Venezuela: Chávez, media mogul trade accusations following police raid

Venezuelan police and soldiers on May 21 raided a property belonging to Guillermo Zuloaga, president of the country’s opposition Globovisión news network amid a growing confrontation between the station and the government of President Hugo Chávez. Judicial police chief Wilmer Flores Trossel said authorities found 24 Toyota vehicles on the Caracas property. “The owners of the residence will have to explain what these vehicles are doing there and why they aren’t in a dealership,” he said.

Zuloaga said he had “nothing to hide” and that the cars were being stored at the property because a dealership he owns had been robbed. He suggested the raid was an attempt to intimidate him, telling reporters: “I don’t know if they’re trying to find something to try to shut me up. They won’t shut us up.” (AP, May 22)

Chávez defended the raid in comments the following day at the opening of a chapter of the Armed Forces University in central Barinas state. “Some house, property of a filthy rich in Caracas, filled with luxury cars, and they did not produce any documents. Go and defend yourselves in court. If I have 40 cars, I should explain why I have them,” said Chávez. “And what does the bourgeoisie say? Surprise, surprise! The owner of that house is also the owner of a TV channel. They say that Chávez is chasing them. Impunity must end here!” (El Univseral, Caracas, May 21)

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  1. Venezuela orders arrest of anti-Chávez TV boss
    From VOA, June 12:

    Venezuela issued an arrest warrant Friday for the owner of the country’s only remaining pro-opposition television channel that has been critical of President Hugo Chavez.

    Security officers went to the home of Globovision’s president, Guillermo Zuloaga, to arrest him and his son, who is also named in the warrant. Neither man was at the property.

    Authorities say the father and son have been charged with usury. The charges are linked to a 2009 case in which the father and son were accused of illegally keeping 24 new Toyotas.

    The elder Zuloaga is also facing charges for allegedly making false and offensive remarks about President Chavez at a meeting of the Inter-American Press Association in Aruba.

    Zuloaga spoke about restrictions on freedom of expression in Venezuela at the March gathering.

    The human rights body of the Organization of American States said earlier this year that it is concerned about the use of the punitive power of the state to silence opponents in Venezuela. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called on Venezuela to avoid using direct or indirect means to silence critical opinions or allegations against members of the government.

    The commission has issued a report saying Venezuela under President Chavez constrains freedom of expression and has placed serious restrictions on human rights. Mr. Chavez called the report “garbage.”