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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07CARACAS1272
2007-06-25 21:07:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Caracas
Cable title:  

S/C MCCARTHY'S MEETINGS WITH VENEZUELAN MEDIA AND POLITICAL FIGURES

Tags:   PGOV  PREL  KDEM  VE 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CARACAS 001272 

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HQSOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD
DEPT PASS TO AID/OTI RPORTER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/22/2017
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, KDEM, VE
SUBJECT: S/C MCCARTHY'S MEETINGS WITH VENEZUELAN MEDIA AND
POLITICAL FIGURES

REF: CARACAS 1068

CARACAS 00001272 001.2 OF 003


Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR ROBERT DOWNES
FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)

1. (C) Summary: Senior Coordinator Deborah McCarthy
discussed the fallout from RCTV's closure with Venezuelan
media and political figures. RCTV President Marcel Granier
and Globovision Director Alberto Ravell expressed admiration
for the Secretary's RCTV statement and shared concerns over
the future of their respective stations. Representatives of
independent broadcaster Venevision attempted to refute the
public perception that they had sold out to Chavez and told
S/C McCarthy that network owner Gustavo Cisneros had launched
a personal but discreet campaign outside of Venezuela warning
about the dangers of Chavismo. Veteran politician Teodoro
Petkoff highlighted the significance of the student protests,
which he expected to continue intermittently. While Chavez
is unlikely to reverse his RCTV decision, international
support will be key to bolstering the freedom of expression
movement during the summer doldrums and could help dissuade
Chavez from further strangling independent media.



--------------------------


Granier and Ravell Battered but Defiant


--------------------------



2. (C) Senior Coordinator Deborah McCarthy met jointly with
the president of shuttered television broadcaster RCTV,
Marcel Granier, and Alberto Federico Ravell, the director of
independent cable channel Globovision June 14 at the
Ambassador's residence. With RCTV silenced, Globovision has
aired some RCTV newscasts and ramped up coverage of student
protests and the struggle to protect freedom of expression in
Venezuela. Both Granier and Ravell expressed their
admiration for the Secretary's decision to raise the RCTV
issue at the OAS General Assembly in Panama, and hoped that
other nations would follow her lead and criticize the Chavez
regime more publicly.

3. (C) Granier -- looking shopworn and obviously besieged --
said there was "no doubt" that Chavez made a huge
miscalculation when he shut down RCTV and that the issue had
mobilized the university students as a new political force.
Nevertheless, he was worried that the chances of reversing
the BRV's decision on RCTV were getting more remote each day
and was unsure how long he could continue to meet payroll for
RCTV's 3,000 employees. Granier raised the possibility of
launching RCTV as a cable station, but said he would still be
unable support his current structure with cable's limited
advertising revenue. More importantly, he was concerned that
moving to cable would surrender his moral position and allow
the BRV to claim victory by showing RCTV had "not been
closed." McCarthy noted that giving Venezuelans access to

information even via cable was better than shutting down
completely. She encouraged Granier to continue fighting for
media freedom in international fora. Commenting on the
future of Venevision and Cisneros, Granier noted that in the
heyday of his battle, the Cisneros Group had reached out to
him, and he had proposed a meeting in New York, but Cisneros
refused to meet.

4. (C) Alberto Ravell -- fresh from appearing at the Public
Prosecutor's office to defend himself against accusations of
"incitement to assassination" for his broadcast of a clip of
the Pope being shot in 1981 (Ref A) -- was in a feistier mood
than Granier. Ravell noted that Globovision's ratings had
more than doubled since RCTV's shutdown and said he was keen
to continue as the lone pro-opposition television station for
as long as the BRV would allow. Ravell told McCarthy that he
knew the BRV had seriously considered shutting Globovision
down in the days after RCTV,s closure, but that cooler heads
had (so far) prevailed. Ravell dared the government to shut
the station down, noting that since Globovision can now be
seen on cable in the United States, Spain, and much of Latin
America, the BRV would pay a higher international price for
closing it down.

5. (C) Despite this defiant stance, Ravell was not
optimistic about Globovision's future in the medium term. He
worried that the BRV -- which already bans any government
advertising on Globovision -- would pressure the private
sector to withdraw advertising and starve the channel of
revenue. S/C McCarthy commended Ravell for Globovision's
courageous stand and support for RCTV. She suggested that
Globovision maintain its coverage of freedom of expression

CARACAS 00001272 002.2 OF 003


issues, and keep in mind audiences outside of Venezuela.
Both Ravell and Granier expressed their appreciation for
McCarthy having sought them out and for the opportunity to
discuss their respective situations so thoroughly with her.



--------------------------


Venevision Sells Its More Cautious Approach


--------------------------



6. (C) In a dinner meeting with senior executives from
Venevision June 12, Senior Coordinator McCarthy and PAO were
treated to a full court press by Venevision International's
President and CEO Luis Villanueva and the Cisneros Group's VP
for Corporate Affairs Antonieta de Lopez, who sought to
reassure the USG that Venevision -- and owner Gustavo
Cisneros -- were assiduously working behind the scenes to
bolster Venezuelan democracy. Both Villanueva and Lopez
expressed frustration at the public perception that RCTV had
gone down fighting while Venevision had sold out to the BRV.
On the contrary, they argued that RCTV,s campaign against
Chavez had been "irresponsible" and that it had "sacrificed
its frequency for nothing," while Venevision was keeping its
powder dry and "waiting for the right moment" to challenge
the BRV.

7. (C) Both stressed the importance of the BRV's recent
renewal of Venevision's broadcast license for 5 years,
arguing that, unlike RCTV, Venevision had acted intelligently
in finding a modus vivendi with the BRV to keep itself alive
and operating. Villanueva and Lopez also went to great
lengths to stress how Cisneros is working quietly and
personally outside of Venezuela to educate leaders about the
threat of Chavismo, and that he had instructed Venevision to
ramp up its coverage of student protests. (Note: Post had
heard unsubstantiated reports that the entire news team of
private broadcaster Venevision submitted their resignations
over the station's alleged initial refusal to let them cover
the student protests.) Due to their recent lobbying
activities, Villanueva said the station was operating under
the assumption that Chavez would shut them down within the
next two years.

8. (C) McCarthy encouraged Venevision,s plans to become
increasingly direct in its news and opinion coverage
domestically, and suggested the Cisneros Group also consider
some activities to raise regional awareness about the reality
of life in Bolivarian Venezuela. She noted the importance of
non-USG interlocutors standing up to Chavez and that
individuals such as Gustavo Cisneros are well placed to reach
out to high-level audiences.



--------------------------


Petkoff on Student Marches


--------------------------



9. (C) S/C McCarthy also discussed RCTV-related events with
former Venezuelan presidential candidate, co-founder of the
opposition political party Movimiento a Socialismo, and
current editor and director of the newspaper Tal Cual,
Teodoro Petkoff. Petkoff spent much of the meeting outlining
the structure of higher education in Venezuela and noting
that the entry of the students into the protests against the
government's decision not to renew RCTV's license was a
significant development. The students were likely to
continue their activism and protests (although perhaps with
pauses), as they view the traditional and long-standing
autonomy of the major public institutions under direct threat
by Chavez, he said. Still, Petkoff also thought Chavez
would continue to seek ways to undermine these universities
and to push his alternative Bolivarian institutions.

10. (C) Petkoff said that perhaps more importantly in the
long term was the public refusal of the three pro-government
parties Podemos, Patria Para Todos and the Venezuelan
Communists to dissolve and join Chavez, new unified
socialist party (PSUV). Chavez, efforts to force these
groups into his new party were only widening fractures within
Chavismo. Petkoff also discussed his association with a new
think tank, Pensar en Venezuela, set up to monitor trends
within the country. Petkoff thought that the increasing
failure of Chavez, economic policies would cause him serious
domestic problems, as well.



--------------------------


Comment


--------------------------



CARACAS 00001272 003.2 OF 003



11. (C) RCTV's supporters continue to seek creative ways of
keeping the issue of press freedom alive, albeit with less
fervor than in previous weeks. It seems extremely unlikely
Chavez will reverse his RCTV decision nor his gradual
strangling of the independent media. Students are now
largely resorting to a series of debates, some of which have
been held via Globovision programs. RCTV has tried to stir
up public nostalgia, by among other things holding public
screenings of popular shows in local squares, but will
probably be unable to maintain that strategy for very long.
In addition, momentum will likely decline during the
month-long America's Cup soccer tournament, during which time
the BRV has vowed not to permit marches, and the upcoming
Venezuelan summer vacation season. The extent to which
RCTV's advocates can draw international attention to freedom
of expression in Venezuela will be key to restoring momentum
after summer break and could help dissuade the BRV from
further limiting what little space remains for opposition
media outlets. It remains to be seen what, if any change, in
line will be adopted by Venevision now that it has received
its coveted license renewal.

12. (SBU) S/C McCarthy cleared this cable.
BROWNFIELD