Mérida, December 8th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – On Tuesday the Venezuelan government officially became a minority shareholder in the privately-owned opposition television station Globovisión. According to a legal decision made public on Monday, Venezuela’s Superintendent of Banks (Sudeban) has formally liquidated Sindicato Avila, a 20% owner of Globovisión.
According to the Venezuelan News Agency (AVN), the state-owned Fund for the Guarantee of Deposits and Banking Protection (Fogade) has now assumed “administrative control of [Sindicato Avila].” AVN affirmed that, “the state, through Fogade, will play the role of stockholder to secure dividends and present itself at stockholder assemblies.”
Sindicato Avila, whose sole shareholder is Venezuelan fugitive Nelson Mezerhane, is one of several companies that make up Corpomedios GV Inversiones, the owner of Globovisión. Sindicato Avila was first taken over in July as part of a larger operation against Mezerhane’s Banco Federal.
“No one can say we are expropriating. No, we are incorporating ourselves into the business,” said Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez early this year when his government first intervened in the company.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Globovisión affirmed the change would not affect their editorial line or organizational structure. The statement read, “Sindicato Avila, C.A. possesses only 20% of Corpomedios stocks, a percentage that does not allow for designating members to the firm’s Executive Board or affecting its overall management.” Such decisions, according to the statement, depend on a vote in which 65% of stockholders agree.
Also on Tuesday, Globovisión’s lawyers submitted documents to Sudeban in which they argued that, according to their company’s statutes, other private stockholders from within the firm have priority in the takeover of Sindicato Avila’s liquidated assets.
Company lawyer Ana Cristina Nuñez insisted that if Fogade decided to sell the stocks it acquired as part of the liquidation, “it should give preference to [current] Globovisión stockholders”, implying that they have precedence over government interests.
Sindicato Avila was part of Banco Federal, owned and operated by Mezerhane who fled the country after Sudeban took custody of the bank for failing to maintain minimum reserve levels and meet legal quotas for productive sector investments. Soon after Sudeban’s intervention in Banco Federal – Venezuela’s third largest bank at the time – Mezerhane violated a travel restriction and fled to the United States. He is also accused of fleeing with clients’ deposits.
Mezerhane & Reporters without Borders Response
In response to Sudeban’s decision, Mezerhane published an open letter to Chávez affirming that he wanted Venezuealn President Hugo Chavez to be “judged and condemned”, accusing him of “dictatorial” tendencies.
Mezerhane also defended Banco Federal and accused Chávez of intervening in the bank “for the sole benefit of your parasitic government and to direct your hatred towards those of us who don’t share your dictatorial way of thinking and acting.”
Late last month Chávez ordered the expropriation of land belonging to Mezerhane as part of government efforts to acquire land for building homes for the thousands of Venezuelans affected by record-setting rains and floods.
Mezerhane also stated that he is a “political refugee” and that the end goal behind the government acquisition is to “silence the only television channel that reports about [Chávez] stepping on democracy.”
Reporters without Borders (RWB) on Wednesday criticized the Venezuelan government for its new stake in Globovisión, citing concerns that the move opens the door to the government “taking control, little by little (of the company), which would allow it absolute editorial control of open televised space.”
In a 2009 article published on Znet, Salim Lamrani questioned the role RWB plays in Venezuelan society and its unconditional support for Globovisión, writing:
“From the RWB perspective, media outlets must incite insurrection and the overthrow of the established order, as Globovisión does, in order to not be considered lackeys of the powers-that-be.”
He continued, “During the coup d'état of April 11, 2002, RWB did not denounce the leading role played by the private media, which was opposed to the democratically elected president. Worse still, on April 12, 2002, RWB published an article that rampantly spread the coup-plotter's version of the events in an attempt to convince international public opinion that Chavez had resigned.”
Lamrani ended his piece citing New York Times evidence that RWB “is substantially financed by Washington through the National Endowment for Democracy, a front organization for the CIA.”