The Dictator has no clothes or Chavez rules by whims and desires

July 27, 2007


From
December to January we heard all sorts of reasons why the Government had the
right to end the concession of RCTV, which it did on the end. From the public use of the airwaves, to the
right of the Government to manage the “Hertzian spectrum” in Chavezspeak, we
heard a convoluted and complicated logical sequence in order to justify what
could not be justified. We had seen it before. In fact, this is the way Chavez
has legislated since he became President in 1998, looking for ways to make laws
and arguments that suit him, rather than thinking about the way things should
be and being consistent.

We saw it
with the original referendum for the Constituent Assembly, with the way the
Constitution was stepped on to elect the members to that Assembly. We saw it
when the infamous and illegal Congresillo ran Venezuela for months, selecting a
new Supreme Court, the Prosecutor and other important “independent” political
positions. We saw it with the way the CNE legislated to block the recall vote
against Chavez as much as possible and the way the in which the number of
Justices was increased to 30 members by simple majority of the National
Assembly so that Chavez could regain a majority in the same Court he had appointed
in 2000.

And we saw
with the first RCTV battle and we are seeing it again now with the new argument
that pretends to force cable and satellite channels to carry Chavez’ “cadenas”
live, including now the revival of RCTV in the cable and satellite systems as
RCTV International. As RCTV began broadcasting via satellite and cable, the
Government first suggested that all cable TV and satellite channels should
carry Chavez live and once it was realized that this involves many technical
and legal difficulties, CONATEL ruled by whim that RCTV had to register as a
national broadcast channel, carry the “cadenas” as well as carrying other
institutional messages by the Government, including the National Anthem a few
times a day.

Many of
the earlier arguments given by the Government contradicted the new ruling. We
were no longer talking about the “free” and “public” frequencies of the
Hertzian spectrum that the Government had a right to regulate. Nor were we
talking about a Venezuelan company either. We were talking about the
reincarnation of RCTV as an international company to broadcast to all of Latin America, capturing the upper end of the Venezuelan
market and trying to capture other Latin American markets to compensate the
loss in market share.

As such,
it has to be given the same treatment as the History Channel, or more clearly
as the treatment given to Telesur, the Government’s attempt to create a
competitor to CNN in Latin America. You see,
Telesur is funded by the Venezuelan Government; it is run mostly from Venezuela, mostly produced in Venezuela and
is mostly watched by Venezuelans as its popularity has not been extensive due
to the somewhat boring programming. It would hamper this negligible popularity
is on top of that it had to broadcast Chavez’s long speeches, every time the
autocrat wants to celebrate something as irrelevant to Venezuelans as the birth
of the Cuban revolution. This is not an invention as last night Chavez forced
all TV channels to broadcast a speech for hours in which the origins of the Cuban
revolution received a lot of attention.

Thus, it
would be discriminatory to apply these new rules to RCTV and not Telesur, but
CONATEL has ruled that if in five days RCTV has not registered as a Venezuelan
station, cable systems and satellite systems will no longer be able to carry
its programming.

And it is
illegal because it goes into the realm of a private system in which those that
watch have to pay to watch and up to now, the only existing regulation was that
those TV channels that broadcast under the free and public service had to carry
the same programming and could not remove cadenas and the like.

But
clearly, the Government never expected RCTV to adapt itself to the ban, nor its
replacement to have such a small audience, nor RCTV to generate the excitement
it has. In fact, the banning of RCTV has been a boon to satellite systems and
cable systems that have began making special offers to the lower income segments
of the population who miss watching RCTV programming.

Thus, once
again the Dictator shows how naked he is, something that Venezuelans who
understand what a functional democracy should be. But we have nothing even close
to it as everything is done to satisfy every whim and desire of Hugo Chavez. We
have no rule of law, no rights, no transparency, no checks and balances and no
dialogue. The autocrat says and it is done as he wishes, and only the fanatics
that support him cheer.

While most
Venezuelans had understood this for many years, it was the removal of RCTV’s
concession which finally convinced them that Hugo Chavez was indeed wearing no
clothes.

By now,
politicians and the media abroad understand this quite well. No group
understands it better than Reporters without Borders (RSF), which has seen the
way the Chavez Government has always treated both the media and reporters for
the last eight years. This has led to that organization issuing exquisitely worded
press releases which simply undress the Government’s arguments.

This time
it was no different and as usual RSF’s wording had
little waste: The administrative maneuever happens to be somewhat crass, so as
not to think it is a new attempt at censorship. The Venezuelan Government
always defended the shutting down of the channel because it was excluding it
from the Hertzian network. What else could it be after if it can’t also appear in the
programming of Cable TV?”

By now, he has bared it all for everyone to see…

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