Caracas Gringo is privileged to personally know for over 30 years some of the men and women who manage the 1BC Group, which owns RCTV. They represent the best of Venezuela – integrity, honor, honesty, imagination, creativity, entrepreneurship, respect for the rule of law and democracy, commitment to fostering sustained growth and a strong democracy in which everyone can get ahead.
RCTV has never curried the favor of any government. RCTV has never sought any special benefits, privileges or concessions from the Venezuelan state. Unlike its biggest longtime competitor Venevision, which is owned by billionaire Cuban-Venezuelan brothers Gustavo and Ricardo Cisneros, RCTV has always stayed far from Miraflores, and has never cultivated “special relationships” with any Venezuelan president.
Cisneros helped to get Chavez elected in 1998, conspired against Chavez in 2001-2002, and finally made a face-to-face deal with Chavez that was brokered by former US President Jimmy Carter. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting, where – it’s rumored – Chavez reportedly gave Cisneros two options: decapitation or submission to the Chavez regime. And Cisneros immediately kowtowed.
But the RCTV people have never kowtowed to any government. RCTV has rightfully enjoyed the largest audience ratings for over 50 years because Venezuelans of all socioeconomic levels have always recognized the excellence of RCTV’s national programming, and the objectivity and accuracy of its journalists and political commentators.
RCTV’s strong principles as a privately owned broadcast group, and its fierce independence, have always pained Venezuelan presidents including Carlos Andres Perez, Rafael Caldera, Luis Herrera Campins, Jaime Lusinchi, and above all, President Hugo Chavez, a paranoid and despotic personality who recoils when confronted by persons of true integrity, courage and patriotism.
Chavez knows that as long as RCTV lives, he will never be able to completely control Venezuela’s public airwaves, silence dissent, and cover up the systemic corruption, mendacity, ignorance and despotism of his regime. So, Chavez has decreed that RCTV must submit or be murdered by the regime.
Venezuela’s cable television providers took RCTV’s signal, and the signal of four other cable TV channels including TV Chile, out of their programming as of midnight on 23 January 2010. Conatel ordered the cable providers to block RCTV and the four other channels on the spurious grounds that they violated norms requiring all “Venezuelan” TV and radio stations to broadcast the interminable daily diatribes of President Chavez.
RCTV maintains that it has not violated any laws or rules, but that the Chavez regime certainly is violating the constitution and laws of Venezuela in an effort to silence freedom of expression.
Conatel actually did not have any legal authority to force the cable providers to suspend RCTV and other broadcasters. But the Chavez-controlled National Assembly obligingly “updated” the unconstitutional/illegal Resorte Law to entrap RCTV. And then Diosdado Cabello, the head of Conatel and also public works and housing minister, threatened to close all the cable provider companies if they did not black out RCTV’s signal.
Cabello says that he did not threaten anyone, but besides being a top thug in the Chavez regime’s gangster hierarchy, Cabello is also a liar.
However, there is more behind Chavez’s efforts to kill RCTV than imposing total censorship.
As the protests in Caracas and other cities since 23 January have shown, many Venezuelans love freedom and despise tyrants. The immense public support for RCTV is not just about supporting the premier independent broadcasting group, but about fighting for what’s right in Venezuela: democracy, freedom of expression, private property rights, and the rule of law.
RCTV executive Marcel Granier hit the nail squarely when he said that it’s time for the Venezuelan people to say “enough” to the Chavez regime, which apparently thinks it owns everything in Venezuela including its citizens, as if people were cattle.
But make no mistake. Chavez wants his suspension of RCTV’s cable signal to trigger larger national protests. He wants to stoke a political conflict and create increasingly tense conditions that could benefit his Bolivarian regime by creating an excuse to postpone National Assembly elections now scheduled for September 2010 because he knows the revolutionary PSUV’s losses will be very substantial, leaving no option except to rig the outcome inside the Chavez-controlled CNE electoral authority.
Alternatively, Chavez hopes to use his confrontation with RCTV to open cracks in the political opposition, which has a tragicomic history of disorganization, infighting, disunity, and placing individual ambitions above the common good. Chavez figures that the “oppo” is a herd of sad sacks that can be easily manipulated, undermined, intimidated and bribed.