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Hugo Chavez: He puts the dick in dictator








June 6, 2007 —

ON our TV screens in America,

we see Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

and his army of thugs cracking down on the

hundreds of thousands of students protesting

the shutdown of the nation’s last truly


TV station.


Yet, inside the story of

“the dictator vs. the forces of freedom,”

is a tale of two Venezuelan media kings –

one heroic, one craven.


Chavez’s shutdown of RCTV late last month

(by refusing to renew its broadcast license)

was meant to be the final move in his drive

to shut down all independent voices.


In the eight years since he took the presidency, journalism has become one of Venezuela’s most dangerous professions.

The government and its supporters have regularly harassed, frequently beaten and sometimes killed reporters.

Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to

Protect Journalists, Freedom House and

Human Rights Watch,

Amnesty International and others have all

condemned the Chavez government’s war

on the media.


RCTV had broadcast for 50 years

and had become a strident critic of the

Chavez regime.

As the last major voice reporting anything

but the government line,

it was the country’s most popular TV station.


The hero is RCTV’s director, Marcel Granier

who received no legal notice of the shutdown.

He first learned of it when Chavez announced

that RCTV would be punished for criticizing the government, for being “bourgeois” and for

coup plotting.”


(As a final insult, the government two days

before the shutdown produced a judge who ordered RCTV’s equipment seized and “loaned” to a new government station that has now replaced it.)


In response, Granier has risked his life

and fortune for the sake of freedom of expression.


He has kept his TV reporters working;

they’re now broadcasting news segments

on the student protests via YouTube,

other Web sites and viral videos.


The Congress’ vice president has called for

his arrest for “destabilizing.”


A Venezuelan official openly described

the RCTV closing as part of a plan for

“communicational hegemony”

over information

and programming.

One free TV station remains, Globovision,

but its coverage is not nationwide and its

viewers are limited to Venezuela’s middle class.


Plus, a day after the RCTV shutdown,

Chavez called for a probe of Globovision

and threatened to cancel its license.

He also taunted the station’s director:

“Are you prepared to die?”


Regime apologists will point to one other

“independent” station, the privately held

Venevision – which brings us to our media villain.


At first,

Venevision did indeed harshly criticize Chavez.

But in 2004 Chavez accused the station’s owner,

New York-based Gustavo Cisneros, of being

behind a plot to overthrow the government.


After a private meeting between the two

(attended by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter), Venevision changed course:

Political commentary disappeared;

opposition marches and statements

by opposition leaders began getting short shrift;

news became entirely rosy coverage

of government activities.


How deep is the collusion between

Cisneros and Chavez?

Consider a December 2006 phone conversation

between Cisneros’ senior deputy at Venevision,

Carlos Bardasano, and Jesus Romero Anselmi,

head of the government TV channel,

Venezolana de Television.

(The recording was posted anonymously

on YouTube.com; “mirror sites”

have defeated the regime’s attempts

to suppress the record.) In the call,

the executives agree that

“together, we are unstoppable.”

They also joke about how Venevision

might undergo a name change

to reflect government ownership.


Cisneros, a Fifth Avenue socialite,

is a media giant.

He’s on the board of Univision,

the United States’ largest Latino broadcaster;

his firm owns dozens of radio, TV

and other telecom properties.


He’s also wont to attend media conferences

in the United States, delivering speeches

about the media’s duty to ensure that the

public gets the information it needs and

ensure government transparency.


But back in Venezuela,

Venevision executives

have yet to even make a statement

about the RCTV shutdown.

.Of course, Cisneros also stands to benefit

enormously from the ad revenue that

used to go to the rival channel.


Fascism doesn’t triumph without help.

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