Tag: globovision

Chávez Signals Takeover of Globovisión

Since Hugo Chávez promised last year to shut down Globovisión—Venezuela’s last independent TV station—it’s only been a question of when and how he will try to fulfill his pledge. A dictator can’t tolerate a free press, and Globovisión’s critical and independent coverage has long been a thorn in Chávez’s side.

However, shutting down Globovisión would’ve been an abrupt move that would have drawn international condemnation around the world, and it would’ve made life harder for those international leaders who still claim that Venezuela is a democracy, such as Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Spain’s Prime Minister José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza. Yet Chávez could ill afford having an independent TV station in light of collapsing poll numbers, rising social discontent, and a critical election in September for a new National Assembly that might lead to his party losing control of that body.

This is why Chávez has launched a takeover strategy of Globovisión, which became clear yesterday with his announcement that the Venezuelan government will take almost half of Globovisión’s shares, and name a representative in the network’s Board of Directors. His shady plan consists of seizing the shares of a bank whose owner is also a partial owner of Globovisión, and also seizing the stake of a Globovisión shareholder who recently died. This would give the government 45.8 percent of the network’s ownership. (The story is explained in full detail here). This move has been called “legally absurd” by Guillermo Zuloaga, president of Globovisión, who escaped Venezuela last month after a government-controlled court issued an arrest warrant against him and his son for “hoarding cars.”

Chávez also announced that he may appoint, Mario Silva, the Goebbels of Venezuela, to the Board of Directors of Globovisión. That would also be patently illegal.

If Chávez goes ahead with his plan to take a minority ownership share of Globovisión, despite the blatant illegal nature of his move, the case will probably end up in the courts, which are controlled by the regime. It is also easy to foresee that sooner or later Chávez will try to seize Zuloaga’s stake in Globovisión, claiming that he’s a “fugitive of justice.” Then Globovisión will be completely in the government’s hands, and Venezuela’s last independent TV station will cease to exist.

Venezuela’s Intensifying Assault on Press Freedom

Jackson Diehl and Mary O’Grady write today in the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, respectively, about Guillermo Zuloaga, critic of Hugo Chavez and owner of Globovision TV, the only remaining independent TV station in Venezuela.

Zuloaga has become an international symbol of press freedom as he and his station have come under increasing government harassment, especially in the past year. Last month, a Chavez controlled court issued an arrest warrant for Zuloaga and his son, and they went into hiding. In March, Zuloaga was arrested briefly for having spoken critically of the Venezuelan regime at an international conference. The government accused the Globovision head of criticizing the president and poisoning the minds of Venezuelans. Chavez has promised to shut down Globovision, as he did with Venezuela’s largest station in 2007 (RCTV), and he regularly vilifies the free press. The TV station and its reporters have come under countless physical attacks by government backed thugs. Last July, days after we announced that Zuloaga would speak at a Cato forum here in Washington, a court prevented him from leaving the country. Instead, he taped a video message for Cato and sent his son Carlos, the VP, to speak. (See the forum here. See Guillermo Zulloaga’s message to Cato by clicking on the second video link.)

Zuloaga and his son have now come out of hiding. A few of us met with him at Cato last week. He told us of numerous ways in which Chavez has violated Venezuelan laws and the constitution in his effort to harass Globovision, confirming a recent report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that documented the regime’s systemic violation of basic freedoms and its arbitrary use of criminal and administrative law against opponents.

Globovision is one of the last bastions of freedom in Venezuela. It is where Venezuelans go to hear news that will not be reported on one of the countless state-run TV stations. It is the media outlet to which Venezuelan civil society reports abuses by government when they happen, so as to most effectively defend itself. I can attest to that critical role that Globovision plays in Venezuela. As I reported from Caracas here in May of last year, the national guard tried to shut down a Cato seminar for Venezuelan students, an abuse that we immediately reported to Globovision, which in turn began reporting the harassment and thus pressuring the regime to back off.

As the economic, security and social conditions of Venezuela continue to spiral downward, Chavez will intensify his socialist revolution. If he finally does close Globovision, it should erase any lingering doubt about the authoritarian nature of the Bolivarian regime.

Chavez Arrests the President of Globovision Television

Today, the Venezuelan government arrested Guillermo Zuloaga, president of Globovision Television, the only remaining television on public airwaves critical of Hugo Chavez. According to the government, Zuloaga made offensive comments about Chavez (which is against the law in Venezuela) while speaking at a conference of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) in Aruba, where media representatives criticized the Venezuelan regime’s crackdown on freedom of speech.

Globovision and Zuloaga have been under constant harassment from the government, and Chavez has promised to close the station. Last July, Cato held a forum in Washington on “Venezuela’s Assault on Freedom of the Press and Other Liberties,” which was to feature Zuloaga. After the event was announced, however, a politically directed court prohibited him from leaving the country. So Zuloaga taped this 3 minute video address to the Cato audience and sent his son and vice president of Globovision, Carlos, to take his place.

Robert Rivard of the IAPA also spoke at the forum. You may also see various short videos prepared by Globovision for the forum starting here.

“It is becoming a crime to have an opinion.” That’s how Carlos Zuloaga summed it up this afternoon when he referred to this incident and the recent arrest of former Venezuelan state governor Oswaldo Alvarez Paz for having said during a Globovision interview that Venezuela has become a drug-trafficking haven.

How will hemispheric leaders and the Organization of American States react to this renewed attack on free speech in Venezuela?

Venezuela’s Assault on Freedom of the Press and Other Liberties

A Venezuelan court has prohibited Guillermo Zuloaga, president of Globovision Television, from traveling to Washington, D.C. where he was scheduled to deliver an address tomorrow at the Cato Institute. Zuloaga and his network have been openly critical of the Hugo Chavez government, and as a result have endured harassment from authorities as Chavez attempts to place television and radio networks under government control or shutter them completely.

As a result, the Cato forum will now feature the vice-president of Globovision TV, Carlos Alberto Zuloaga, and Rafael Alfonzo, president of CEDICE, Venezuela’s leading market-liberal think tank, with comment by Robert Rivard, of the Inter American Press Association. Mr. Alfonzo will discuss how CEDICE and other members of civil society are coming under increasingly serious government harassment for expressing views critical of the government.