34 Radio Stations Guilty of "Media Crimes"

A few years back, Jesse Jackson, Cornel West, Tom Hayden, and Gore Vidal sent a petition to the White House demanding that the United States government "respect the democratic process in Venezuela" and "not deny the voters of Venezuela the same right to democracy that we uphold for ourselves." So it is with alacrity that I await an updated petition from Vidal and Co., all deeply concerned with freedom in the Americas after all, upbraiding the authoritarian government in Caracas for dismantling what's left of that country's bruised and battered democracy. Last week, Venezuela's Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz tabled a law in Chavez's rubber stamp parliament that would punish "media crimes."

"What I wonder is, who will define the crime and based on what criteria?" said Marcelino Bisbal, a professor at Central University of Venezuela and editor of Communication magazine. "The arbitrary way such a law could be applied is very worrisome."

Another proposal that critics say will limit freedom of expression is a law being pitched by Cabinet Minister Diosdado Cabello that would channel all Internet communication through servers controlled by the state telecommunications company, CANTV.

Cabello has said the law would enable the government to suspend all telecommunications for security reasons in times of national emergency. But Bisbal and Keller believe it's designed to control social-networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook as rallying points for the opposition.

This weekend, the government stepped up efforts to eliminate opposition media, shutting down 34 radio stations and threatening hundreds more:

Conatel's head, Diosdado Cabello, said Friday that 32 radio stations and two television stations would be shut down in the latest bid to tighten reins on the media as Chavez advances his leftist-populist program.

"It is not that we have shut some radio stations, we are implementing the law. We have put them back in the hands of the people and not the bourgeoisie," Chavez said in a televised address on Saturday.

Cabello said the closures were due to the stations' failures to meet legal operating requirements. The government has warned another 200 stations may face the same fate.

It is worth reiterating what should be (but isn't) obvious to Chavez's Western sycophants: Venezuela is no longer a democracy, despite Chavez's victories at the ballot box.

After a cache of Venezuelan weapons were discovered in the possession of the Colombian terrorist group FARC, The New York Times' indispensable South American correspondent Simon Romero filed this fascinating story detailing Chavez's collaboration with the group:

One message from Iván Márquez, a rebel commander thought to operate largely from Venezuelan territory, describes the FARC’s plan to buy surface-to-air missiles, sniper rifles and radios in Venezuela last year.

It is not clear whether the arms Mr. Márquez refers to ended up in FARC hands. But he wrote that the effort was facilitated by Gen. Henry Rangel Silva, the director of Venezuela’s police intelligence agency until his removal last month, and by Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, a former Venezuelan interior minister who served as Mr. Chávez’s official emissary to the FARC in negotiations to free hostages last year.

I wrote about the Colombia's cross-border raid on a FARC encampment here and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's war against the guerrilla group here.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Don't forget Chavez's love of the Iranian Mullahs. If you link it all together, Chavez, the FARC, Iran, Hezbollah, even the IRA which has been linked to the FARC, it is one giant cesspool.

  • ||

    So nice to see our Presidente marching arm-in-arm with Chavez in his attempt to put a Chavista-for-life in charge of Honduras, as well.

    I appreciated, if no one else did, the Hondurans at the border last week turning back the Chavista's attempt to return. "No pasaran", indeed.

  • ||

    "So nice to see our Presidente marching arm-in-arm with Chavez in his attempt to put a Chavista-for-life in charge of Honduras, as well."

    BO's behavior with regard to Honduras is probably the most disturbing thing he has done. He has to know what the exiled President was up to. And considering BO's behavior must support it.

    Could it really be true that we have a President who likes what has happened in Venezuela and wants it to happen in other places? Not just ignore or not care, but actively want to see it repeated and willing to use the power and influence of the United States to help it happen? That, is too grim to contemplate.

  • kilroy||

    Yes. Makes Honduras look like a great place to retire, especially if you smoke cigars.

  • ||

    Venezuela is no longer a democracy, despite Chavez's victories at the ballot box.

    Of course it's still a democracy. The moment a majority of Venezuelans vote against Chavez in an election, he will be out of power.

    The offenses of which you speak are offenses against liberty, not democracy. Do not confuse the two. Democracy and statism are no more mutually exclusive than dictatorship and libertarianism.

  • ||

    Tulpa,

    But if you control the media and have the ability to harrass and criminalize your oponentes, you are not a democracy. I don't care how many elections you have.

  • Xeones||

    Tulpa, before i read your second paragraph i thought you were channeling joe.

  • ||

    John,

    I like to think nothing will surprise me at this point, but I absolutely do not believe Obama supports Chavezism in its pure form. It seems more likely to me that he just doesn't want to have a Central American crisis distracting his limited mental powers from the more important business of helping his political allies and campaign financiers continue looting the treasury.

  • ||

    But if you control the media and have the ability to harrass and criminalize your oponentes, you are not a democracy. I don't care how many elections you have.

    Well it depends on your definition of democracy, I guess. If you interpret it literally as "rule by the people" then yes, this is an offense against it. However I think the term is more often used today to refer to the mechanics of voting.

    Either way, I think we can all agree what Chavez is doing is really bad.

  • David Carlson||

    @John
    "But if you control the media and have the ability to harrass and criminalize your oponentes, you are not a democracy. I don't care how many elections you have."

    Interesting point. I would have to agree with the definition of democracy being

    "government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system."

    the supreme power must be vested in the people, which it clearly is not in this case. It has to be under a FREE electoral system. If the ruling power has the ability to criminalize opponents in an unjust way to suppress free elections, this is far from what a pure democracy would be.

    -DC
    http://www.thelibertyblogger.com

  • ||

    How long until the first "but...but....Bush" post?

  • ||

    Tulpa,

    It could be that Obama does not want anything to come up overseas that would distract from his looting of the treasury and various other nefarious activities, that he is willing to throw the people of Honduras, or anywhere else for that matter, to the Chivista wolves as a necessary sacrifice to keep the peace so he can get what he wants domestically.

    Somehow that doesn't make me feel any better.

  • ||

    So nice to see our Presidente marching arm-in-arm with Chavez in his attempt to put a Chavista-for-life in charge of Honduras, as well.

    Maybe he could invite the ruling Junta and deposed president to the White House for a couple of beers, just to talk things over, ya know.

  • ||

    "Maybe he could invite the ruling Junta and deposed president to the White House for a couple of beers, just to talk things over, ya know"

    Iced tea or lemonaide. We wouldn't want to set a bad example for the children.

  • Paul||

    Well it depends on your definition of democracy, I guess.

    So then everything GWB did was "democratic"?

  • ||

    Of course it's still a democracy. The moment a majority of Venezuelans vote against Chavez in an election, he will be out of power.

    {insert long detailed explanation of the histories of Latin American politics and socialist democracies here]

    You are fucking idiot.

  • ||

    So if Congress impeached and removed the president from office as specified in the Constitution, the resulting government would ipso facto be a "junta"? Or does that only apply to Latin American countries.

    Somehow that doesn't make me feel any better.

    As a non-interventionist, it does make me feel better that aside from a bit of rhetorical and diplomatic speechifying, Obama hasn't gotten involved either way. Even though it's pretty blatantly obvious that the Chavistas are in the wrong on this one.

  • ||

    Well it depends on your definition of democracy, I guess.

    So then everything GWB did was "democratic"?


    And Mubarek.

  • ||

    J sub D,

    Ah. So because of Latin America's spotty record on democracy, any regime that we don't like is assumed to be the sort that will hold on to power even after losing an election?

    You'll have a point when Chavez does just that. Thus far it hasn't happened.

  • robc||

    The Soviet Union had elections.

  • robc||

    Tulpa,

    Ortega "stepped" down when he "lost" an "election" in Nicaragua (I almost quoted it too). Doesnt mean that Nicaragua was a democracy.

  • robc||

    Freedom House refers to Venezuela as an "electoral autocracy". Seems about right.

  • ||

    Tulpa--I don't share your faith in Chavez voluntarily giving up power if defeated in an election. He's shown that he is all to willing to subvert the existing system to work in his favor and against political opponents (an understatement to be sure).

  • robc||

    From the Freedom House report on Venezuela:

    Since taking power in 1999, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez Frías has managed to convert a frail but nonetheless pluralistic democracy into a semi-authoritarian regime. Certain freedoms continue to exist, and elections are still held, but the system of checks and balances has become inoperative. The government rarely negotiates with opposition forces, the state insists on undermining the autonomy of civil society, the law is invoked mostly to penalize opponents and never to curtail the government, and the electoral field is uneven, with the ruling party making use of state resources that are systematically denied to the opposition.

    These conditions are all typical of electoral autocracies. However, the Venezuelan regime also seems to rely on a practice that is more peculiar to Chavismo, as the Chávez phenomenon is commonly known, or at least to a small subset of semi-authoritarian states: the promotion of disorder. Whereas many nondemocratic governments-such as those in Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia-seek political legitimacy by attempting to deliver order, the rulers of Venezuela and their ilk do nothing to stop lawlessness. Consequently, ordinary citizens live in fear of random crime, oppositionists face targeted attacks by thugs, and businesses are subject to violence by government-sponsored labor groups. This intimidation through third parties, rather than through direct state pressure alone, helps to discourage collective action by regime opponents.

  • ||

    The Soviet Union had elections.

    The Nazis had flair too.

  • ||

    Maybe he could invite the ruling Junta and deposed president to the White House for a couple of beers, just to talk things over, ya know.

    What ruling junta? The current government of Honduras is a legislature, President, etc. all in office per the Honduran constitution.

  • EJM||

    In other "president trying to change the nation's constitution to allow for more terms in office" news, Niger started holding its referendum on the matter today.

  • ||

    What ruling junta? The current government of Honduras is a legislature, President, etc. all in office per the Honduran constitution.

    I gotta admit, I haven't kept up on the situation there since then. I just assumed that since the military overthrew him, they took their shoes off and stayed for a while. Seems to be the pattern down in that part of the world.

    Way to go and rub sand in my bit, RC.

  • shaneequa||

    Niger started holding its referendum on the matter today.

    If you're going to use racist slurs, at least spell them right.

  • ||

    It is worth reiterating what should be (but isn't) obvious to Chavez's Western sycophants: Venezuela is no longer a democracy, despite Chavez's victories at the ballot box.

    Umm i hate to be the "joe" here but technically it is a democracy....only it is no longer a liberal democracy.

    me unlike joe and poeple like him actually think democracy without a respect for liberty is a hallow shell....one thing it can sort of be good for is a peaceful transition say 40-60 years down the road to a more liberal state.

    But other then that a democracy without respect for individual liberty is as useless as tyrant.

  • ||

    Sometimes, the military acts to preserve constitutional government. It's happened in Turkey a couple of times, and it happened in Honduras. Not ideal, but not every country has the stability of the U.S.

    Why our government is taking the position it has is beyond me. I can think of any number of bad explanations for it and not too many good ones.

  • JB||

    Chavez is the little bitch that Obama hopes to be.

    Thankfully, Americans are armed and know how to deal with zombies.

  • ||

    But if you control the media and have the ability to harrass and criminalize your oponentes, you are not a democracy. I don't care how many elections you have.

    good point...i will have to rethink my prior post

  • ||

    I just assumed that since the military overthrew him, they took their shoes off and stayed for a while.

    He violated the Constitution by trying to repeal term limits via a rigged referendum. His supporters attacked a military base to try to get the ballots being held there. The military enforced the Constitution by throwing him out. There was some toing and froing with the judiciary and legislature, as well, in confirming/calling for his removal and appointing his successor.

    As constitutional crises go, it was handled pretty well.

  • ||

    PM770 | August 3, 2009, 4:37pm | #
    How long until the first "but...but....Bush" post?

    Paul | August 3, 2009, 4:55pm | #
    Well it depends on your definition of democracy, I guess.

    So then everything GWB did was "democratic"?


    according to the time stamps: 18 min

  • Paul||

    me unlike joe and poeple like him actually think democracy without a respect for liberty is a hallow shell....one thing it can sort of be good for is a peaceful transition say 40-60 years down the road to a more liberal state.

    Insofar as a country can install a tyrant via a democratic process...a tyrant which proceeds to dismantle the democracy, then yes, it's a democracy.

  • ||

    Why our government is taking the position it has is beyond me. I can think of any number of bad explanations for it and not too many good ones.

    My working hypothesis is that the Obama administration has more respect for executive authority that either of the other branches of government or the rule of law. I'm alternating between outrage and embarrassment over Hillary's handling of all this.

  • ||

    RC,

    The timing was a bit Alice-in-Wonderlandish (he was exiled from the country a few days before he was constitutionally removed from office), but aside from that minor quibble by and large it was done in a legal way.

  • mark||

    Why our government is taking the position it has is beyond me. I can think of any number of bad explanations for it and not too many good ones.
    I chalk it up to being the exact same position as the UN and the OAS. Now, some other president may have felt that the opinion of an unelected body of states, which often don't have U.S. interests at heart, is not worth consideration, but Obama is trying to build some cache, man. Street cred, yo. And while I can't say for sure that his strategy won't work out in the long run, if it doesn't then at least we'll have learned a valuable lesson :)

    As for Chavez, has anyone seen the documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised? First let me say that Chavez does himself no favor with that speech at 1:45. In fact he hasn't done one positive thing, like, ever. He's turned out to be a common thug like all the conservatives said he was.

    But what I get from this documentary is that, when this coup happened in 2002, there was a genuine power struggle between two equally (un)deserving groups. And as the coup unfolded (a real one, unlike what happened in Honduras) the private TV stations managed to shut down the state TV and essentially broadcasted "nothing to see here, move on". So at that point, Chavez had very little media control. You might say that his recent moves against the media today come from his paranoia after the 2002 coup.

    Please do not construe the preceding statement to be an endorsement of Chavez in any way.

  • Rhywun||

    I'm gonna call "not democracy" on this one. If you can't vote for the opposition out of fear for your life or because the ruling party suppresses all information about it, you're not a democracy. BTW, China has some show elections too, at the village level. Nobody's pretending they're democratic.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Schumer, Kerry, Louise Slaughter, and all the other Democrats who are in favor of the Fairness Doctrine, are probably orgasming over how Chavez controls HIS radio and TV stations... and wishing they could do exactly the same thing Chavez is doing.

  • ||

    Of course it's still a democracy. The moment a majority of Venezuelans vote against Chavez in an election, he will be out of power.

    Well, no. The moment Chavez chooses to count the votes in a way that shows he lost the election, rather than stuffing ballot boxes and whatnot, and chooses to publicly concede the election, and then doesn't murder the new guy, pull a coup, or install a crony beholden to him as the new President (ala Russia) -- THEN he will be out of power.

    Which is to say, he'll be out of power when he dies.

    Now, under a rather narrow definition of "democracy", you might consider Venezuela to be one, but "alleged democracy" seems like a better fit with the facts.

  • ||

    Agree with the other posters on the "Democracy" issue. And this isn't just semantics. Our foreign policy pushes the idea of "Democracy" all around the globe, and the inability to grasp the fact that mob rule (the essence of Democracy) is going to be unsatisfactory in most countries that we push it in is one of the core failures of said foreign policy. Radio stations can be shut down in a Democracy, just like Jews can be tossed in to ovens under a Democracy and blacks can be owned as slaves in a Democracy.

  • ||

    If oil stays below 40 dollars for awhile, that is when Chavez will lose power. His power is supported only by the purchasing power of their oil. It is their only asset and the sole source of his power.

  • Anonymous||

    Radio stations can be shut down in a Democracy, just like Jews can be tossed in to ovens under a Democracy and blacks can be owned as slaves in a Democracy.

    If one were suspicious, one might think that was the point.

  • ||

    If oil stays below 40 dollars for awhile, that is when Chavez will lose power. His power is supported only by the purchasing power of their oil. It is their only asset and the sole source of his power.

    Just like Castro lost power when Cuba ran out of... what was it again? Slow-cooked pork?

  • Paul||

    Just like Castro lost power when Cuba ran out of... what was it again? Slow-cooked pork?

    Any day now... any day.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    I wonder how many average Cubans get pork on a regular basis... mmm, pork.

    Maybe Barry can send 'em some of that $100/lb beef he likes to have his chefs prepare for him at taxpayer expense. The Cuban Beef Drop. Good use of airplanes, they can drop iPods and propaganda leaflets and loaded Glocks so the Cubans can have something to read and listen to while they take back their country from the Thug Brothers.

    Whew, that wore me out.

  • ||

    Did a kwiki wiki search. Cuba was a huge exporter of sugar until a few years ago. 34% of the world export market. Now down to 10%. They also supply 6.4% of the world's nickel supply. Nickel accounts for 25% of their export market. Oil has been discovered in 06' in the north Cuba basin. Estimated between 4.6 and 9.3 billion barrels. Russia gave them a lot of help with their military.
    The point with Chavez and it is true with Castro is this, a tinhorn dictator that assumes control over much, or all in the case of Castro, of the daily lives of his people can get away with that with force or with "benevolence." Chavez is a benevolent dictator. He is able to give a lot of free shit to the folks as long as the money supply is steady. Chavez's money comes from petroleum that the state has a stranglehold on. If the price drops to a level that makes it hard for him to keep giving the people their daily bread, he will lose favor and eventually, his job.

  • ||

    Glad to see all you right-wing dicks enjoying your circle jerk, because you won't find much to excite you in the future as South America completely breaks out of the USA imperium. You thought it was the greatest fucking thing that ever happened when the Russian satellites became independent, but now that it's the US satellites you're all shitting your pants due to the one thing you authoritarian koolaid-drinkers really really fear self-determintion for any former third-world country formerly in the Monroe Doctrine imperial zone. Why not just accept the fact that Venezuela, at long last, gets to do what its people (as opposed to its corporate pwners) want it to do, as reflected in FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS?

    As for this non-story, it's clear nobody has any facts that could lead to any kind of informed opinion ... thanks to our spectacular free press. What "media crimes"? Here's a hint: NOBODY HAS BEEN CHARGED WITH ANY, AND NONE EXIST. It's a red herring, you ignorant fucks. Does any of you even know what regulations were cited to refuse license renewals? Or how long the regulations have been on the books and therefore presumably violated? Or what social interests the regulations serve? Or if ANYTHING SIMILAR has ever been done by the FCC or its state equivalents in the USA, whether in terms of renewals or outright refusals to grant licenses? Or if the stations in question broadcast anything relevant to politics? Or what terms must be met for new licenses to be granted? Or how many anti-Chavez media outlets remain? Or if the rule of law was, in any way whatsoever, disrespected? No, of course not, because you rely on sound-bites in right-wing media reports.

  • ||

    Just to avoid the inevitable snark: "fear self-determintion" should read "fear: self-determination." The keys stuck.

    Sorry that the brown people south of the border are upsetting you with their weird refusal to kiss the imperialist media's ass. To compensate, amybe you can all move to Texas, secede, and do what you really want: Fly the Confederate Flag and invade some of those formerly profitable former plantations.

  • robc||

    Freedom House, founded by Eleanor Freakin Roosevelt, is a well known right-wing organization.

    Whatever, fuckhead.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Wow, Azbyc, that was quite a rant.

  • ||

    "Another proposal that critics say will limit freedom of expression is a law being pitched by Cabinet Minister Diosdado Cabello that would channel all Internet communication through servers controlled by the state telecommunications company, CANTV.

    Cabello has said the law would enable the government to suspend all telecommunications for security reasons in times of national emergency."

    In addition...
    "Whereas many nondemocratic governments-such as those in Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia-seek political legitimacy by attempting to deliver order, the rulers of Venezuela and their ilk do nothing to stop lawlessness. Consequently, ordinary citizens live in fear of random crime, oppositionists face targeted attacks by thugs, and businesses are subject to violence by government-sponsored labor groups. This intimidation through third parties, rather than through direct state pressure alone, helps to discourage collective action by regime opponents."

    I meant to comment on this thread yesterday but just as Globovision (tv station) was being attacked by Lina Ron and her thugs (Chavista criminals)... the power was cut-off in most of Caracas all afternoon.
    Make of that what you will.

  • ||

    My working hypothesis is that the Obama administration has more respect for executive authority that either of the other branches of government or the rule of law. I'm alternating between outrage and embarrassment over Hillary's handling of all this."

    yes, "El Club de los Presidentes"

  • ||

    Now, under a rather narrow definition of "democracy", you might consider Venezuela to be one, but "alleged democracy" seems like a better fit with the facts.

    I prefer "nominal democracy". You know, democracy in name only.

  • ||

    Axbyc, go back to watching Family Guy and let the grown ups talk. You don't speak Spanish, you've never been to Latin America, and if you ever did, you'd get robbed and beat up right out the airport. Yet you seem to think you have something to actually LECTURE about. Dumbass.

  • ||

    brotherben

    Sugar purchases were one of the vehicles by which the Soviet Union subsidized Castro. When the USSR collapsed no one in the Russian government felt like paying higher than world market prices for sugar anymore. Russia no longer had any interests that supporting Castro would advance.

    At that point it was all Russia could do to hold itself together.

    Nickel, on the other hand, is a much in demand metal. The market is dominated (almost to monopoly level) by Canada's INCO. But as big as they are they can't meet the whole demand.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement