CARACAS -- The Venezuelan Congress approved a resolution
opposing a decision by the U.S. House of Representatives to finance radio
and TV broadcasts to Venezuela with the aim of countering Telesur, a new
pan-Latin American station.
Telesur, a Venezuelan government initiative undertaken in association with
Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay, has already drawn the wrath of the United
States even before it goes on the air this Sunday.
The U.S. lower house of Congress passed an amendment Wednesday "to initiate
radio and television broadcasts that will provide a consistently accurate,
objective, and comprehensive source of news to Venezuela" to counter
Telesur's "anti-Americanism," in the words of Republican Rep. Connie Mack of
Florida, who sponsored the amendment.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, left, talks to reporters next to a Simón Bolivar statue, after his arrival at Andean Community building in Lima, Peru on Tuesday, July 19, 2005. Telesur will begin to broadcast from Caracas on July 24, the anniversary of the birth of South American independence leader Simón Bolívar. (AP Photo, Karel Navarro)
Telesur will begin to broadcast from Caracas on July 24, the anniversary of
the birth of South American independence leader Simón Bolívar.
The station's goal is to foment regional integration with newscasts, films,
documentaries and music by Latin American and Caribbean producers, and to
provide a counterweight to programming from the United States, like what is
offered by CNN.
"It is a preposterous imperialist idea that should not surprise us because
we know what the U.S. government is capable of," said Venezuelan President
Hugo Chávez, referring to the amendment. "There is nothing more dangerous
than a desperate giant."
If the amendment makes it through the Senate and Washington tries to
interfere with Venezuela's airwaves, "we will take measures to neutralize
the attempt, and what we will have is a kind of electronic warfare," said
the left-leaning leader.
Aram Aharonian, the Uruguayan journalist who heads Telesur, told IPS that
the decision by the House of Representatives "is clearly a measure to
intimidate other Latin American countries and media, to prevent them from
joining the initiative, which has awakened growing interest in the region."
He noted that at the Andean Community summit in Peru on Monday, the leaders
of the bloc's other four member countries - Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and
Peru - expressed interest in exchanges and alliances with Telesur.
A proposal in the Venezuelan legislature condemning the U.S. move passed
with the votes of the ruling alliance, which holds a majority, and the
center-left Movement to Socialism, an opposition party.
Although he is critical of Chávez, the head of MAS, Leopoldo Puchi, lashed
out against "the mistaken approach" taken by the United States in tackling
Latin America's problems with laws that have an "extraterritorial reach."
The center-right and social democratic opposition parties Justice First and
Democratic Action both voted against the Venezuelan legislative initiative.
The secretary-general of Democratic Action, Henry Ramos, said the United
States had a right to respond to Chávez, "who has confused his politics and
particular interests with those of Venezuela."
The governments of Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay have not commented on the
bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Venezuela, which has contributed 10 million dollars and several
installations to Telesur, holds 51 percent of the shares, while Argentina
holds a 20 percent interest, Cuba 19 percent and Uruguay 10 percent. The
three minority shareholders will provide mainly programming and logistics.
Aharonian said that Washington's decision will have no effect on Telesur's
inaugural programming. The network will debut with the broadcast of a
concert in Caracas featuring popular Mexican bands Molotov and Elefante, the
Miami-based Latin rock band Bacilos, Puerto Rican singer Elvis Crespo, and
Venezuelan groups like Madero and Desorden Público.
Also scheduled for broadcast is the swearing in of the advisory board for
the new network. The members of the board include Ignacio Ramonet, the
Spanish-French editor of Le Monde Diplomatique, Tariq Ali, a veteran
political activist, filmmaker, and author from Pakistan, Chilean journalist
Manuel Cabieses, Venezuelan writer Luis Britto, U.S. actor Danny Glover,
Mexican journalist Carmen Lira and Venezuelan filmmaker Román Chalbaud.
Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel commented that Telesur "scored
a victory before it even went on the air." He added that the U.S. House of
Representatives was "inconsiderate" towards opposition politicians and media
in Venezuela, who already "faithfully and freely transmit Washington's point
Rangel maintained that Washington is basically trying to repeat the failed
initiatives of Radio and TV Martí, the U.S.-government funded stations
created to broadcast programming and news aimed against the Cuban
While Radio Martí can be picked up in Cuba, the Caribbean island's
authorities have succeeded in blocking the transmission of TV Martí, which
continues to be broadcast without being seen by its target audience.
For his part, Venezuelan Information Minister Andrés Izarra stressed that in
addition to the anti-Telesur initiative, the House of Representatives also
agreed to earmark nine million dollars in 2006 and another nine million in
2007 to support opposition political parties, media and civil society
organizations in Venezuela, "in what they refer to as the defense of the
state of law and the promotion of democratic governability."
"This is a new attack on Venezuela and Latin American integration by the
U.S. government, and it is being carried out in coordination with the groups
in Venezuela that are calling on people to abstain from voting on August 7" in
the local government elections, in which the polls predict a resounding
victory for the ruling coalition.
Consequently, "the best way to respond to this unjustified demonization of
Telesur is to come out and vote to defend our independence and sovereignty,"
In the meantime, the Chávez administration is making contact with its allies
in the region and preparing "to counteract the technological superiority of
the United States, because the (new network's) signal will reach there as
He was referring to the fact that audiences throughout the Americas, western
Europe and northwest Africa will all be able to watch Telesur.
© 2005 IPS