Venezuela government takes stake in anti-Chávez TV
December 8th, 2010 - 10:43 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.

Venezuela’s government has taken control of a fifth of the shares in Globovisión, a sign of mounting pressure on the opposition television network opposed to President Hugo Chávez. He has in the past threatened to close Globovisión, which has a strong editorial line against his socialist policies and is seen by its supporters as a bastion of opposition to the many pro-government television stations.

Banking authorities began liquidating a company holding 20 percent of the privately held news network’s shares on Monday, the government’s Official Gazette said. A government source with knowledge of the situation said the shares would pass into state control. The shares previously belonged to Nelson Mezerhane, one of Globovisión’s principle investors, who fled Venezuela earlier in the year to escape charges related to the failure of his Banco Federal bank. He said the aim of the latest move against Globovisión was to “silence the only television network that informs about your attacks on democracy.”

It was not clear if the state planned to hold on to its stake in Globovisión or sell it. The 20 percent share is not enough to affect editorial content at the station by naming new board members, but would give public officials a presence at shareholders meetings. The broadcaster challenged the decision saying “no changes have been made to the shares of Globovisión,” in a statement handed by its lawyers to the relevant authorities.

Globovisión has already been weakened by government scrutiny. Two of its main investors, Guillermo Zuloaga and Mezerhane, have fled to the United States to avoid criminal charges against them. Chávez last month accused Zuloaga of plotting to have him killed, charges the businessman vehemently denied. Mezerhane said the government’s decision to close his bank was motivated by politics and spite.

Chávez’s critics often accuse him of being a dictator in the making, saying he has undermined democracy by lifting term limits and pressuring opponents. His supporters point out he has won numerous elections and say private media outlets try to undermine his goal of overturning years of injustice in the oil exporting nation.