The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives
Madam Speaker Pelosi,
I am writing in the opportunity to respond to your May 30 statement on Venezuela’s decision not to renew the broadcast license of Radio Caracas Television (RCTV). In it, you accused President Hugo Chávez of engaging in efforts to “suppress the media.” I would like to assure you that the decision was made in full accordance with Venezuela’s laws and does not represent a threat to the country’s vibrant media or the ability of the Venezuelan people to receive information and opinion that is critical of the government. Equally, and as many observers have pointed out, since President Chavez came to power the government has tried to democratize the media to foster a diversity of voices to combat the historical monopoly on the broadcasting of information that causes so much harm to any democracy.
The decision not to renew RCTV’s broadcast license was a simple regulatory matter that was made according to the country’s constitution, laws and public interest standards. It was not made based on RCTV’s critical editorial stance against the government, nor was it directed at silencing criticism of the government. The Venezuelan media has enjoyed, and will continue to enjoy the right to report and offer opinions, whether or not they agree with President Chávez. This has also been recognized by numerous observers. As Bart Jones, a longtime correspondent for the Associated Press wrote in an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times on May 30, “Radio, TV and newspapers remain uncensored, unfettered and unthreatened by the government. Most Venezuelan media are still controlled by the old oligarchy and are staunchly anti-Chávez.”
It is also important to note that while RCTV enjoyed access to the public spectrum, it far exceeded its prescribed role as a media outlet in a democracy. In April 2002, RCTV promoted a coup against the democratically elected government of President Chávez. After that, it participated and encouraged the sabotage of the oil industry of Venezuela, causing tremendous suffering on the Venezuelan people.
In both instances, RCTV went beyond taking a critical editorial stance against the government. It used its privileged position as a media outlet to help subvert Venezuela’s constitutional order. In no other country would a media outlet be allowed to play such an overtly undemocratic role, much less using a public broadcast spectrum. Again, in so doing, RCTV single-handedly subverted Venezuela’s democracy. I wonder how the FCC would have responded had such events taken place in the United States.
The decision to not renew RCTV’s license will not affect Venezuela’s longstanding commitment to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of information as your statement suggests. In fact, the majority of Venezuela’s media outlets remain in private hands – of the 81 television stations, 709 radio broadcasters and 118 newspapers throughout Venezuela, 79, 706 and 118, respectively, are privately owned and operated. More importantly, they all exercise their rights freely, often criticizing the government in strident terms reflecting the vitality of Venezuela’s democracy. Since the nonrenewal took effect, the great majority of media outlets in Venezuela have openly reported on and offered their opinions on the decision.
If you have any questions or concerns about Venezuela or the Venezuelan media, please do not hesitate to contact me. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss this matter. Most importantly, I invite you to visit Venezuela and judge for yourself the vibrant state of the media and freedom of thought and expression enjoyed by all Venezuelans.
Bernardo Alvarez Herrera