Venezuelan Media Owners Angry at OAS Gaviria´s Optimistic Comments About Venezuela

Venezuelan comercial media owners attending an Inter-American Society of Press meeting in Chicago, felt "frustrated" with Cesar Gaviria for his very optimistic views on the current Venezuelan political process.

Chicago, Oct 15.- As reported by AP and other news agencies, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Cesar Gaviria, said yesterday that he is optimistic about the process of recall referendums in Venezuela, and that he thought that the country’s democratic institutions have been solidified.

Nevertheless, the comments by Gaviria, in which he says to be “satisfied” and “optimistic” by the march of the political process in Venezuela, frustrated the numerous delegation of Venezuelan media excecutives who attended the 59th general assembly of the Inter-American Society of Press (SIP), an organization that groups the owners of printed media of the Americas.

Gaviria talked about the Venezuelan case during a Q & A session, after not mentioning it during his speech on freedom of expression at the inauguration of the SIP general assembly.

Guillermo Zuloaga Núñez, a millionaire who owns Venezuelan TV channel Globovisión -some of whose communications equipment were seized by the Venezuelan government two weeks ago for not requesting authorization to use it- said that he felt “frustrated” with Gaviria’s comments.

“I would have liked to hear an important reaction from Gaviria. I’m surprised that the head of the O.A.S., knowing widely the antecedents on this situation, says that he sees with much optimism the process in Venezuela and that things are marching well in my country,” Zuloaga said.

On the seizure of Globovision microwave transmission equipment, Gaviria had already said that he hoped for a measure that did not affect freedom of expression; and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, which depends on the O.A.S., asked the Venezuelan government to return the equipment to Globovisión.

The president of Venezuela’s Telecommunication Comission (Conatel), Alvin Reinaldo Lezama, has said that Globovision does have authorization to use other microwave frequencies, and they have the equipment to do so, but have not used it in order to make people believe that their rights have been affected by the government’s actions. So far, Globovision has not applied for a permit to use use the microwave frequencies that motivated the government’s move against them.

O.A.S. satisfied

“If it is truly possible to gather the number of signatures required to request a recall referendum, there is already an institution that guarantees, preserves what the Constitution indicates as the way towards it, and it is able to give validity to the results”, said Gaviria.

“I am optimistic that the necessary proceedings will be made, and that if the opposition is able to collect the signatures they want collect, a recall referendum will be possible”, Gaviria said in Chicago.

The recall referendum “is a process for which I do not see great legal obstacles in spite of how difficult it is to forsee what will happen”, the Secretary General said.

“I would say that after the agreement [between the government and the opposition] there has been an important solidification of the democratic institutions of Venezuela. I am satisfied that although there have been some delays, without a doubt the Supreme Court have succeeded in choosing an Electoral Council, that could be act as an impartial referee,” Gaviria said.

In his speech at the SIP, Gaviria talked about the threats to the freedom of expression in the continent, in a general way, without mentioning specific cases.

Responding to a question on the situation of mass media in Venezuela, most of
them involved in a verbal war with President Chavez’s government, Gaviria described as a “serious incident” the recent seizure by the authorities of some transmission equipment from news channel Globovision, which is openly anti-government.

“We had a big disagreement with the government because of the concerns with regard to freedom of expression being put in danger,” he said.

Responding to speculations on his premature exit of the OAS High Level Meeting on Poverty and Social Inclusion celebrated at Venezuela’s Margarita Island, Gaviria said: “I did not experience any particular distress during my trip to Venezuela. I did not come back pessimistic, rather I came back with a positive and optimistic attitude because I saw a process in march that is occurring with the support of both sectors, the government and oposittion.

Information from AP, Reuters and Venpres was used in this report