Chavez refused to renew the licence of RCTV, Venezuela’s oldest and most popular commercial television station, over a week ago, prompting protests in the country and criticism from abroad.
“I believe that the closing down of the television station is very justified”
Medishagh, Nouakshott, Mauritania
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During an attempted coup in 2002, the channel openly called for his removal from power.
Chavez said: “If the Venezuelan oligarchy … does not accept this call to live together in peace that we are making, if it keeps on attacking using the things it still controls, it will keep losing those things one by one.”
He said the earlier demonstration, mostly undertaken by students, was a “destabilising manoeuvre” and part of a “gentle coup” against the government.
Jose Vicente Rangel, a former vice president, defended the earlier protest, saying: “The students do not want to topple the government. We have to look for a dialogue with them.”
RCTV’s frequency has been handed over to a government-run public broadcaster.
Chavez supporters on Saturday chanted “Ho! Ho! Chavez will not go”, suggesting the demonstration was as much about the president as about the RCTV.
Jesse Chacon, Venezuela’s telecommunications minister, supported the move saying: “Today, Venezuela is democratising the broadcast spectrum and takes one step ahead.”
“Today, Venezuela is democratising the broadcast spectrum and takes one step ahead”
Jesse Chacon, Venezuela’s Telecommunications Minister
But following Chavez’s refusal to re-license the popular channel, Brazil’s senate formally requested on Wednesday that Chavez reconsider his decision to force RCTV off the air.
In response, Chavez accused Brazil of being a “subordinate” of Washington and said Brazil “should worry about Brazil’s problems”.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, defended the senate’s decision, earning him some praise in the Brazilian press.
Lula “did what he had to do to defend Brazil’s independent and democratic principles”, the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper said in an editorial on Saturday.
Lula also asked his foreign ministry to call in Venezuela’s ambassador to Brazil so he could explain Chavez’s response.
The issue of freedoms is expected to come up at the general assembly of the Organisation of American States which starts on Sunday in Panama.