Latin American Governments Fight Back Against Disinformation - Welcome to Telesur

August 24, 2005 10:25 | by Chuck Wynns

On July 24, 2005, Venezuela's Chavez-led government along with partners Argentina, Cuba, and Uruguay kicked off the first day of programming of TeleSur, the new media network. Only days before in response to Telesur, the US House of Representatives authorized legislation which would open an electronic media war against Venezuela and Telesur. This legislation would authorize high power propaganda broadcasts over Venezuelan airwaves, similar to the US's 40-year Radio Marti war against Cuba.

TeleSur is an attempt at establishing an indigenous media network across South America as a counterweight to dominance by North American networks - notably CNN and Fox News -- in the South American media market.

According to Andres Izzara, TeleSur president and until recently Venezuelan Information and Communications Minister, "TeleSur is an initiative against cultural imperialism and against imperialism in any of its expressions." (Gregory 7/25/05).

As an initiative of the Latin American Left, TeleSur aims to democratize the airwaves by introducing radio and TV media covering events and viewpoints that are ignored, buried, and contextually slurred by the US-based corporate media.

TeleSur is also a frank admission on the part of Latin American Leftist governments of the power of the media in terms of defining political and social reality and setting the boundaries of discourse.

"Big economic powers are using the media and are saying who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist. …if 93% of the audience is controlled by a monopolistic structure, than we will advance very little in the direction of democratization,." said TeleSur's Director, Aram Aharonian (Gregory Wilpert, 7/25)

Such signs of South American independence are not being welcomed in Washington D.C. On July 20, the US House of Representatives adopted an amendment to its Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2005 which would finance the broadcasting of pro-US propaganda across Venezuela through the quasi-governmental Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG),.

Said Connie Mack (R-Fl), the sponsor of the amendment, TeleSur "is patterned after Al-Jezeera" and will "spread anti-American and anti-freedom rhetoric."

Mack's amendment is part of an overall plan to "….isolate Chavez and limit his ability to de-stabilize Latin America.;" to create pro-American institutions under the rubric of freedom of speech, religion and fair elections; and to "…promote" "….economic development in Venezuela through free markets, privatization, and other means that will create lasting prosperity and opportunity for all Venezuelans." (William Fisher, BUZZFLASH, 8/2/05)

Mack's July 20 amendment also includes funding the pro-American and pro- business Venezuelan opposition to the tune of $9 million in 2006 and another $9 million in 2007.

While Connie Mack, the US House of Representatives and the Bush Administration have accused the Chavez government of unfair elections, curtailing freedom of the press and freedom of religion, the facts do not support these allegations.

Radio Havana (8/2/2005) has pointed out that there are 48 television stations operating in Venezuela. Out of this 48, 46 are privately owned, with many being rabidly anti-Chavez. Likewise, no evidence has yet been provided of unfair elections or anti-religious actions.

Being somewhat more specific, Raul Grijalva, US Congressman from Arizona, wrote the following to his House collegues about the Mack Amendment.

"It is absurd to see some of the richest men in Venezuela use the many newspapers and TV stations they fill with anti-Chavez messages to complain about a lack of press freedom…. The owners of the private media (in Venezuela) are immensely wealthy and they are probably some of the last people on earth who would ever need the help of the US taxpayer to broadcast their opinion."

Likewise, Venezuela's ambassador to the United States, Bernardo Alvarez, has pointed out that CNN International, CNN Espanol, Fox News, Voice of America and the conservative Miami-based show of Andres Oppenheimer are all readily available in Venezuela. On the air too are the right wing and extremely anti-Chavez networks, Globovision and Venevision.

The Venezuelan government is not taking the threat from the US lightly. On July 21, the Venezuelan legislature with the ruling pro-Chavez alliance and the opposition Movement to Socialism voted to condemn the Mack Amendment.

Said Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, "It is a preposterous imperialist idea that should not surprise us because we know what the US government is capable of."

If implemented, Chavez stated, "we will take measures to neutralize the attempt, and what we will have is a kind of electronic warfare." While critical of the Chavez government, Leopoldo Puchi, leader of the Movement to Socialism, condemned the US's adoption laws that have an "extraterritorial reach."

Cold War on South America

The Mack amendment is only the most recent round as tensions escalate between Venezuela and the United States. In late July, the Bush Administration through Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega and his deputy, Roger Pardo-Maurer, have accused Venezuela of meddling in Bolivian internal politics.

"The evidence is overwhelming," said Noriega. "It is no secret that Evo Morales (head of the Bolivian Movement Towards Socialism) reports back to Havana and Caracas."

However, while Noriega and the US government have been unable to provide evidence of meddling on the part of Venezuela or Cuba, the US Embassy in Bolivia has recently grown to over 200 officials, making it the largest US Embassy on the South American continent, according to Saul Ortega, chair of the Venezuelan National Assembly's Foreign Relations committee.

Why Bolivia?

Bolivia, one of the poorest nations in the world, sits on top of one of the world's largest natural gas reserves. Bolivia's neo-liberal government has increasingly been challenged by a mass left opposition regarding its policy to privatize the gas reserves.

The Bolivian Movement Towards Socialism, with trade unions and indigenous peoples' organizations, effectively shut down La Paz with mass demonstrations in May-June 2005, leading to the resignation of neo-liberal President Carlos Mesa. As a result, elections are scheduled for December 4, with the left currently favored to win.

Although it is not a proven allegation, President Hugo Chavez is quite convinced that the Bush Administration was a key player in the 2002 failed coup attempt against the Chavez government.

What is proven, according to journalist Gregory Wilpert, is that the US quasi-governmental National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) have funneled approximately $20 million to Venezuelan opposition parties, civic groups and unions since 1999.

Chuck Wynns is a member of the Socialist Party USA . Readers who can find their way around in Spanish might like to check out Telesur for themselves at

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