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.