Venezuela Slams Argentine TeleSUR Pullout amid International Outcry

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro together with an opposition lawmaker and a score of internationally-renowned intellectuals have condemned Argentina’s decision to withdraw from teleSUR on Sunday.

By Lucas Koerner
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Caracas, March 29, 2016 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro together with an opposition lawmaker and a score of internationally-renowned intellectuals have condemned Argentina’s decision to withdraw from teleSUR on Sunday.

Argentine’s newly elected right-wing Macri government announced over the weekend that it would cease broadcasting the pan-Latin American channel on public television and cut off all state funding. It described the move as consistent with its “ideals of pluralism and austerity”.

However, advocates of Latin American unity have assailed the decision as an act of censorship against the left-leaning 24-hour news network, which was created by the governments of Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina, and Uruguay in 2005 as part of an effort to challenge the hegemony of transnational media conglomerates. 

“The very same people who disappeared 30,000 youths in Argentina between ’76 and ’83 are now trying to disappear teleSUR, the same media oligarchy,” asserted Maduro, referring to the dirty war perpetrated by the Argentine military dictatorship whose 40th anniversary was commemorated last week.

“They won’t succeed… Millions of Argentines will watch [teleSUR] online and on social networks,” he added. 

Joining the Venezuelan president in repudiating the decision was Venezuela’s first ever transgender lawmaker Tamara Adrian, who is a member of Leopoldo Lopez’s opposition Popular Will party. 

“I don’t agree with any form of censorship,” she stated in conversation with journalist Ernesto Villegas, denouncing Argentina’s withdrawal from the network as “a sign of intellectual poverty”. 

In addition to withdrawing Argentina’s 14 percent stake in the Caracas-based channel, the Macri government announced that private cable providers would no longer be required to include teleSUR in their basic package, which is likely to further reduce access to the broadcaster among Argentine viewers. 

The measure likewise drew fire from the Network of Artists and Intellectuals in Defense of the Humanity, which brings together leading public intellectuals from across the world, including Guatemalan indigenous activist Rigoberta Menchu, US linguist Noam Chomsky, Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos, former Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba, among numerous others. 

“It’s paradoxical that those who brand Hugo Chávez a “dictator” for not renewing the license of RCTV– a channel that explicitly supported the 2002 coup in Venezuela– now applaud the attacks against a pan-Latin American channel devoted to the struggles of the peoples of the continent,” reads a statement published by the network.

Coming on the heels of a series of mass firings of journalists and other public employees by the Macri government, Sunday’s move also provoked a backlash inside Argentina.

“Those who talk about plurality, about democracy, about hearing all voices, are now the ones who are going to prohibit teleSUR in Argentina,” declared Hebe de Bonafini, president of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo human rights group. 

Argentine Nobel Peace laureate Adolfo Perez Esquival similarly lambasted the decision, which he condemned as “censorship in favor of CNN”. He also noted that teleSUR is the only channel that has covered the neoliberal measures taken by Macri in his first 100 days.

TeleSUR is jointly owned by the governments of Venezuela, Cuba, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, with Caracas currently holding a 51 percent stake. 

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