The relationship between Lieutenant Colonel Chavez and public opinion is a very particular one. And that makes the Venezuelan case rather unique. Hugo Chavez got elected in an open, clean election. That was perhaps the last clean proper election we had in the country in 1998.
And his desire would be to impose a government similar to the Castros´ regime in in Cuba. And I think he envies the Castros for being able to do it in under a year. I mean that they were able to establish a dictatorship and people who didn´t like that were either shot down or they had to get along or had to leave the country and go to places like the U.S. or Venezuela or Spain.
Chavez had not been able to do that because public opinion in in Venezuela is strong. People after 150 years of caudillismo (a Spanish term meaning rule by a strongman) the Venezuelans got in love with democracy. With the first truly democratic experience we had from 1958 onwards.
And that getting in love with democracy meant I mean practicing freedom of speech, practicing openness, practicing pluralism, Venezuela had to pay very dearly the excesses of of the dictators in terms of their being very excluyentes, excluding others. Being very sectarians in their group. Ruling always with a very small clique. Venezuela had to pay very dearly for that.
One of the nice things democracy brought about was the fact that with a more plural society where people could express themselves, could discuss matters, would try to to get a consensus on difficult decisions, people having had that experience valued it very much.
So whenever Chavez goes against those principles of openness and pluralism and respect for the other person, he gets into trouble. So what he´s been doing is he tries to get as far as he can and he stops and gets back if he sees it´s not working well.
For example, he tried to reform education. People didn´t like that at all. They people realized that what he wanted was to impose a system similar to the Cubans. To separate children from their parents and to indoctrinate children. So people took to the streets and protested and he had to back down.
In the case of RCTV he tried he reali that the measure was going to be very unpopular. Actually over 80 percent of the population rejected it. Why didn´t he go back? Because for him no matter how angry people were, how dissatisfied they were, it was more important to shut down the largest information network in the in the country, because that meant that the others the others would follow suit and would impose self censorship upon them.
And that meant that society had lost the possibility of expressing itself to the country as a whole. Nowadays when you protest, you´re limited to the street you´re protesting in or your are limited to the readership that newspaper has or you are limited the audience that local radio station has. With RCTV it was different. It was a television station that covered the whole country and had a very substantial audience. Shutting it down not only meant that the 41% of the population that was following RCTV didn´t have that opportunity to inform themselves openly.
It also meant that the other network, which has a fairly similar viewership at the time I mean they they they were in in the high 30´s also was shut down because they were so scared. It´s very significant that the government said they were cancelling our license on May 27, but on May 28 the first thing the government did was to renew the other channels´ the the competition´s license.
And they renewed it not for 20 years, as the law says, but for five years. So just before the next election in 2012 comes. So they will be at a very difficult situation.Their license will be expiring in May 2012 and there is an election in December 2012. So he was able to enforce that silence all over the country.
What it was a high price to pay. He lost the election in 2007 when he wanted to change the constitution. But he found other ways to to to keep violating the constitution and imposing his personal wishes upon people, because there is no media with national coverage that can denounce that. So people will never be aware at the same time of what´s going on. So now we the democratic forces have had to find ways to express themselves in in an atomic fashion. An atom here. An atom there. And try to see if all those atoms converge into something really big.
Marcel Granier is the chief executive officer of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV). Trained as a lawyer, he began working at RCTV in the 1970s and worked his way up through the ranks to Director General of the station. The station’s editorial policies supported democratic governance and criticized efforts by President Hugo Chavez to consolidate power and eliminate governmental checks and balances.
In 2007, the Chavez government imposed a requirement that RCTV reapply for its broadcast license then denied the application. RCTV operated successfully as a cable station until the government frightened away its advertisers. Granier continues to live in Venezuela and to speak out for democracy and human rights.
Venezuela is a South American country of 28.5 million people with a history of multiparty constitutional democracy. President Nicolas Maduro took office after Hugo Chavez succumbed to cancer in 2013.
During the 1998-2013 presidency of Colonel Hugo Chavez, a series of constitutional and legal changes were implemented that make it far more difficult for citizens to change their government. The Chavez government systematically used public resources to secure its power, closed down independent news media, and used legal and extralegal means to harass and intimidate its critics.
Soon after his first election, Chavez called for a new constitution that would give expanded powers to the president and replace Venezuela’s bicameral Congress with a unicameral national assembly. The new constitution was approved by referendum in 1999. Chavez acquired substantial control of the military, the judiciary, the electoral commission, and the news media. The government closed Radio Caracas Television Internacional (RCTV Internacional), the country’s largest television network, and forced into exile the president of Globovision, the other major opposition-aligned network.
The Chavez government’s increasingly repressive methods generated strong public opposition, including a series of public protests by students, workers, and others who were not previously aligned with the political opposition. In the 2010 National Assembly elections, opposition parties received the majority of the votes, but under the new electoral rules the government took a substantial majority of the seats in the Assembly.
Venezuela’s vast oil resources allowed Chavez to implement policies that steered the country towards a socialist economy. The country’s oil wealth funded a major expansion of government social programs, much to the approval of government supporters in the lower class. Oil became the foundation of Venezuela’s relationship with Cuba, which has strengthened substantially over the last few decades due to shared ideology and financial and security interdependence. Venezuela has replaced the Soviet Union as Cuba’s major benefactor, financially supporting the Castro regime. Cuba in turn has supported the transformation and strengthening of the Venezuelan military. In 2004, the two nations founded the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), a group of socialist and social democratic nations working toward economic integration. ALBA and its member nations often champion anti-American policies and sentiments. This alliance has led to close ties between Venezuela and nations such as Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Bolivia.
Immediately after Chavez’s passing, Vice President Maduro assumed the role of interim President. He then went on to narrowly defeat an opposition candidate by a 1.5 percent margin in the April 2013 presidential elections. Maduro has pledged to complete Chavez’s socialist transformation of Venezuela.
Recently, Venezuela has struggled with a rising crime and homicide rate, blamed by some on a recent economic downturn, the availability of arms, and the weak judicial system. However, Chavez and Maduro both have linked this increase in crime to the media’s portrayal of both fictional and real violence and have continued to influence what programming and content is available. Both leaders have expanded the security forces within the country, calling on police, militias, and the military to fight crime.
In Freedom House’s Freedom in the World report, Venezuela earned “partly free” status, with an overall rating of 5. A rating of 1 represents the most free and 7 represents the least free.See all Venezuela videos