Foreign Policy Blogs

RCTV Closure Leads to Student Protests

Last week the Venezuelan government cut off six cable TV stations, citing a failure to comply with regulations. These stations included Radio Caracas Television (RCTV), a channel known for opposing the administration of Hugo Chávez. RCTV had already lost its ability to broadcast on a public channel in 2007, but remained available to cable subscribers through broadcasts from Miami.

In response, many Caracans took hold of their pots and pans, opened their windows, and began banging away in protest. This is a common response to an unpopular measure in the Venezuelan capital, and something that I have heard on a few occasions while living in Chacao, a municipality that serves as an opposition stronghold. In addition, students hit the streets in protests across the country. Police struck back with tear gas, and in Mérida, two students were killed.

The government’s action appears to be yet another effort to restrict critics, a timeworn pattern under Hugo Chávez. He has a history of silencing those who do not agree with him, whether through selective licensing of media outlets, the disqualification of opposing politicians, or the dismissal of leading members of his own government. These moves to limit dissent are often lightly veiled under the guise of bureaucratic negligence (e.g. stating that a radio station is closed because it does not have the appropriate paperwork). If all were true, though, this would show a great ineptitude on the part of the opposition in terms of attaining necessary registration and licenses.

The response to opposing views, however, is not limited to disqualification through technicalities. A frightening development is the tendency for pro-Chávez groups to carry out vigilante action, taking justice into their own hands to strike back against the opposition. They are sometimes given a free hand to do as they please – including attacks on the opposition – while the police turn a blind eye to their actions.

The scene may be set for greater violence in Venezuela. This will be the subject of one of my upcoming posts.

Note: A recent Economist article provides an additional review of the current situation in Venezuela.



David D. Sussman

David D. Sussman is currently a PhD Candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University), in Boston, Massachusetts. Serving as a fellow at the Feinstein International Center, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study the lives of Colombian refugees and economic migrants in Caracas, Venezuela. David has worked on a variety of migrant issues that include the health of displaced persons, domestic resettlement of refugees, and structured labor-migration programs. He holds a Masters in International Relations from the Fletcher School, where he studied the integration of Somali and Salvadoran immigrants. David has a B.A. from Dartmouth College and is fluent in Spanish. He has lived in Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela, and also traveled throughout Latin America. In his free time David enjoys reading up on international news, playing soccer, cooking arepas, and dancing salsa casino. Areas of Focus: Latin America; Migration; Venezuela.