With Venezuela's RCTV now off the open airwaves, President Hugo Chavez has set his sights on Globovision, the country's last remaining private broadcaster. In a speech that the president required all major Venezuelan networks to broadcast on Tuesday, Chavez declared the station to be an "enemy of state" that incites violence.
"Enemies of the homeland, particularly those behind the scenes, I will give you a name: Globovision," Chavez said in the speech. "Greetings gentlemen of Globovision, you should watch where you are going."
Chavez accused Globovision of attempting to incite his assassination and of misreporting the facts about protests over the closure of RCTV. He said the station was trying to foment a coup against the president similar to the one which Chavez survived in 2002. In doubt, he said, he would do what was necessary to stop the broadcaster, alluding to a possibility that he might force the station off the air. "I recommend that you take a tranquilizer and get into gear, because if not, I am going to do what is necessary," Chavez said.
Following Chavez's decision not to renew RCTV's broadcasting license on Sunday, Globovision, whose own license is not set to expire until 2014, has become the most important remaining medium for the country's political opposition. Chavez's left-wing government has already called on prosecutors to investigate Globovision for what he claims is an effort to incite his assassination. As proof he cites a feature broadcast by the station that included images of the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981 accompanied by the song, "Have faith, this doesn't end here."
Chavez refused to renew RCTV's license when it expired on Sunday because, last year, the station supported a protest movement against the president -- one whose ultimate goal, the government claimed, was to prepare a putsch. The expiration of RCTV's license prompted tens of thousands of Chavez critics to storm the streets in protest on Monday, where police pushed them back with water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets. Thousands of protesters returned to the streets on Tuesday night.
"Yesterday (Monday) we saw the takeover of the principle media critical of President Chavez," Benoit Hervieu, Americas director at Reporters without Borders said, warning of a threat to press freedom. "Besides Globovision, what television media is left that can criticize Mr. Chavez?"