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Chávez, Lula and the media: is it a samba or a waltz?

It was a funny week that passed by here in Brazil, in the wake of the implementation of the Chávez government decision not to renew the broadcasting license of Radio Caracas Television. The Brazilian Senate debated the issue in one of its sessions this week and decided to ask the Venezuelan regime to reconsider the decision. Chávez, in one of his more peculiar speeches, said Brazilian senators “are a parrot that repeats whatever Washington says”, and warned that “it's easier for the Portuguese empire to retake Brazil than for Venezuela to return the television license which finished with Venezuela's oligarchy”. As a result Lula decided to summon Venezuela's ambassador in Brazil to explain Chávez's comments, and that was the signal big media outlets were waiting for in order to spread the word about the much anticipated presidential clash. We should ask: what is the real line in this three partner dance between Chávez, Lula and the media? Brazilian bloggers tell us, from one side to the other, and in the middle.

Chavez Lula

A mídia hegemônica nativa está fazendo um enorme escarcéu com o desabafo do presidente da Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, que acusou o Senado Federal de ser “papagaio” dos interesses dos EUA por este ter aprovado resolução contra o fim da concessão pública à RCTV – os dois únicos votos contrários à moção foram dos senadores Inácio Arruda (PCdoB-CE) e José Nery (PSOL-PA). De todas as formas, tenta jogar o governo e a sociedade brasileira contra o processo revolucionário bolivariano. Defensora descarada do tratado neocolonial da Alca, derrotada nas ruas e nas urnas, ela usa todos os ardis para implodir o rico processo em curso de integração latino-americana. A mídia privada, partidária de golpes fascistas no passado, como em 64, e no presente, como na abjeta manipulação nas eleições presidenciais de 2006, agora tenta pousar de “democrata” e “nacionalista”. Dá nojo e asco! O presidente Lula, que inicialmente até resistiu à pressão midiática para que se opusesse ao fim da concessão da RCTV, acabou caindo na armadilha. Antes, insistiu acertadamente em declarar que “o Brasil não tem nada a ver com a concessão, que é um problema da legislação venezuelana”. Já quando o Senado emitiu sua nota, o governo preferiu não criticar a interferência desta casa legislativa na decisão soberana do país-irmão. Mas, diante da reação do presidente venezuelano e da feroz campanha da mídia, o presidente Lula acabou cedendo e “expressou o seu repúdio a manifestações que coloquem em questão a independência, a dignidade e os princípios democráticos que norteiam nossas instituições”. Era o que a mídia desejava para fazer alarde sobre o “racha” entre Chávez e Lula.
Chavez, o Senado, e a Mídia Escrota – Altamiro Borges in Blog do Rizzolo

The hegemonic media is making a big fuss about the contempt shown by the Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez, who accused the Senate of being US parrots for approving a resolution against the end of RCTV's broadcasting license — the two only votes against came from Senators Inacio Arruda (PCdoB – CE) and José Nery (PSOL-PA). It (the media) is trying in all forms to throw the government and the Brazilian society against the Bolivarian revolutionary process. As a brazen advocate of the Alca neocolonial treaty, defeated on the streets and in the ballots, big media utilizes all the expedients to implode the rich process of Latin American integration now at play. The private media, supporter of fascist coups in the past, as in 1964, or in the present, with the manipulation of the 2006 presidential elections, now tries to stand as ‘democratic’ or ‘nationalist’. It causes loathing and repulsion in me! President Lula, who at first resisted the media pressure to oppose the end of RCTV's broadcasting license, ended up falling in the trap. First he rightly insisted in declaring that “Brazil has nothing to do with the broadcast license, which is a Venezuelan legislation issue”. But when the Senate emitted its note, the government preferred not to criticize the interference from the legislative chamber in the brother-country's sovereign decision. But faced with the reaction of the Venezuelan President and with the ferocious media campaign, President Lula ceded at last and “expressed his complaint toward any manifestation that questions the independence, dignity and democratic principles that guide our institutions”. That's what the media wanted in order to boost the “crack” between Chávez and Lula.
Chavez, o Senado, e a Mídia Escrota – Altamiro Borges in Blog do Rizzolo

Os internautas leram em um único lugar — aqui — que a reação de Lula às críticas de Hugo Chávez ao Congresso brasileiro eram conversa mole, papo-furado. Bingo! O Apedeuta deu uma entrevista à BBC e já disse que o ditador venezuelano é parceiro, e não um perigo para a América Latina, o que significa endossar, entre outras coisas, o que o vagabundo fez com a RCTV. Se a imprensa brasileira não estivesse corroída pelo servilismo ao PT, Lula seria tratado como o que de fato é: um aliado de Chávez, que só não repete aqui as práticas daquele porque as instituições brasileiras não deixam. Por enquanto ao menos. Mas “eles” já estão cuidando disso… Lula disse ainda algo aparentemente razoável, aparentemente racional: “Chávez tem suas razões para brigar com os Estados Unidos. E os Estados Unidos têm suas razões para brigar com a Venezuela. O Brasil não tem nenhuma razão para brigar com os Estados Unidos ou a Venezuela. Nós temos que aprender a respeitar a lógica legal de cada país. Eu não dou palpite nas políticas internas de nenhum país”. Disse o óbvio? Uma pinóia! Lula está igualando uma ditadura a uma democracia. Está dizendo que cada uma delas tem seus motivos. Se falasse sinceramente, seria só delinqüência intelectual. Com sabe que seu juízo é falso, está fazendo uma escolha: a Venezuela.
Lula volta a cair nos braços do ditadorReinaldo Azevedo (Veja)

The Internauts have read in no other place but here, that Lula's reaction to Hugo Chávez's criticism of the Brazilian Congress were bullshit, subterfuge. Bingo! The ‘Apedeuta’ (uninformed, ignorant, stupid) has given an interview to BBC and has already declared that the Venezuelan dictator is a partner, and not a danger to Latin America, which means to endorse, between other things, what the ragbag did with RCTV. If the Brazilian press were not eroded by its servileness to the PT (Lula's party), Lula would be treated according to what he is: a Chávez ally who does not repeat here his practices because the Brazilian institutions won't let him. Until now, at least. But “they” are already taking care of it… Lula said also something apparently reasonable, apparently rational: “Chávez has his reasons to fight with the US, and the US has its reasons to fight with Venezuela. Brazil has no reason to fight with the US or with Venezuela. We have to learn to respect the legal framework of each country. I don't give advice on internal policy to any country”. Has he said the obvious? No kidding! Lula is equaling a dictatorship with a democracy. He is saying that each one has its own motivations. If he is speaking sincerely, it would be a case of intellectual delinquency. As he knows that his judgment is false, he is making a choice: Venezuela.
Lula volta a cair nos braços do ditadorReinaldo Azevedo (Veja)

Com toda a sua bandeira de desafio, Chavez tem alguns pontos frágeis : não está administrando bem a PDVSA, seu governo no geral é ineficiente, Chavez não tem um partido estruturado e nem tem um sólido grupo político, tudo depende dele, se amanhã desaparecer o chavismo tende a sumir e a Venezuela poderá entrar em convulsão. O Brasil está investindo bastante nas relações com a Venezuela, diplomàticamente e financeiramente. O BNDES tem emprestado muito à Venezuela, para financiar compra de produtos brasileiros e construções feitas por empreiteiras brasileiras (Odebrecht) e a Petrobrás está investindo alto diretamente e via Braskem. O risco é elevado. O problema dos regimes tipo Chavez e Morales não é o radicalismo, é a imprevisibilidade… O Brasil chegou ao limite nas relações com Chavez, daqui para frente há boas probabilidades de aumentarem os problemas e diminuírem as oportunidades. Governos deste estilo tem a necessidade de elevar o tom para criar permanente tensão interna, como forma de manter o controle político. uma característica do Governo Chavez desde o primeiro dia, ninguém pode se dizer surpreendido com o fechamento da RCTV, que é apenas parte de um processo continuado..
Chavez e a imprevisibilidade
– André Araújo in Luis Nassif Online

With his huge and challenging flag, Chavez has his own vulnerable points: he is not managing the PDVSA well, his government is inefficient in general, Chavez does not have a structured party and neither a solid political group, everything depends on him, and if he disappears tomorrow, Chavezism also will end and Venezuela risks entering into convulsion. Brazil is investing a lot in its relationship with Venezuela, diplomatically and financially. The BNDES (Social and Economic Development National Bank) has made huge loans to Venezuela, financing the purchase of Brazilian products and buildings made by Brazilian contractors (Odebrecht), and Petrobras is investing high sums, directly and through Braskem. The risk is big. The problem with regimes like the ones led by Chavez and Morales is not the radicalism, but the unpredictability…. Brazil has reached the limit in its relations with Chávez, from now on the chances are big that problems will increase and opportunities will diminish. Those kinds of governments hold the need to raise the volume in order to create permanent internal tension as a way of maintaining the political control. This is a characteristic of Chavez government since day one, and no one can be surprised with RCTV's closing, which is just part of a continuing process..
Chavez e a imprevisibilidade
– André Araújo in Luis Nassif Online


Following the evening news
here in Brazil, one could perceive the attitude shift in the headlines that auspiciously announced Lula's rebuke of the Chávez response to the Brazilian Senate. And in some headlines, as bloggers report, there were efforts to deliberately augment the number of opposition supporters at a demonstration in Caracas. Predictably, media corporations are trying to make their point and get as many supporters as possible in their crusade against Chávez, and President Lula would make the perfect ally. Brazilian bloggers complain about the absence of reliable sources in the media when the issue happens to be the Venezuelan president.

Given that corporate media and the Washington establishment are one and the same, it's no surprise that none of the major English-language news wires ran a story about Lula's position of non-interference in the RCTV case. AP didn't run anything about it. Reuters didn't either. And neither did any of the major U.S. dailies. Only the German wire Deutsche Presse-Agentur and the Chinese wire Xinhua reported the story. In other words, a story that doesn't fit the Washington establishment's divide-and-conquer strategy is curiously absent from the major English-language press.
Lessons in Media Manipulation: Lula, Chavez and RCTVLatin America News Review

O correspondente da Folha em Caracas, de cujo nome não faço questão alguma de lembrar-me, relata em notícia que foi manchete de primeira página em seis colunas na edição impressa, que “vários milhares de estudantes” foram impedidos de sair às ruas por “uma barreira de dezenas de policiais de tropa de choque”. Além do fato, mais que risível, de ele não ter visto o absurdo que é falar em “vários milhares” detidos por “dezenas de policiais”, ainda que sejam da tropa de choque, a “reportagem” é tirada das páginas do “El Universal”, e não da experiência pessoal do jornalista, que deve achar mais imparcial escrever do seu quarto de hotel do que sair às ruas em busca de fatos. Os “vários milhares”, aliás, parecem ser a única contribuição do correspondente aos “fatos”, porque a reportagem da qual ele tirou as informações , (ou esta) não menciona em parte alguma qual seria o número de manifestantes barrados, mas precisa o número de policiais: quarenta. Ou seja, o número declarado com precisão transforma-se num vago “dezenas”, enquanto o número não declarado aumenta para “vários milhares”… E esta é a notícia publicada como manchete de primeira página pela Folha de S. Paulo. Até onde vai a falta de respeito pela verdade factual, e pela inteligência alheia?
Chavez e a imprevisibilidade
– Tomás Bueno in Luis Nassif Online

Folha's correspondent in Caracas, whose name I am not interested in remembering, reports in an article that won the first page headlines in six columns of the printed edition, that “many thousands students” were blocked from getting into the streets by “a barrage of dozens of special corps policemen”. Besides the laughable fact of talking about “many thousands” being blocked by “dozens of policemen”, even talking about special corps, the “report” is taken from the pages of “El Universal” and not from the journalist's personal experience, who seems to think that it is more impartial to write from the hotel room than going out to the streets in search of the “facts”, because the report from where he got the information nowhere mentions the number of blocked demonstrators, but has a precise account of the number of policemen: 40. That is, the number precisely stated turns into a vague “dozens”, while the not stated number [of demonstrators] grows into “many thousands”…. And this is the article published as first page headline in Folha de São Paulo. Where will this lack of respect for the factual truth go, and for other people's intelligence?
Chavez e a imprevisibilidade
– Tomás Bueno in Luis Nassif Online

A dificuldade de escrever sobre Hugo Chavez e a não renovação da concessão da RCTV é a ausência de fontes confiáveis. Vamos analisar, primeiro, em tese. Dentre todos os quatro poderes, o mais ágil, o mais influente é a mídia, porque ajuda a moldar consciências, a controlar as informações (e, por conseqüência, a capacidade de julgamento da opinião pública). Daí a importância de se ter uma mídia plural, objetiva, técnica e democrática. É o que a legitima como fiscal dos demais poderes. A partir do momento em que abre mão de seu papel mediador, instrumentaliza as denúncias com o objetivo de derrubar presidentes, o jogo é outro. Na América Latina, após a redemocratização a imprensa conseguiu derrubar diversos presidentes, dentre os quais Andrés Perez, na Venezuela, e Fernando Collor no Brasil. Tornou-se poder maior, e com apetite para investir sobre os demais poderes, inclusive derrubando mais presidentes. As tentativas contra FHC e, mais agudamente, contra Lula, são exemplos recentes. Foi o que ocorreu com a imprensa venezuelana algum tempo atrás, quando chegou a apear Chavez do poder, embora por pouco tempo. Agora vem o troco. Para avaliar adequadamente o ato de Chavez, torna-se necessário dispor de duas informações fundamentais. A primeira, como vinha sendo a atuação dessa emissora nos últimos anos. Persistiu a intenção golpista ou não? A segunda, como tem sido a atuação da mídia venezuelana como um todo. A segunda questão é relevante para se avaliar se a decisão de Chavez desequilibra o jogo, em favor do Executivo, ou não.
Chavez e a RCTVLuis Nassif Online

The difficulty in writing about Hugo Chavez and RCTV's lost broadcasting license comes from the absence of reliable sources. Let's analyze, first, in theory. Among all four powers, the most agile and most influential is the media, because it helps molding awarenesses and controlling the information — and as a consequence, it can control the public capacity of judgment. Here we see the importance of having a pluralistic media ecology, objective, technical and democratic. This is what can legitimize it as the checker of the other powers. The moment a media outlet leaves its mediator place, and starts instituting denouncements aiming to knock down presidents, the game has changed. In Latin America, after the re-democratization the media succeeded in bringing down many presidents, among them Andrés Perez in Venezuela, and Fernando Collor in Brazil. It became a bigger power, with the appetite to inveigh against the other powers, and knocking down presidents if needed. The attempts against FHC (former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso) and, more acutely, against Lula, are recent examples. That's what happened with the Venezuelan media sometime ago, when it managed to take Chavez down from power, although for a short period of time. Now comes the payback. In order to adequately analyze Chavez's move, it is important to have access to two fundamental [pieces of] information. First, how was this broadcasting network working in the last few years? Has it persisted in its coup-minded intention or not? Second, how has the Venezuelan media in general functioned? The second question is relevant to evaluate if Chavez's decision will unleash the game favoring the Executive, or not.
Chavez e a RCTVLuis Nassif Online


In this battle of renditions
, it is important to mention that the Brazilian Congress has veto power over Venezuela's ongoing application process for full membership in the regional trade alliance Mercosur and it could damage Chavez's continental plans independent of Lula's actual directions. Chavez faces the political constraint of having to “sell” Venezuela's membership to the Brazilian Congress as well as to the President.

Lula's most recent word on the controversy was given in an interview at BBC's HardTalk, where he offered a framework of tolerance combined with a faith that everything can be OK if countries are able to respect each other and their unique historical imperatives. He called for partnership in areas of agreement, respect in areas of disagreement and a combined effort to transcend the conflicts of the past for the benefit of all in the 21st Century.

On the other hand, Lula has certainly learned how to deal with the media, and he is surely toping his histrionic neighbor in this particular and important area. He seems to be more aware about the changes that the media ecology is going through, and appears confident that by maintaining openness as a pattern, the outcomes generally will be positive. In this three partner dance, Lula seems to be setting the rhythm by creating a form that accepts diversity and improvisation, more like a samba than a waltz.


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