonstrators, who give security forces flowers and paint their hands white as a symbol of peace, appear to have little appetite for confrontation, preferring to cancel marches rather than break police cordons blocking their path.
At one anti-Chavez rally, dozens of his supporters on motorbikes sent the mainly middle-class university students scurrying by riding slowly toward the crowd. The helmeted men dressed in Chavez’s signature red laughed as they passed the marchers jumping over barriers to get out of the way.