Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Chavez shuts down RCTV

Reuters reports: [edited]

Venezuela shut down an opposition television channel on Monday and replaced it with one promoting President Hugo Chavez's self-proclaimed socialist revolution. Chavez has long sparred with opposition channels, which he calls "horsemen of the apocalypse" for backing a botched coup against him in 2002.

The closure of the channel exposed the country's sharp political divide - thousands of Chavez supporters held street parties while opposition demonstrators faced cordons of police, chanting anti-government slogans.

In a tearful farewell program, RCTV staff packed a studio and prayed together. "Do not lose hope. We will see you soon," RCTV presenter Nelson Bustamante told viewers.

Pollster Datanalisis found almost 70 percent of Venezuelans opposed the shut-down, but most cited the loss of their favorite soap operas rather than concerns about limits on freedom of expression.

Among the Chavez supporters swigging beer and dancing in the streets of central Caracas, some thought the president should go further and shut down the few remaining opposition networks, such as Globovision.

"They all participated in the coup and incited violence," said shopkeeper Jose Quijada, wearing the hallmark red T-shirt of Chavez supporters.

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