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Monday, January 14, 2008

Chile TV Joins Media War Against Hugo Chavez

Chilean journalists repeat version given by Pro-US news agencies

No one can deny that throughout its history, the printed press in Chile has been controlled by the right wing oligarchy, and recent events prove that this situation also affects all television stations.

For those not familiar with it, as follows is a brief description of how the Chilean television system is organized at present. A considerable percentage of the population has access to international cable television, but the majority must still choose between “open” TV stations, that in general show programs dubbed in Mexico such as “America’s Next Top Model”, a large variety of oriental martial arts films or reality shows.

The most important are Channel 13 (UCTV) run by the Roman Catholic Church’s university, Channel 9 (Megavision) owned by Ricardo Claro, one of Chile´s wealthiest businessmen, Channel 11 (Chilevision) (also owned by another local tycoon and former presidential candidate Sebastian PiƱera. Channel 4 (La Red) is linked to another of the country’s main “economic groups”, (the Matte family) and finally there is Channel 7 (Television Nacional), the state owned channel that in theory should be plural and give the opinion of all sectors of Chilean society left, right and center. It was surprising to see during how similar the coverage given by TVN of the recent release of prisoners made by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was to the other TV stations that clearly have a pro U.S and right wing opinion, and whose main enemy at present is Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela.

On Christmas day 2007, all the before mentioned stations gave extensive coverage of how FARC had failed to deliver Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez to a delegation of Venezuelan government officials, Red Cross volunteers and well known figures such as film director Oliver Stone. The original plan was that FARC would hand over the two women in a jungle area near the border between both countries, but the rebels issued a statement explaining that due to constant patrolling by the Colombian Army, the operation would have to be postponed until a later date. However Chilean news commentators rarely mentioned this statement and gave the “CNN” version: FARC had lied to Hugo Chavez and were never going to release any of the prisoners. On January 10,2008, TVN and all the other TV stations gave very brief coverage when Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez were finally released by FARC. President Hugo Chavez announced at approximately 3 p.m. local time that the two women were ready to board a helicopter that would take them from the border area to Caracas, the Venezuelan capital. At the 6 p.m. edition of its daily newscast, La Red gave a brief five minute segment to inform that the “hostages had been rescued” but did not mention how or by whom.

At the 9 p.m. edition of “24 horas”, TVN´s news program, a young reporter named Jose Antonio Neme (probably a relative of Antonio Neme, a well-known journalist at Channel 13 during General Pinochet´s 17 year dictatorship), spent nearly 20 minutes analyzing the situation in Venezuela. With a photo of President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia in the background, Neme hardly mentioned that it was in fact Hugo Chavez that had convinced FARC to release the two women. Neme declared that among the many prisoners held by FARC are some “American diplomats”. There are indeed three U.S citizens that FARC has recognized to be holding as prisoners: Keith Stansell, Marc Gonsalves and Thomas Howes. The U.S government has described the three men as “civilian contractors”, but most probably their real occupation is that of “military advisers”, as they were known during the Reagan era.

The three men were in a Colombian Army helicopter that was shot down by FARC rebels in February 2003 as they flew over a jungle area. In an interview given in 2006, one of the leaders of FARC, Raul Reyes, declared that the three Americans “are spies that were trying to find out the locations of our bases, so it is very difficult that they will go free in the near future.”

Megavision has a Colombian news commentator called Libardo Buitrago that is obviously not sympathetic to Chavez or FARC, while at Chilevision (Channel 11), Monica Sanhueza described FARC as “definitely a terrorist organization”. FARC has been battling the Colombian army many years before Monica was even born, so how can she be so “definitely” sure that FARC is a terrorist organization? At Channel 13 (UCTV), the main international news commentator is Constanza Santa Maria, a graduate of Chile´s most right wing and posh university, and has continued voicing this channel’s traditional anti-left wing opinion, identical to that it had in the seventies, when it played a crucial role in destabilizing the government of Salvador Allende. In those days UCTV´s main commentator was a priest called Raul Hasbun, that is now making comments against FARC at “Megavision”. With regards to Constanza, she described how Clara Rojas and Consuelo Gonzalez had suffered “terrible hardships and constant torture” during their five years as prisoners of FARC. Maybe Constanza did not see the moment the two women were handed over to the Venezuelan authorities, both were in perfect condition. While a prisoner, Rojas even gave birth to a baby in a FARC base, unlike the many pregnant left wing militants in Argentina, Chile Uruguay and Paraguay, whose babies were snatched from them before being murdered by U.S trained soldiers and thrown into the sea from planes and helicopters. Most of these children were given in adoption to the same people that had murdered their mothers, and until today the relatives are searching for them.

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