Hugo Chavez shut down Venezuela's oldest TV station and the only nationwide station that showed any opposition to Chavez's government. RCTV had been on the air since 1953, and were shut down last night as Chavez decided not to renew the station's contract to broadcast over public airwaves.
Chavez stated that the station supported the failed coup of 2002, and that the station's soap operas were "pure poison" that promoted capitalism. Chavez had the station replaced with TVES, which (not surprisingly) is a state-funded network. There are other opposition media, but none of them have any real national reach. Many expect that these media outlets will eventually be silenced, as Chavez and his government are tackling the big fish, first.
Only 4 national networks are privately-owned in Venezuela...RCTV was the only one that allowed for opposition points of view to be broadcast.
This is another step by Chavez to establish a hard-line socialist government, with state control over industry, commerce, and now the media.
Protesters came out in the thousands throughout the streets of Caracas, and were promptly shut down by riot police with water cannons and tear gas. There were some government supporters in a different section of Caracas that celebrated in the streets...and (again, not surprisingly) they were dressed in red.
With the exception of Fox News, this hasn't really been big news in the mainstream media...or it's significance as a socialist government flexing it's governmental authority to squash dissenting opinion has been downplayed. The blogosphere has been pretty active on this issue, though.
Jeremy D. Hagen at The News Buckit calls it what it is...Chavez is simply doing what a dictator and socialist does. I also like this quote near the end of the post..."In the spirit of Memorial Day, I feel proud to live in a country that respects a man's right to speak without regard to the substance and honors the soldiers that make the exercise of such rights possible."
Nora Zimmett of Fox News has a first-hand account of what went on during the riots from the Fox News team's location. From what I've read across the web, it seems that opposition amongst Venezuelan citizens is growing by leaps and bounds. Many believe that a revolution of some kind, whether peaceful or bloody, is bound to happen...and it's just a matter of time before the people rise against Chavez's government.
Now, many in this country support Chavez, and think we should make diplomatic overtures to him. They believe we should support a man who is silencing free speech, eliminates opposition with force and totalitarian tactics, and hates America. This is why conservatives get mad when the Cindy Sheehans of the world decide to pose for pretty photo-ops with this tyrant.