With the closure Sunday night of Venezuela’s biggest independent television station, RCTV, and the takeover of its transmitters by a new government station, Venezuela has been rocked by nation-wide protests. The protesters are generally students; and there are now calls for a nationwide strike in the universities. Today, a protest is organizing at Plaza Brión (the scene of the water-cannon and tear-gas video footage of recent days) to march to the Organization of American States. Every time the government clears the Plaza, protesters return.
Now the information minister has filed charges against CNN and Globovisión (the only truly independent television station left in Venezuela) for “inciting assassination” against president Hugo Chávez by portraying him in a negative light.
A diplomatic source in Venezuela tells me that while Hugo Chavez remains popular in the country at large, opinion polls show huge majorities are against this attack on freedom of the press. Undaunted, Chávez has been at his most sadistic and humiliating during this crisis. In the days before the closure of RCTV, he forced television stations in Venezuela (including the opposition Globovision) to run this ad taunting supporters of RCTV, which plays the song Todo tiene su final (“Everything Has an End,” a classic Puerto Rican salsa song) followed by a short segment on “How to lose your broadcasting license.” Globovisión tried to protest that they would be committing a copyright violation if they played the song without permission. The information ministry reportedly told them to play it if they wanted keep broadcasting at all.
Meanwhile, multiple sources around Caracas report that at a recent cabinet meeting, Chávez excoriated his ministers for disobeying his “orders” to stop inflation. Inflation has been spiraling as a result of Chávez’s reckless economic “policies” (if that is not too charitable a term). As a result, Chávez was moved to impose price controls in many categories of basic foodstuffs, which has predictably led to food shortages (despite huge oil windfalls) which has led to decrees obligating farmers and supermarkets to keep producing and selling, even if they incur losses.
In his economic incompetence, as in his taste for dictatorship, as in his sadism, Hugo truly walks in the footsteps of his mentor Fidel – as much as he can. Let us hope that he does not as thoroughly ruin his beautiful country.