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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Venezuela's Chavez pulls TV station off the air.

"...Thucydides...says history is philosophy learned from examples."

-Dionysius of Helicarnassus

HISTORY IN THE NEWS: DEVOTED TO THE DEEP ORIGINS OF CONTEMPORARY EVENTS AROUND THE WORLD.

BULLETIN. In forcing the television station, RCTV, off the air, Venezuela's Hugo Chaves is reminiscent of Venezeuela's founding strongman, Antionio Paez who also tried to violate freedom of the press by silencing a liberal newspaper editor in the 1840s.

IN THE NEWS TODAY. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shuts down the country's oldest and most popular telelvsion station- Radio Caracas Television. Chavez defends his move to revoke RCTV's license as an act of democracy, by transferring it to a government public service channel. He accuses RCTV, whose talk show and comedy program were often critical Chavez, of subverting his socialist government as well as backing an attempted coup in 2002. Chavez pointed out that his bill revoking the license was passed in the assmbly with only scant votes in opposition.

LOOKING BACK: In 1846, Antonio Paez, Venezuela's first president, found himself opposed by the editor of the newspaper, El Venezolano, Antonio Leocadio Guzman. After El Venezolano demanded universal suffrage, the emancipation of slaves and the abolition of capital punishment as well as criticizing the elections and convervative economic policies, disaffected groups from all social classes gathered round the paper and became the Liberal Party. The government sued Guzman for libel and he was acquitted. When his further pronouncements ingnited an an uprising (1846-847) he was thrown into prison and sentenced to death. However the following president, Jose Monagas, commuted the sentence to exile.

FROM PAST INTO PRESENT: As the opposition to Paez's conservative government had coalesced around the newspaper El Venezolano, the oppostion to Chavez's socialist government has found a focus in RCTV. Moreover, like President Chavez, who got his presidential term extended as well as rule by decree through his handljng of the constituion and the assembly, Antonio Paez got round a rule forbidding a president from succeeding himself through planning a short interregnum by a place-holder, before resuming power. Until fairly recently, Venezuelan presidents have broadened their powers and curtailed criticism by encroaching on the independence of the press, judiciary and assembly.

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