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A conversation with Antonio Pasquali about Telesur

By Gustavo Coronel

August 5, 2005 | Antonio Pasquali is one of the most distinguished Venezuelan philosophers and one of the foremost world experts in Telecommunications. He has written more than a dozen books on these subjects during the last 30 years. I have been fortunate to be his friend since we attended high school together, in the small town of Los Teques, some 55 years ago. We have recently talked about Telesur and he has given me some of his views on the current situation of the Venezuelan telecommunications sector and on the Telesur project recently inaugurated. These views are summarized below:

Historical Background

"Venezuela is living under the 26th militaristic government in history. It has a legitimately elected military officer as president, already de-legitimized due to his authoritarian control of all public institutions and finances and his systematic undemocratic actions and speech. In the field of communications the government is utilizing, without scruples, the results of half a century of investigation and national proposals and programs which are among the most advanced in the hemisphere, distorting its real recommendations and putting them at the service of the regime's ideology without respect for the democratic opposition that has been squashed." And he adds: "In 1974 and 1995 we tried to create a new radio and television alternative, under the figure of a radically non-government controlled public broadcasting service, to escape the double governmental and commercial manipulations. These projects were frustrated since the commercial sector sabotaged them. Today the Chávez government is weakening the free media with a deeply undemocratic Gag Law and is reinforcing its broadcasting capabilities to send programs with an ideological content which is strictly controlled in the purest Cuban style."

The role of Telesur in this strategy

"Telesur is just a segment of this global strategy, being presented to the world as an independent instrument of information. It aims to expand to the continent the work of ideological persuasion already being exercised domestically, while the Gag Law puts in the hands of the State the power to interrupt any type of transmission in the country, under the pretext of the defense of the morality of minorities. The whole government controlled media, as well as the policies in the cultural and educational sectors are strongly biased in favor of a Castro-Chavista indoctrination of the population. This includes the newly created Broadcast for the Youth that teaches children and adolescents to hate the members of other social classes. This is a particularly painful issue for me, who once proposed a radio station for the youth patterned after the success of BBC-1. The "Misión Cultura" of Chávez aims to consolidate and accelerate the new national military strategy. The Ministry of Information and Communication has signed eleven agreements of cooperation with Cuban Radio and Television and with many community broadcast services, all of them Chavista (another distortion of a good idea). The new television channel ANTV, of the Venezuelan National Assembly, is an advertising organ of the regime; the best example that the separation of powers does no longer exists in autocratic Venezuela."

Telesur, a good idea that went wrong

"Telesur is conceptually a beautiful and important project, analogous to the initiatives one has fought for during decades. It is obviously a project that requires pluralism, tolerance and independence from the government. In its current version is an ideological caricature, one-dimensional and linked to government. Financing and programming are both Chavista. Its main programming resounds with Stalinist, leftist rhetoric that went out of style a half a century ago. After the withdrawal of Brazil its only supporters are Cuba, Argentina and Uruguay and these two last countries have veto power over programs. The objectives of Chávez are: (a), to exercise maximum ideological control over the contents of Telesur, originally installing his Minister of Information as President of the channel, and (b), providing Castro with something he never enjoyed, a satellite signal (Chávez declared a few weeks ago: 'Cuba and Venezuela are one country, one revolution'). The convergence of opposition protests and the demands of one of the Telesur Advisers, Tareq Ali, for real independence and pluralism, led to the resignation of the Minister of Information, now limited to the role of President of the Channel but this decision does not alter the heart of the issue. The final position of Argentina and Uruguay remains to be seen, two countries that know the devastations of ferocious military dictatorships and are afraid of a resurrection of the untimely and failed ideologies of the 1960's."

These are some of the views of Antonio Pasquali on Telesur and on the telecommunications strategy of the Chávez regime. Most of what he said is extremely important but I was particularly impressed by his observation on how Castro now enjoys the use of a satellite signal, something he never had before and that he has obtained thanks to Chávez and with our money.

Antonio Pasquali is not a member of what Chávez calls the Venezuelan oligarchy. On the contrary, he has been highly critical of the manner in which commercial radio and television has performed in Venezuela, the idea of public service being mostly absent from their mission. What he now says is that the Chávez project Telesur is much worse, since it introduces a perverse component of political indoctrination in what should have been an educational and cultural tool.

Recent developments do not look promising for Telesur. Colombia is not accepting the broadcasts, in protest for Telesur showing the narco-guerrilla leader, Marulanda, under a favorable light. Uruguay, one of the "partners" of Telesur is not yet showing the channel and has apparently vetoed some programming, to the frustration of the Uruguayan Director of the channel, Aram Aharonian. Ugly, unconfirmed, rumors are emerging in the Venezuelan press ("Runrunes," Nelson Bocaranda, El Universal, August 4, 2005) about significant monetary "contributions" being made to one of the foreign members of the Advisory Board of the channel. The former Minister of Information, Andres Izarra, seems to have fallen in disgrace and his ethics and professional reputation are being torn to shreds in the highly cannibalistic environment surrounding Chávez.

Telesur, Petrocaribe, vertical chicken coops, the Edsel. . . .



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