Wed, Dec 08, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Venezuela takes big share in opposition television station

Reuters, CARACAS

Venezuela’s government on Monday took control of a fifth of shares in Globovision, an opposition television network opposed to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the state news agency said.

Banking authorities began liquidating a company holding 20 percent of the privately held news network’s shares on Monday, the government’s Official Gazette said. News agency AVN said the liquidation put the shares in control of the government.

It was not clear if the government planned to hold on to its stake in Globovision or sell it on. The 20 percent share would likely not be enough for the government to affect editorial content at the station by naming new board members, but would give it a presence at shareholders meetings.

Chavez has in the past threatened to close Globovision, which has a strong editorial line against his socialist policies and is seen by its supporters as a bastion of opposition to the many pro-government television stations.

In 2007, Chavez angered media freedoms groups and many of his own supporters by refusing to renew the concession for RCTV, the country’s favorite channel known for a diet of soaps and news. The station appeared to favor a short-lived coup against him in 2002.

Globovision has already been weakened by government scrutiny. Two of its main investors, Guillermo Zuloaga and Nelson Mezerhane, have fled to the US to avoid criminal charges against them. Chavez last month accused Zuloaga of plotting to have him killed, charges the businessman vehemently denied.

Mezerhane also owned a bank called Banco Federal, which the government seized in June citing cash flow problems. The government has since sold of many of Mezerhane’s assets to pay back the banks customers.

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