Help defend Venezuela against media frenzy

Email from Patrick McElwee

The Venezuelan government has legally decided not to renew the broadcast license of a major TV network, Radio Caracas Television (RCTV). RCTV is overtly opposed to the government. That opposition included direct support for the 2002 military coup attempt against President Hugo Chavez.

[My Common Dreams] article also reveals that the policy people at Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Reporters Without Borders – all of whom have criticized the RCTV decision – cannot say that RCTV would get its license renewed in the United States or Europe.

No government anywhere would allow a TV network that had supported overthrowing them to continue to broadcast. Had this happened in, say, Britain, the same critics would no doubt be applauding the decision. Their anti-Chavez bias is showing.

The House and the Senate are likely to take up a measure today criticizing the Chavez government; the European Parliament passed a similar motion this morning, although a tiny fraction of the parliamentarians were in attendance; and the media is going to be all over this. RCTV goes off the air Sunday night.

Let’s get the word out about this in advance of the usual venomous right wing attacks on Venezuela for doing what any country would have done.


  1. Kenny D'Santiago

    Why not to suspend the license? Why you did not mention all the people that were killed when Chavez before he was a president in 1992 when he took the national channel to give a coup d’état. He was forgiven, for what he did. Just admit that this is a personal action.

  2. The problem with taking the high road–anyone who urges a coup or participates in one–is somehow disqualified from political life is that you have to apply it to everybody. Even Hugo Chávez, and even if you like his politics and him. For Hugo himself led a coup in 1992, a day which is now celebrated as a semi-official holiday.

    The real problem is that there is no political voice for the opposition which, like the foolish Sunni in Iraq, boycotted the Congressional elections in 2005 (2004?). Not that it would do any good to be there, since COngress voted itself out of a job for the next 15 months. I have a very different view of political power than you do. You seem to think that if the person holding power is doing good things as you see them, the amount of political power he has doesn’t matter. To my way of seeing things, this is utterly unsupported by history, and Lord Acton’s observations about the corruption that power brings have been proven to be true time and again, with the possible exception of Cincinnatus in republican Rome. The suppression of the remaining media opposition to Chávez is not to be desired, any more than you’d like all the bloggers in the US to be cowed by aggressive actions by the federal government.

    You will eventually be disappointed in Chávez because he’s not the white knight on a white horse who will lead the masses to liberation. He’s a run-of-the-mill populist who sits on a lot of oil wealth and is able to engage in his pet foolishnesses because of the pet foolishnesses of our idiot president. Those who have studied Latin American history have seen this pattern dozens (if not hundreds) of times before, and can all tell you how it’s going to turn out (i.e., no substantial improvement anywhere for anyone). It’s a shame for the Venezuelan people who deserve better after all the corruption they’ve had to endure over the years. One would hope, over the years, that they’d be able to catch SOME break from the oil riches they’re sitting on instead of having government after government squander earnings in times of high prices by destroying local industries and subsidizing imports.

  3. They simply didn’t renew the license of the TV station (as has happened sometimes in the US too) I just don’t see that as an abuse of power, especially considering the station participated in the coup attempt against him.

    That the government didn’t kill or imprison Chavez forever in ’92 suggests they couldn’t because doing so would have been politically impossible.

  4. Bob, you’re studiously avoiding the questions I raised. I take it from your response that you don’t consider the fact that somebody mounts a coup as being any kind of political disqualification of that person in a democratic setting. Otherwise, of course, you couldn’t support Chávez now. So, by your logic, coups are not necessarily bad. That’s a defensible position to have, but it means you can’t wrap yourself in the cloack of democracy and high ideals as you’ve done in this post.

    My reading of Latin American history compels the opposite conclusion from the one you’ve reached. Military coups in the last 50 years have almost always spared the people being removed from office. Even Perón in Argentina, whom the Army loathed, was allowed to exit after hiding out for a couple of weeks on, of all things, a Paraguayan gunboat anchored in the harbor. Even Juan José Torres, the socialist president of Bolivia in the early 1970’s, was permitted to flee to Argentina. There’s decent evidence to suggest that the Chilean military, which produced some of the vilest crimes known to that blood-drenched continent, was prepared to allow Savlador Allende go into exile, but Allende chose to make a stand. Executing unsuccessful coup leaders as traitors, even though a coup would be the very definition of treason, simply isn’t done in Latin America. (Probably a weird application of the Golden Rule: you, as the military de facto dictator, may some day be on the receiving end of a coup yourself.) Thus, I don’t believe that history supports your reading of the 1992 response to Chávez’s unsuccessful 1992 as showing his strength or popularity. But what does that really have to do with anything, anyway? Bush was popular for a while, and you never claimed that his popularity gave him any kind of justification for doing the foolish things that he did.

  5. > I take it from your response that you don’t consider the fact that somebody mounts a coup as being any kind of political disqualification of that person in a democratic setting

    Considering that the US was founded in violent revolution, the obvious answer would be, no. Else you’d be saying George Washington wasn’t fit to hold office because he led a revolution.

    “if you win, you’re a founding father, if you lose, you’re a traitor.” — Saul Alinsky

    Shutting down the station was probably a dumb move politically on the international scene although it may be playing well in Venezuela. Chavez hardly has an iron grip on power, and there’s no doubt serious forces are allied against him so the station shutdown might well have had something to do with internal situations we don’t know about.

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