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HOW HATE MEDIA INCITED THE COUP AGAINST THE PRESIDENT Venezuela’s press power Never even in Latin American history has the media been so directly involved in a political coup. Venezuela’s ’hate media’ controls 95% of the airwaves and has a near-monopoly over newsprint, and it played a major part in the failed attempt to overthrow the president, Hugo Chávez, in April. Although tensions in the country could easily spill into civil war, the media is still directly encouraging dissident elements to overthrow the democratically elected president - if necessary by force. By Maurice Lemoine "We had a deadly weapon: the media. And now that I have the opportunity, let me congratulate you." In Caracas, on 11 April 2002, just a few hours before the temporary overthrow of Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, Vice-Admiral Victor Ramírez Pérez congratulated journalist Ibéyiste Pacheco live on Venevision television. Twenty minutes earlier, when Pacheco had begun to interview a group of rebel officers, she could not resist admitting, conspiratorially, that she had long had a special relationship with them. At the same time, in a live interview from Madrid, another journalist, Patricia Poleo, also seemed well informed about the likely future development of "spontaneous events". She announced on the Spanish channel TVE: "I believe the next president is going to be Pedro Carmona." Chávez, holed up in the presidential palace, was still refusing to step down. After Chávez came to power in 1998, the five main privately owned channels - Venevisión, Radio Caracas Televisión (RCTV), Globovisión and CMT - and nine of the 10 major national newspapers, including El Universal , El Nacional , Tal Cual , El Impulso , El Nuevo País , and El Mundo , have taken over the role of the traditional political parties, which were damaged by the president’s electoral victories. Their monopoly on information has put them in a strong position. They give the opposition support, only rarely reporting government statements and never mentioning its large majority, despite that majority’s confirmation at the ballot box. They have always described the working class districts as a red zone inhabited by dangerous classes of ignorant people and delinquents. No doubt considering them unphotogenic, they ignore working class leaders and organisations. Their investigations, interviews and commentaries all pursue the same objective: to undermine the legitimacy of the government and to destroy the president’s popular support. "In aesthetic terms, this revolutionary government is a cesspit," was the delicate phrase used by the evening paper Tal Cual . Its editor, Teodoro Petkoff, is a keen opponent of Chávez. Petkoff is a former Marxist guerrilla who became a neo-liberal and a pro-privatisation minister in the government of rightwing president Rafael Caldera. The Chávez government is not, of course, above criticism. It makes mistakes, and the civilian and military personnel who surround it are tainted by corruption. But the government was
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