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August 4, 2009
Chavez shuts down dozens of Venezuelan radio stations

Venezuela shut down 34 radio stations.

My guess is that you are one of the poor deprived people among us who has not had the opportunity to watch and understand the charming, engaging, benevolent, all-knowing president of Venezuela — Hugo Chavez — in action.

It also could be that you are doing this on purpose — that would make you not just deprived, but depraved. Perhaps you are an agent of Venezuela’s enemies.

Fortunately Chavez is protecting Venezuela against you and all such agents. Last week, to root out the vermin that spread lies and plot against the people, President Chavez shut down several dozen private radio stations. His parliament — whose members understand exactly what needs to be done in all cases — has promoted new libel laws that protect the Chavista revolution from foul lies that could be spread on the airwaves. “Any person who speaks out in any form in the news media” can be considered a “media criminal” for disseminating seditious opinions, we’ve learned from Teodoro Petkoff, a long-time Venezeulan political analyst. Petkoff’s column last week was titled with a large headline reading “Censorship Law.”

It all makes perfect sense.

Venezuela’s enemies fall into two categories — you are either well-meaning but deceived and brainwashed; or you are an enemy of the revolution, and you could be a spy sent by the Central Intelligence Agency.

I learned this by watching Chavez’s televised performance at a meeting of his Cabinet in February, during his successful campaign for a referendum that abolished presidential term limits. Chavez apparently has a little button he can press when he wants to preempt all television and radio broadcasting in Venezuela to speak directly to the people. In the particular meeting, he told jokes, gave orders and questioned Cabinet members seated around the table, who looked uncertain when to laugh, agree, disagree, or react in any way, fearing for their heads. He also denied any involvement, as the CIA-stooge opposition was charging, in an attack on a synagogue in Caracas some days earlier.

In any case, when you can have the president speaking directly to you, why do we need a filter from these troublesome, CIA-funded newspaper and broadcast reporters, who are certain to be on a vendetta to destroy the country? If the president is all-knowing, infallible and looking out for our interests, who needs critics, dissent, or anything that will get in the way of the true path that the president has now set out for us?

Such a filter is Teodoro Petkoff, the journalist and politician, who has been a prominent critic of Chavez. Petkoff, by the way, is an ex-guerrilla, a student leader, and ran against Chavez briefly for the presidency in 2006. Beware — how can he be reliable? He disagrees with the president.

Nevertheless — understanding that the president of Venezuela doesn’t want you to hear about this, read about it, or even think about it — here’s what Petkoff has to say about the new censorship law promulgated by Chavez:

The proposed law has to be sent to all the governments of America, to all the news media of the world, so that they might see for themselves the dictatorial and totalitarian monstrosity that has been placed before our nation. It is not necessary in any way to even comment about it. It is so obvious, so naked in its repressive intent, that it explains itself. For us, Venezuelans, this “law” is a call to battle stations. One can hope that everyone is listening.

– Peter Eisner

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I think we should establish something, for readers who are ignorant about Venezuela.

President Chavez is an elected president, confirmed by election monitors from the EU & OAS.

He leads a party (PSUV) that has an elected majority in all houses of government, again confirmed by international election monitors.

Many authors fail to provide this information to their readers, as they rant about Venezuela being some Cuban style dictatorship.


1) On the media law, you failed to point out the context:

Some months back, a guest on an opposition talk show declared that Chavez would be strung up & hung like Mussolini.

This was yet another incident, in a string of incidents. Examples were discussions about Chavez’s school-age children, taunts about a miscarriage suffered by an elected Chavez-supporter, & a live GloboVision broadcast that falsely blamed the government for not responding to a minor Earthquake (when they clearly did).

Given that the opposition had previously kidnapped President Chavez, this could not be treated some idle chatter.

Chavez’s party, which has a democratic majority, responded by writing up this new controversial media law.

I personally disagree with it. But it was created by elected officials responding to a serious situation.


2) On the radio stations. Again, you’ve ignored the context:

Accoring to the government, under established broadcast laws, many stations were operating illegally.

After a review, only those found to be operating illegally were targetted for closure. Infractions included not paying standard fees, failing to renew licenses, & many outright operating withot permits.

I personally, have no problem with this…as long as the law applies to any broadcaster regardless of politican persuasions.


3) On Teodoro Petkoff…

In one sentence you explain:
“Chavez is the product of a society in which a governing upper class traditionally didn’t care a bolivar about poor and working class Venezuelans as they lined their own coffers.”

But then you declare:
“Teodoro Petkoff, no friend of the conservatives, [is] speaking truth to power”

Are you aware that, in the 90’s, Teodoro Petkoff implemented Venezuela’s most conservative economic policies?
(He was the ‘Minister of the Central Office of Coordination and Planning’ in the unpopular Caldera administration.)

His plans for mass privatization & deep government cuts, hated by the left, were praised by his conservative pals at the IMF & foreign Oil companies.

So please don’t make him out to be a leftist revolutionary. Because he was a key enabler of that corrupt elite you described.


Very true, Paul — the Bush administration had fingerprints all over the coup against Chavez. The U.S. government deserves blame. Also true that Chavez is the product of a society in which a governing upper class traditionally didn’t care a bolivar about poor and working class Venezuelans as they lined their own coffers. Similar analysis can be applied to most of Latin America. And, finally, I agree that a large number of the owners of the news media were in lockstep with the old system. And they ran news outlets that themselves were political.

That all said, we are talking here about freedom of expression. We hear Teodoro Petkoff, no friend of the conservatives, speaking truth to power. Absolute dictatorial power corrupts, and that is what we find in Venezuela today.


When you’re done joking Pete…

Allow the GUARDIAN to burst your bubble:

There was American involvement in the 2002 against Chavez.

And you conveniently forget that the Venezuelan private media outlets proudly & actively supported this illegal military overthrow.

Only one station has actually paid the price for participation in the coup: RCTV. But instead of being lined up & shot for treason (like in the United States) the government simply denied the renewal of their license. They’re still operating on Cable.

As for your other charges, THE GUARDIAN has a good rebuttal over here:

Funny what context does.

Peter Eisner is an editorial consultant with Worldfocus and a 30-year veteran of international news. He has been an editor and foreign correspondent at The Washington Post, Newsday and The Associated Press. He co-authored “The Italian Letter,” which details fraudulent intelligence leading up to the Iraq War. He was founder and president of Newscom, an international online news service, and speaks Spanish and Portuguese.

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