A commenter refers to this Guardian post on “Hugo Chavez the dictator.”
That article is a lie. The law that passed made the stations fill out a bunch of paperwork so they could be monitored better. Just routine bureaucratic stuff. Those opposition stations deliberately refused to fill out that paperwork, knowing full well that they would get shut down. They basically shut themselves down on purpose in order to make Chavez look like a dictator. I believe that most of those stations have been reinstated after they filled out their paperwork.
The “yanking the advertisements off the air” is not true. The law limits the stations to one ad break per 30 minutes. I’m not sure what the purpose of that is, but it applies to all stations, pro-government, anti- and neutral.
The part about “forcing them to carry Chavez speeches” isn’t really true. They do want all of the media to have to carry important government announcements. During the coup, for instance, the government was constantly sending out announcements regarding this or that, mostly in opposition to the coup. The Opposition media completely blocked out all government statements and showed soaps and sports nonstop instead. No one could figure out what was going on because the Opposition had all the media.
So, yeah, they have to carry some government statements, but not that many. If you think about it, every time Obama gives a speech, all the US stations are all over it, right? Including Fox? But down there, they just lock out all government statements like they don’t exist. That doesn’t seem fair or right.
The law that the MSM is complaining about so much is a pretty reasonable media responsibility law, similar to that in many countries. I believe it is almost identical to the law in Canada, for instance.
The draft law the piece referred to is troubling, but Chavez himself opposed it. It was the Chavista legislature that proposed that. The Attorney General’s statement was also disturbing, but the law never got passed anyway. You know, some dictatorship, the Chavistas can’t even pass their own laws!
I don’t agree with a lot of the government’s hard line on the media, and at times, I wish they would just blow the Opposition media off. I know they’re assholes, but so what? Let the dogs bark.
Globovision is still on the air 7 months after that article was written, but I think they are moving to cable.
On the regular airwaves, 25% of the stations are pro-government, 20% are Opposition, and 55% are neutral. The neutral ones carry both pro- and anti-Chavez people, often in equal numbers, and they have some of the most ferocious anti-Chavez folks as regular guests.
The article is not correct that Venezuela is the worst in the Hemisphere. In Colombia, they just murder the Opposition media, so it frankly barely even exists. In Peru, there is a law called “apology for terrorism.” It’s used pretty broadly.
In Colombia, Peru, Chile, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, there is no opposition media that I’m aware of. The elite has almost the entire media spectrum. I’m not sure of the situation in Mexico, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay, but the elite seems to have most to all of the media in those places too. There is a Left media in Argentina, but it’s one daily paper. There is probably some Left media in Brazil, mostly newspapers. In Argentina and Brazil, the elite control TV. There is opposition media in Nicaragua from the Sandinistas.
So really, Venezuela is probably one of the few places in the Hemisphere, along with Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador, where there is a ferocious and vibrant Opposition media at all. Keep in mind that the elite control the media in Latin America. They almost always control the state too, so in essence there’s never any opposition media in Latin America, except when a leftwing, anti-elite government comes in. Then the entire media spectrum of the nation lines up against the state. So the strange truth is that Venezuela has one of the loudest, most belligerent, most vibrant and most powerful opposition medias in the region.
What Chavez is trying to do is to get away from the elite media model towards community radio and TV. He has been giving out licenses by the handful for community radio and TV stations. It’s true that most of these smaller stations support him, since most communities support him, but community stations in anti-Chavez regions have anti-Chavez community media. Even the Chavez-supporting community media is often extremely critical of the regime, when they feel that they are screwing up. Someone needs to keep the government on its toes.
What he’s doing is democratizing the media space, moving away from the typical model in capitalism where an elite, say the top 1% of the population, owns nearly the entire media spectrum, print and non-print. A better model is a democratic media.
The “mounting economic problems” in Venezuela are due to the worldwide recession or depression that the US elite set off with their financial machinations and fraud. Venezuela is experiencing the same thing that everyone else is, it’s not Chavez’ fault. During Chavez’ term, the economy has grown like gangbusters.
The commenter also refers to this article to claim that “Hugo Chavez is a dictator.” This was the defeat of the proposed Constitution rewrite. There were good and bad aspects of it. The bit about censoring the media in a national emergency was an attempt to make sure the situation that occurred during the coup would not recur. I supported his bid to run for life. If Venezuelans want to keep re-electing him over and over, let them. That sounds like democracy to me.
I think the bit about seizing private property was for economic sabotage. A lot of the capitalist food producers are engaging in economic sabotage to try to bring down the regime, and it’s hard to figure out how to deal with them!
The inflation is occurring, or was occurring in 2007 at the time the article was written, due to an overheated economy that is growing too fast. You know, the same guy who is ruining the economy is also presiding over an economy that is growing so wildly it is getting inflationary? The “student opposition” is like the “student opposition to FARC” in Colombia. Rightwing students from moneyed classes are rallying at their expensive private universities. Yeah, some “student movement.” Just like the 60’s, huh?
The main thing is that Chavez’ constitutional reform was defeated. How is that a dictator puts his laws up for vote and the people vote them down? What kind of dictatorship is that? A lot of Chavistas voted against that law, and I don’t blame them.
I admit that Chavez bothers me at times with his polarizing rhetoric and bombastic blathering. The guy’s a demagogue, let’s face it. But so is Castro, so was Daniel Ortega, so was Juan Peron. Latin Americans love their caudillos and their demagogues.