Counter-revolutionary media in Venezuela

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Aug 14 08:29:27 MDT 2002

Le Monde Diplomatique, Aug. 2002

Venezuela's press power

Never even in Latin American history has the media been so directly 
involved in a political coup. Venezuela's 'hate media' controls 95% of the 
airwaves and has a near-monopoly over newsprint, and it played a major part 
in the failed attempt to overthrow the president, Hugo Chávez, in April. 
Although tensions in the country could easily spill into civil war, the 
media is still directly encouraging dissident elements to overthrow the 
democratically elected president - if necessary by force.


"We had a deadly weapon: the media. And now that I have the opportunity, 
let me congratulate you." In Caracas, on 11 April 2002, just a few hours 
before the temporary overthrow of Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, 
Vice-Admiral Victor Ramírez Pérez congratulated journalist Ibéyiste Pacheco 
live on Venevision television. Twenty minutes earlier, when Pacheco had 
begun to interview a group of rebel officers, she could not resist 
admitting, conspiratorially, that she had long had a special relationship 
with them.

At the same time, in a live interview from Madrid, another journalist, 
Patricia Poleo, also seemed well informed about the likely future 
development of "spontaneous events". She announced on the Spanish channel 
TVE: "I believe the next president is going to be Pedro Carmona." Chávez, 
holed up in the presidential palace, was still refusing to step down.

After Chávez came to power in 1998, the five main privately owned channels 
- Venevisión, Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV), Globovisión and CMT - and 
nine of the 10 major national newspapers, including El Universal, El 
Nacional, Tal Cual, El Impulso, El Nuevo País, and El Mundo, have taken 
over the role of the traditional political parties, which were damaged by 
the president's electoral victories. Their monopoly on information has put 
them in a strong position. They give the opposition support, only rarely 
reporting government statements and never mentioning its large majority, 
despite that majority's confirmation at the ballot box. They have always 
described the working class districts as a red zone inhabited by dangerous 
classes of ignorant people and delinquents. No doubt considering them 
unphotogenic, they ignore working class leaders and organisations.

Their investigations, interviews and commentaries all pursue the same 
objective: to undermine the legitimacy of the government and to destroy the 
president's popular support. "In aesthetic terms, this revolutionary 
government is a cesspit," was the delicate phrase used by the evening paper 
Tal Cual. Its editor, Teodoro Petkoff, is a keen opponent of Chávez. 
Petkoff is a former Marxist guerrilla who became a neo-liberal and a 
pro-privatisation minister in the government of rightwing president Rafael 
Caldera. The Chávez government is not, of course, above criticism. It makes 
mistakes, and the civilian and military personnel who surround it are 
tainted by corruption. But the government was democratically elected and 
still has the backing of the majority. It can also be credited with 
successes, nationally and internationally.


Louis Proyect

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