Sunday, July 24, 2005

"We launch Telesur with a clear goal to break this communication regime and present a vision, a voice which until now has been silenced."

Chavez's Latam TV to fight 'cultural imperialism'

Sun Jul 24, 2005 6:49 PM ET

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By Matthew Robinson

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez launched a new Latin American television channel on Sunday to fight what his government called "cultural imperialism" from U.S. and European media.

Telesur (Telesouth), a Spanish-language station formed by the governments of Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay, began transmissions with round-table commentary from the station's officials and an advisory board of international left-wing intellectuals and celebrities.

"We launch Telesur with a clear goal to break this communication regime and present a vision, a voice which until now has been silenced. Telesur is an initiative against cultural imperialism," Andres Izarra, Telesur president and Venezuela's minister of communications, said.

The Venezuelan-financed venture aims to provide a Latin American perspective on events, promote cultural diversity, and counter what its creators call the "hegemony" of international and local commercial networks in their coverage of the region.

Chavez, an outspoken left-wing nationalist who often accuses President Bush of plotting to topple him, called the launch a "success" and said Telesur was vital to his vision of Latin American and Caribbean integration.

He said the channel was drawing viewers from around the region and that even Bush was "glued to the television watching Telesur."

Relations with the United States, the top buyer of Venezuela's oil, have deteriorated since Chavez first won office in 1998 and strengthened relations with Communist Cuba. The United States gets around 15 percent of its oil imports from Venezuela, the world's No. 5 crude exporter.


Chavez said the network was a blow to an effort by some U.S. legislators trying to wage what he has called "electronic warfare" against him.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a bill with an amendment that authorizes broadcasts to Venezuela to counter what one U.S. lawmaker called Chavez's "anti-American, anti-freedom rhetoric." Backers of the measure hope to get the Senate to approve their version of the legislation.

"The United States has threatened us with broadcasts to neutralize Telesur. We have scored the first goal," Chavez said in a telephone call to the channel during the launch.

Telesur advisory board members attending the broadcast included British left-wing intellectual Tariq Ali, Le Monde Diplomatique editor Ignacio Ramonet, and U.S. film star Danny Glover.

Chavez also defended Telesur against critics who say it will become a propaganda mouthpiece for his self-styled "revolutionary" government and for his Caribbean ally, Cuban President Fidel Castro.

"I am sure that Telesur will maintain its independence. Telesur will not depend on any government ... it will be free to navigate in the waters of truth and contribute to the construction of a new world," Chavez said.

Members of Telesur's advisory board called upon the channel to reflect Latin America's ethnic diversity in its programing and challenge what Tariq Ali called the "dictatorship of corporate capital" in international media.

"This is a television channel whose job it should be to encourage creativity, diversity, debates, including debates with our enemies," Ali said.

Telesur, which made its first test broadcast in May, will initially offer limited programing for four hours a day but plans to move to a 24-hour format later this year, showing news, documentaries, films and cultural events. The Caracas-based channel will broadcast news by satellite from bureaus in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Brasilia, Brazil; Montevideo, Uruguay; La Paz, Bolivia; Bogota, Colombia; Caracas; Havana; Mexico City and Washington.

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.



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