Opinion and Analysis: Media Watch | Opposition | Politics
“I Crossed the Line a While Ago”: Interview with Venezuelan TV Host Mario Silva
Mario Silva is a Venezuelan journalist and political activist, and host of the television program “The Razorblade” on state channel VTV. The program has gained notoriety for its daily analysis and deconstruction of the opposition and private media campaign against the Bolivarian revolution and President Hugo Chavez, of which Silva is a strong supporter. Silva is also active within the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, having unsuccessfully stood for election for state governor and legislator in 2008 and 2010 respectively.
In this article, Venezueanalysis.com translates a recent interview with Mario Silva by Venezuelan newspaper Ciudad CCS, including the paper’s introduction given to the personality who has formed an indelible part in Venezuela’s contemporary political and media landscape.
He Will Be the One to Kill the Razorblade
The first time that Mario Silva (born Ciudad Bolivar, 1959) heard Fidel Castro was on the short wave radio on which his father tuned in to Radio Havana, which launched its signal from the “free territory of America”.
It was the 60s and without a doubt the Galician communist never imagined that the child who hung around listening to those speeches would – almost half a century later – have the privilege of meeting with the bearded Cuban leader: and not just once, but on various occasions.
Silva’s family was monitored by the police of the IV Republic (1958 – 1998), and due to that Mario learned about repression early on. “When I was eleven they dragged me out the house by punches,” he reveals.
For almost two decades he was in the world of journalism, working with the Dearmas Bloc of Publications, and he saw “all of the horrible things that were done there”. However life reserved a more prominent role and from 2004 he appeared on the screen of VTV with a program that has now been analysed in universities, spread through the world press and denounced in international organisations.
Now Silva is not just a program, but a multimedia project that includes Makunaima Kariña Radio and a network of community and alternative outlets. About the space that made him a celebrity, he states: “The Razorblade will have its end when it should end, not because others want to force it. When I see that the program no longer has a purpose, I’ll be the first to close it. I made the creature and I’ll be the one to kill it”.
Ciudad CCS: In the [presidential election] campaign, when you urged a response to the worst opposition [television] programs, all revolutionaries were Hojilla supporters. After the victory [of Hugo Chavez], many of them have become critics of your tone and style. How do you feel in this role of doing the dirty work?
Mario Silva: It could be said like that, that one does the dirty work, although I never think about that. Since I assumed this role eight years ago, I’ve never had the care for the future that many journalists have. It seems that they’re thinking that times of negotiation, reformism or downfall are coming, and thus they act timidly, or better said, with calculation. As I’m not a journalist; I appeared by accident in this world of journalism; I crossed the line a while ago. I don’t imagine a future without [the Bolivarian] revolution. If I didn’t have that certainty, what would I be doing? If I thought of myself, of my security, my wallet, I’d be pathetic.
Ciudad CCS: You don’t believe in reconciliation?
Mario Silva: We live in a confrontation of classes, of two visions. The possibility of reconciliation between capitalism and socialism doesn’t exist, [and] whoever thinks so is wrong: history demonstrates it. All those who have tried conciliation have ended up being reformists.
When the elections are over the criticisms emerge. Of course, those who criticise me use the same style as the opposition, they never mention me by name but rather they call me “the gentleman of the night” or talk about “those programs”. My question is how committed with the revolution are those who in the heat of battle support the program, and then say that it isn’t fit for purpose.
Ciudad CCS: President Chavez was the first to make a criticism, when he said that sometimes he felt saturated by [state channel] VTV…[i]
Mario Silva: It depends on how his words are interpreted. He spoke about promoting the work of the revolution and he’s right. Government ministries should provide us with their input and sometimes they don’t do it. The government’s management should operate at the pace set by the President, but there are people inside of the revolution that slow us, which is worse than the opposition.
Ciudad CCS: The Razorblade was a pioneer in critically showing what the opposition and anti-Chavez media say, but there then emerged various programs doing the same. Would it not be that which produces saturation?
It’s probable. The Razorblade established a new way of making television, due to its irreverence and going beyond parameters. We decoded common discourse in a very similar way to what the comandante Chavez had done. Certainly, this led to a wave of similar programs. I don’t like some of them, but there’s everything in the Lord’s garden. Sometimes I think that we don’t administer the power an anchor has well, and we fall into divisionism. One must understand that they are not a spokesperson for themselves, but of the people.
Ciudad CCS: Did you have to overcome that problem? How was that?
Mario Silva: Yes, with the separation of Nestor Francia and Eileen Padron [from the program], who I respect.[ii] What happens is the very same television absorbs you. That glass screen makes you into a person you aren’t. Fortunately, I didn’t make myself ill, I always rejected that and so when people see me in the street they tell me “wow, you’re exactly like you are on TV!” and of course, it’s because I don’t change. If I changed, if I gave myself divine status, I wouldn’t be doing the job of being a spokesperson for the people.
Ciudad CCS: Sometimes, Mario Silva gets out his Revolutionometer and judges who is revolutionary and who isn’t. This has created a lot of internal antipathy. Where did you get that device?
Mario Silva: The Comandante [Chavez] has been doing that since 1992 [when he led an attempted coup against the then-president Carlos Andres Perez], and if you analyse all the people that have accompanied him you can find traitors, reformists, people who have stayed firm, and recently, people who want to go back. The Comandante has always been fifty steps ahead of the rest of the world. I use the Revolutionometer because behind every discrepancy of some Chavista there can be found a right-wing factor.
Ciudad CCS: In 2015 the public broadcast concession of [opposition TV] Globovision expires…
Mario Silva: (Without waiting for the end of the question)…They should take it from them. I think that Globovision is harmful and should go off the air, although Venevision [another private Venezuelan TV channel] is much more pernicious. There are two ways to stick it in: with sand or with vaseline. Globovision sticks it into you with sand and Venevision with vaseline.
Ciudad CCS: And in such a case what would happen with the program? If Globovision doesn’t exist, would there be The Razorblade?
Mario Silva: Yes, of course, as The Razorblade doesn’t just combat Globovision. There is Televen, Venevision [pro-opposition private TV channels with public concessions],cable TV [such as] NTN24 and Radio Caracas News. Could we change format? Yes, but we’d need to be more elaborate, and have more production. I have many projects, I want to make documentaries about communes or go to Cuba. In Makunaima Kariña (a multimedia project) we have a television project. The problem is that our enemy, the [U.S.] Department of State, doesn’t rest. While Chavez is in power, the media machine will keep attacking him, refining itself, it’s not going to stop, and we have to respond to it day by day.
You worked for many years in the Dearmas Bloc [a private Venezuelan media group]. Is that not like having been in the Cosa Nostra?[iii]
I worked for 19 years, from supervisor to sales manager, despite being a left wing activist since I was 16. I left the Bloc because they knew that I attended the Comandante Chavez’s forums. I’m not embarrassed to have worked there. In other times, us revolutionaries were few. Those who now vote for the Comandante were adecos or copeyanos [supporters of the dominant political parties in the pre-Chavez period]. I had to live. I worked there because I had to bring a salary into the house, it was necessary to eat.
Interview by Clodovaldo Hernandez / Ciudad CCS. Translated by Ewan Robertson for Venezuelanalysis.com
[i] On Saturday 19 October President Hugo Chavez made several criticisms of Venezuela’s state media, including that on state television channel VTV there seemed too much of the same type of program format, analysing what other people (the opposition) were saying, and that more programming should contain self -criticism, and make workers and communities visible in a protagonistic manner.
[ii] Who used to co-present The Razorblade with Mario Silva.
[iii] A reference to the Sicilian mafia in the United States.
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