Opposition written press, radio and television have adopted a mixed approach towards the coup in Honduras, criticising Chavez’s involvement in trying to rectify it, defending the currently sworn in president, and justifying the reasons for the coup, whilst portraying the situation in Honduras as peaceful and ignoring the military repression. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez accused the opposition of wanting a similar coup in Venezuela, and also of attempting to divide the armed forces.
Last Sunday, Honduran president Manuel Zelaya was kidnapped and the government was shut down. Since then protests in response have been brutally repressed. The United Nations (UN), the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) and the Organisation of American States (OAS) have all unanimously voted against the coup and to recognise Zelaya as president.
The Venezuelan daily El Nacional portrayed the events and kidnapping of President Zelaya as “legal” and as having the approval of the “public authorities”.
CNN Spanish, broadcast on cable TV in Venezuela, split its screen yesterday while Zelaya was delivering his speech to the UN, to show on the other larger half, protests by Hondurans who support the coup. The show zoomed in on the various placards protesters were holding, many of them in English. It did not show the multiple anti-coup protests and repression of them occurring in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa. CNN categorised the coup as a “forced succession” and Zelaya as the “dismissed president”.
The Venezuelan opposition television station Globovision also has not shown footage of anti-coup protests. Its commentators have argued that what took place was not a coup, and it has streamed text messages along the bottom of the screen, celebrating the events. It has been portraying the situation in Honduras as peaceful, the events as democratic, and referring to Roberto Micheletti, who swore himself in on Sunday, as “president”.
One Globovision anchor, Fernando Garcia, said people in Honduras were worried by “the threats of Mr Chavez, in the sense that he’s going to interfere in the country.” Another, Leopoldo Castillo, classified Chavez’s participation in the issue as “abandoning the country” and criticised the National Assembly for discussing the situation in Honduras. Further, anchor Antonio Sanchez said, “The big loser in Honduras is Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias, who wanted to impose Zelaya and didn’t achieve it.”
“What we are seeing is that Chavismo is starting to suffer forceful blows in Latin America,” Sanchez said.
Legislator Dario Vivas said the opposition press was using “ambiguous discourse” when referring to the coup in Honduras only because of the international community’s pronouncements against the coup.
“They are justifying the coup, trying to blame President Chavez, talking of interference… and not of the international presence and solidarity that has been shown towards the Honduran people and President Zelaya,” Vivas said.
Other opposition members, such as the dean of politics at the University of Zulia, Diana Romero, have repeated the discourse used by the Honduran coup supporters. “The congress of the Republic of Honduras unanimously decided to remove its president from his position as they judged he had disrespected constitutional norms,” Romero told the press.
The president of opposition party A New Time (UNT), Omar Barboza, referred to the coup leaders as the “current Honduran authorities” which he said “aren’t going to be brought down” by the Organisation of American States (OAS) which recently unanimously rejected the coup.
Metropolitan District Mayor Antonio Ledezma also criticised Chavez’s “interference,” saying, “I ask that the Hondurans solve this problem.” He had just returned from a trip to the United States where he was looking for opposition campaign financing.
Other Venezuelan opposition leaders, such as the mayor of Lecherias, Anzoategui state, have more carefully referred to the events in Honduras as “delicate”, whilst the youth leader of the political party Democratic Action (AD), Angel Medina, said the events weren’t a “traditional Latin American coup.”
“It would seem that now Chavez has become the George Bush of Latin America, when… the [Venezuelan] government interferes in the internal affairs of Honduras,” said Medina.
President Chavez said the opposition are endorsing the Honduran coup in order to re-write the coup that happened in Venezuela in April 2002. “The Venezuelan oligarchy here would like what is happening in Honduras to happen here again… in the same format,” said Chavez at a military ceremony in Aragua state yesterday.
He said the opposition in Venezuela seek to destabilise the country anyway they can, including “assassination of the president, division of the Armed Forces, media warfare…. And they repeat it all so many times that some Venezuelans end up believing it.”
“They have been obscenely and grotesquely applauding [the coup] openly on television, radio, and written press… It’s amazing how political leaders here in Venezuela keep saying that in Honduras there’s not a coup but a power vacuum,” Chavez said.
During his speech at the ceremony Chavez compared the role of the military in Honduras, who he said have not stood by the “people who are in the streets protesting [the coup]” to the role of the military in Venezuela. He said Venezuelan soldiers are “the people armed” and that their role is to strengthen national unity and sovereignty and to contribute to creating “the great Latin American and Caribbean homeland… for us, homeland is [the continent of] America.”
The Venezuelan president also accused opposition media of trying to divide the armed forces with their negative campaign about the process of transition to the Law of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces, which was passed in August last year.
Chavez said the media is trying to create the idea that there is discontent within the military over the law, but he said if someone isn’t happy with the law they can leave the armed forces.
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This post was written by Tamara Pearson