Chavez says he won't stop taking over airwaves
CARACAS, Venezuela—President Hugo Chavez said Sunday that he will not stop seizing control of Venezuela's airwaves to give his trademark marathon television and radio addresses despite complaints from his challenger that it gives him an unfair advantage during the country's presidential election campaign.
Opposition candidate Henrique Capriles has demanded that election officials prevent Chavez from taking political advantage of the special broadcasts, which all networks are required by law to air, ahead of Venezuela's Oct. 7 election.
Directors of the National Electoral Council have approved campaign regulations that prohibit TV and radio messages that favor a presidential candidate to run longer than three minutes. But it's unclear whether the president's frequent and lengthy special broadcasts, known as "cadenas," will be affected.
"The cadenas are part of the national government's information strategy," said Chavez, speaking during one of the special broadcasts. "The bourgeoisie wants me to give up something that's the faculty of the president of the republic. I'm not going to do it."
Chavez, a former paratroop commander, argued that most of Venezuela's privately owned TV channels, radio stations and newspapers are biased in favor of Capriles and he accuses the independent media of ignoring his government's achievements.
"The major part of the radios, television channels and newspapers are in the hands of the bourgeoisie," said Chavez, who is seeking re-election to a fresh six-year term.
When Chavez took office in 1999, he referred to four major TV channels -- RCTV, Venevision, Globovision and Televen -- as the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." He accused the channels supporting a short-lived 2002 coup by broadcasting cartoons and movies instead of the protests that aided his return to power.
But the government refused to renew RCTV's broadcast license in 2007, and Venevision and Televen have since curbed their criticism of the government, while Globovision has remained sharply critical of Chavez.
Chavez has been making more frequent use of his ability to take over the airwaves since he completed cancer treatment and started rehabilitation, talking on TV and radio for several hours a couple times a week.
He often lambasts Capriles and vows to win the looming election during the broadcasts.
Over the past 13 months, Chavez has undergone two surgeries that removed tumors from his pelvic region, most recently in February. That's meant Chavez has appeared in public less frequently than in the past, a dramatic shift for his 13-year-old presidency.
Earlier this month, Chavez announced that he's completely free of cancer and assured Venezuelans that physical limitations stemming from his recuperation will not affect his re-election bid.
The socialist leader has not disclosed key details about his illness including the type of cancer that had been diagnosed.