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Venezuela's Telesur is the voice of ALBA, the voice of the Bolivarian Revolution


Venezuela's forthcoming 24-hour hemispheric satellite TV news network Telesur (Televisora del Sur, or TV of the South) will be the voice of ALBA, the voice of the Bolivarian Revolution which has been called the "Cubanization of Venezuela" and, I submit, more threatening than al Jazeera to which it is being compared. Al Jazeera does not have at its core a regional Cuban-style socialist policy projected atop a remilitarized Venezuelan National Armed Forces (FAN) and Cuban-trained intelligence corps.

Most English readers will be not be familiar with ALBA, properly Alternativa Bolivariana para America Latina y el Caribe, but often abbreviated as Alternativa Bolivariana para Las Americas. ALBA is an "institutional framework for creating a regional socialist political union aligned against" the US, well beyond that of a "vanity plate for Chavez to help bolster his image as a regional leader." While I agree that there may not be significant traction among left-leaning Latin American governments, especially Brazil, I see a parallel to Muammar Qaddafi's subversions in the Maghreb, the Sahale and Central Africa that requires no other state partnership. Only a few more will be familiar with the Bolivarian Revolution (also here), a socialist revolution said to be an "ideology and the political point of view... inspired by Simon Bolivar, the national hero of Venezuela," who sought independence from Spain. Castro has already designated Chavez as heir to the leadership of Latin America's revolutionary and progressive forces, and that Cuban-Venezuelan linkage has become the centerpiece of Chavez's foreign policy.

Despite regional giants such as Brazil's O Globo and TV Globo, much Latin American programming has been telenovelas, melodramatic serialized fiction, combined with a relative lack of "Latin American perspective of news" as CNN, even the BBC, were seen to favor international news at the expense of regional events. Telesur's programming is to be divided between news and documentaries of "Latin America interest."

I've no objection to legitimate regional news, but I do have a concern with a state news organization that substitutes intentional distortion for mere absence of interest. My concern is greater when Telesur emerges as the legitimate Venezuelan press is being muzzled by ingeniously vague "press laws, under which whoever "offends," or "shows disrespect for," or "defames" [Chavez] or his top officials, will face fines and punishment of six to 30 months in prison":

"There is no jurisprudence to go by, and people don't know what is allowed and what's a crime"… The new laws have already led to widespread self- censorship across the country's half-dozen private channels… Late-night TV jokes about Chávez are out, risqué political talk shows are being canceled, and news reports are being finely combed before airing. "Telesur is introducing a super-well-funded official voice, just as free-press voices are being fined and intimidated."

All Venezuelan channels already suffer another form of control, what I call a denial of service censorship, in their legal obligation to interrupt scheduled programming to cover speeches by Chavez called "cadenas" which literally go on for hours. During 2002 street protests, pro and con, over Chavez's administration policies, opposition stations ran Chavez's speeches split screen with coverage of the demonstrations. Chavez's response was to take the stations off-air.

My vote goes with Jorge Ramos' Telesur o TeleChávez (worth the effort to run it through translation). My concern is bolstered when I see the likes of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and Human Rights Watch express concern over Chavez's rising media regulation. (Always a good sign of validation when the left attacks RSF.) It is also informative to see the left of center Council on Hemispheric Affairs generalize the desire of many Telesur owners to insure an unfettered avenue for their government's views:

"Chávez found himself yielding an important battlefield to anti-Chavista perspective, both from within and from outside the county. Uruguay and Argentina found a similar lack of ability to communicate - and this is their combined response."

The news hole is skewed for the most part with regards to these topics as English texts are predominantly left learning or highly sympathetic to Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, and Cuba while ALBA-related Spanish items are largely pro-Venezuelan and Cuban. One must do their research, returning to the early days of Chavez's administration, to understand his experience with the media, more local than international, and what is called the "Cubanization of Venezuela."

Part 2

Venezuela backing international news channel
Some charge network is Chavez propaganda tool
By Danna Harman
05/18/2005 - Updated 12:53 AM ET

Latin leader rebels against US-centric news
Original title was Latin strongman rebels against US-centric news
[ CSM Editor's note: The original headline mischaracterized Chavez.]
By Danna Harman
Christian Science Monitor
May 13, 2005 edition

Brazil: Lula's New, Secret Best Friend
May 2, 2005

All Latin America, All the Time
New 24-Hour TV Networks Aim to Unite Region With Tailored Coverage
By Monte Reel
Washington Post
March 10, 2005

Will Venezuela Send Russian Weapons To South American Terrorists?
By Stephen Blank
Jamestown Foundation
February 17, 2005

Telesur o TeleChávez
Por Jorge Ramos Avalos
14 de Febrero del 2005

Gordon Housworth

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