Latin America

Chavez Tas Ponchao! RCTV Shut Down Again, Students Mobilize

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In the latest issue of The Nation, NYU professor and Hugo Chavez sycophant Greg Grandin praises "Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela, where progressive movements are fitfully trying to 'refound' their societies along more inclusive lines." Perhaps I should cut Grandin some slack, for his essay was surely finished before news that Hugo Chavez's latest attempt at "refounding" his crime-riddled, poverty-striken, oil-rich country appeared on American wire services. But as the links above demonstrate, Grandin and other Chavista deadenders in academia will excuse any illiberal policy from the crooks in Miraflores, provided it is couched in the mad rhetoric of socialismo o muerte.

Indeed, the excuses for Venezuela's latest attack on free speech are already filling my inbox (including a ludicrous missive from the Venezuelan embassy in Washington). But here is a short synopsis of the government's latest attack on the press, courtesy of the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Venezuelan regulators have ordered cable and satellite operators to stop carrying one of the country's best known broadcasters, RCTV International, along with five other stations, alleging that the broadcasters violated a requirement to air President Hugo Chávez's speeches. The Committee to Protect Journalists urged Venezuelan authorities today to allow all of the stations to resume operations immediately.

On orders from the National Telecommunication Commission (CONATEL), cable and satellite providers stopped transmitting RCTV International and five other stations shortly after midnight on Sunday, local press reports said. The action against RCTV and the other stations—Ritmo Son, Momentum, America TV, American Network, and TV Chile—was taken after the stations chose not to air a speech by Chávez on Saturday. The next day, during his weekly radio and TV program "Aló Presidente," Chávez said, "We applied the law. If they don't follow it, they won't be allowed back on the air."

You might recall that RCTV, the country's oldest television network, was booted off the public airways in 2007 without a chance to defend itself against charges of "coup mongering." In response to this latest decision, Venezuelan students took to the streets in protest and were dispersed by truncheon-wielding police. A Chavez official said this evening that one pro-Chavez demonstrator was killed in "a cowardly fashion" during the unrest. El Universal reports that seven anti-Chavez students were injured today, though their "health condition is (sic) unknown." Reuters reports that students "chanted the slogan '1,2,3, Chavez you struck out,' in reference to the president's mounting problems in the baseball-mad nation with issues ranging from water and electricity shortages to an unpopular currency devaluation."

Venezuelan blogger Miguel Octavio has photos and video of the protests spilling over into baseball stadiums (and plenty of other dramatic photos of the demonstrations):

Oh, one more thing. In what we are assured is totally unrelated news, Venezuela's defense minister, vice president, and environment minister all resigned—and all claimed unspecified "personal reasons" motivated their decisions.