Caracas Objects to “Enhancement” of Voice of America Coverage to Venezuela

US President George Bush’s proposed 2007 budget requests enhanced Voice of America coverage to Venezuela. Caracas responded by suggesting that Washington take care of US poor.

Caracas, Venezuela, February 8, 2006—In the latest development in the ongoing information wars between Venezuela and the United States, a line in the US president’s proposed 2007 budget asking for enhanced Voice of America (VOA) coverage to Venezuela has raised Caracas’ ire.

“Venezuela’s Ministry of Communication and Information is deeply concerned…about this rude intervention, as well as US taxpayers’ waste of money in a disloyal competition involving Voice of America broadcasting the same propaganda local media in Venezuela broadcasts for a lot less money and with the same results,” said a communiqué from Venezuela’s Ministry of Communication released yesterday.

VOA is fully funded by the US government, and under the control of the Broadcast Board of Governors, which says it is an independent federal agency. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is one of its eight board members. VOA’s journalists code said it does “not speak for the US government.”

According to VOA’s website, the news outlet, which estimates that it reaches close to 100 million people each week, “Initially…[faced] reductions and eliminations, but then [received] increased support to continue its broadcasts as the Cold War [began].” 

Joe O’Connell, a spokesperson for VOA, said the news outlet had no comment on the communiqué.

Last July, in response to an amendment endorsed by the US House of Representatives that had authorized the US government to broadcast daily programs to the South American country, the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC suggested that the US instead expand VOA coverage to the country. “The sponsor of the amendment…Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) could better concentrate his efforts on convincing the private media in Venezuela to carry the Voice of America signal broadcast to Latin America, which none include in their daily programming,” the Embassy said in a press release.

The amendment was in response to the creation of Telesur, a TV broadcast which receives majority funding from Venezuela, and the rest of its funding from the governments of Cuba, Uruguay, and Argentina.

The other countries that the president’s budget proposal requested increased funding to were Afghanistan and Zimbabwe.

Unlike countries whose media is subject to strict censorship, the majority of Venezuela’s private media is extremely critical of the ruling Chávez administration.

The Ministry of Communications communiqué concluded, “Very respectfully, we believe that the millions of US dollars wasted in waging illegal and immoral wars and destabilizing operations against democratically-elected governments could be better used in easing the suffering, hunger and cold suffered by the more than 30 million poor citizens roaming throughout the United States.”