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Telesur: integration or disintegration and confrontation?

By Gustavo Coronel

August 2, 2005 | The concept that the Chávez regime tries to associate with the new regional satellite TV channel Telesur is that of integration. To integrate is the process through which previously fragmented and different components are incorporated into a new whole. The dictionary mentions specifically: "the incorporation as equals into society, an organization of individuals of different groups (as races)." The main thrust of the concept is, therefore, that of bringing material or social components together. Is Telesur an integrating tool, as Chávez claims?

A report titled "The first 120 hours of Telesur" (El Tiempo, July 29, 2005) brings us highly mixed reactions from three of the analysts in the region. One of the first observations made about Telesur is positive. It relates to the graphic quality of the programs, defined as "clean, colorful and modern."

Content receives considerably less praise. Sociologist Tulio Hernández calls the programming "slow" and adds: "It seems to be designed for elites. . . . They talk about integration but the channel is not alive, is not near the people." Hernández notes that "rather than a vehicle for massive communication, it seems more of an evangelical channel, designed to preach to the converted, to please an elite: the anti-imperialistic left." Critics Hernández, Barrios and Safar, reports El Tiempo, coincide in the need for Telesur to be independent. They all consider the channel, with different nuances, "a political instrument."

More outspoken is journalist and professor at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, Gloria Cuenca. In her opinion (El Nacional, "Telesur es un dineral perdido,"​ ​​​​ August 1,2005) "Telesur appears to be a gigantic waste of money." Although Chávez calls Telesur the "pretty girl of our August 1,2005) "Telesur appears to be a gigantic waste of money." Although Chávez calls Telesur the "pretty girl of our integration," Cuenca says, "The project is highly charged with ideological bias and propaganda." These are schemes, she says, "That are no longer valid in human society." Cuenca adds that the concept of a TV channel as a unifying sociological tool was utilized successfully in Europe, through Eurovision. She argues that Telesur would have been equally valid if: "it had accepted our diversity, the democratic condition prevailing in our region." But Telesur, she says: "is transmitting an obsolete ideology, defeated in history. The ideas of Guevara and of all the political regimes that Telesur promote were not defeated by the U.S. but by history." And she adds: "by utilizing its present programming strategy, Telesur will become a factor of disintegration and unrest in the region, instead of trying to unite us through language, cultural traditions and concern for common problems such as poverty." Cuenca concludes that Telesur "has been born politicized, polarized and intent on political propaganda."

While integration is a valid and worthy concept and one that Telesur claims to advocate but is failing to achieve, confrontation can be a highly undesirable objective for a regional TV channel. Confrontation has to do with the clashing of forces or ideas. As such, it is really the opposite of integration. It would seem clear that Telesur is showing much more of a tendency towards confrontation than towards integration. Telesur is not trying to reach all Venezuelans or all Latin Americans, but is aiming at those who are sympathetic to the economic and political ideologies championed by Hugo Chávez, the main sponsor of the channel. These ideologies include: anti-imperialism, anti-globalization, anti-free trade organizations and anti-privatization, on the one hand and pro-Cuba, pro-leftist movements, pro-State ownership, strong military governments on the other. When we put these elements together, Telesur clearly seems to be a tool for confrontation rather than for integration.

A private ideological tool financed with national money?

Telesur labels itself as the answer to CNN. However, CNN is a commercial venture, privately owned. It conforms to publicly monitored journalistic ethics. CNN does not follow a government line. To create a Venezuelan financed regional TV channel to oppose CNN seems to be a highly debatable use of our national monies. In particular I would ask:

* Why should we finance the promotion of the Castro dictatorship? Although Cuba is one of the four "shareholders" of Telesur we all know that Chavez is putting the money. Cuba is not putting one cent.

* Why should we finance the promotion of the Colombian guerrillas? Many Venezuelans have been kidnapped and murdered by those terrorists.

* Why should we finance a line of systematic anti-democratic preaching if we are, overwhelmingly, a democracy-loving nation?

These and other reasons have to be taken into account when evaluating Telesur as a national project. I do not believe Telesur, as it exists, is a valid national project. I believe it is, clearly, a personal project of Hugo Chávez, financed with our national resources. I believe this situation is immoral, in the light of our numerous social needs.

While the physical infrastructure and social fabric of the country is literally falling apart, due to the ineptness and the corruption of the political regime, Hugo Chávez is engaged in the utilization of enormous Venezuelan financial resources to buy political loyalties in Latin America. This is one of the main reasons why he has to go.

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