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Cablegate: Chilean Media Critical of Rctv Closure

VZCZCXYZ0014
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSG #0870/01 1492151
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 292151Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1555
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 1747
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 3653
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 0320
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1405
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 5097
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 1713
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SANTIAGO 000870

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR R, WHA/BSC, WHA/PDA, IIP/G/WHA, INR/R/MR, INR/IAA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KMDR KPAO OPRC KIPR PGOV CI
SUBJECT: CHILEAN MEDIA CRITICAL OF RCTV CLOSURE


1. SUMMARY: Chilean dailies gave prominent coverage to the closing
of RCTV in Venezuela, including critical editorials in influential
El Mercurio and conservative La Tercera. With the exception of one
Socialist Party Senator, leading political figures expressed
opposition to Chavez's efforts to eliminate freedom of expression in
Venezuela. Excerpts from May 26-28 follow. End Summary.

Editorials Blast Chavez
-----------------------

2. On May 27, conservative, influential, newspaper-of-record "El
Mercurio" (Sun. circ. 260,108): "Venezuela, a Concern in the
Continent," stated:

"The concern in the continent (over RCTV) has been widely
manifested.... Organizations such as Human Rights Watch, the
Inter-American Press Association, the International Radio and
Television Association, and the U.S. and Chilean Senates...among
many others have expressed their concern. The Catholic Church and
public opinion in Venezuela have also raised their voice against
Chavez' decision.... Even supporters of the Chavez regime prefer to
have the freedom to criticize and warn about the threat of an
excessive concentration of power.... The closure of RCTC marks
before and after the alarming deterioration of Venezuela's
democracy."

3. On May 27, conservative, independent "La Tercera" (Sun. circ.
222,084: "Attack on Freedom of Expression in Venezuela," published:

"Although Venezuela is sovereign to follow the policies it deems
best for its development, there is no question that the successful
operation of a democratic system requires an adequate counterbalance
to prevent an eventual abuse of power and promote the debate of
ideas. But for this to happen it is key to have respect for freedom
of expression and the press.... The closure of RCTV in Venezuela is
a concern because of the path that country has begun -- threatening
one of the fundamental pillars of any democratic system: freedom of
expression."

4. On May 27, "La Tercera" printed a Staff Opinion column
identified by the acronym JPI: "closing RCTV is a threat to a key
element of democracy: The open market of ideas of which John Milton
spoke about and is necessary to distinguish between right and
wrong."

Critical Headlines
------------------

5. Conservative, influential newspaper-of-record "El Mercurio"
(circ. 129,000):

"Chavez Government Criticized in all Latin America for Closing
RCTV" (5/29); "Closing of Television Station Strengthens Hugo
Chavez' Media Power in Venezuela" (5/27); "U.S. Senate Asks OAS to
Act over Closure of Venezuelan TV" (5/26); "Television Director
Accuses Venezuela of Totalitarianism" (5/28); "Hugo Chavez Closes
RCTV at Midnight after Incidents and Massive Demonstrations" (5/28);
"RCTV director Marcel Granier: 'We are in the Hands of a
Militaristic, Abusive, and Domineering Government" (5/27).

6. Conservative, independent "La Tercera" (circ. 101,000):

"Chavez Closes RCTV in spite of Demonstrations for Freedom of
Expression" (5/27); "Cristina Marcano, author of Chavez' biography:
'Closing RCTV is a Key Decision for Chavez Political Project'"
(5/27); "Chavez now Controls 10 of the 12 Television Stations"
(5/29).

Political Figures Speak Out
---------------------------

7. Senate President Eduardo Frei (DC):

"Although the Venezuelan government has the right (to close RCTV),
no one can ignore the fact that this decision is an obstacle to
freedom of expression and information." (Government-owned,
editorially independent, 5/28, "La Nacion")

8. Former Foreign Affairs Minister Ignacio Walker:

"The Christian Democratic Party is not part of any axis opposing
the Venezuelan process, but this process is moving toward a
self-centered (oriented) regime that does not coincide with the
normal functioning of a representative democracy." (Conservative,
independent, Sat. circ. 195,626, 5/26, "La Tercera")

9. The GOC is aware that any opinion regarding RCTV could have
negative repercussions in its relation with Venezuela and has chosen
not to comment on the matter. Minister to the Presidency Jose
Antonio Viera Gallo reiterated that Chile's foreign policy is based
on the principle of non-intervention in other countries. ("El
Mercurio" 5/28)

10. Government coalition congressmen and party leaders want the GOC
to formally protest President Chavez's closing RCTV on the grounds
that it violates freedom of expression. Christian Democratic Party
(PDC) National Secretary Moiss Valenzuela underscored, "In the
past, we expected international action to uphold freedom and human
rights in Chile; today we also hope for a strong commitment for
freedom in Venezuela." Opposition RN Senator Sergio Romero called
on OAS Secretary General Jos Miguel Insulza to take action and
activate the "democratic clause" in international treaties. ("El
Mercurio," 5/29)

11. As the sole voice defending Chavez's closure of RCTV, Socialist
Party Senator Alejandro Navarro stated in a letter-to-the-Editor
that the decision was a sovereign and legal action. He emphasized
that RCTV had violated the laws of corporate responsibility and
Venezuela's constitution by supporting the attempted coup in April
2002. ("El Mercurio," 5/28)

KELLY

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