LIMA — Violence, political intrigue, multi-million-dollar fraud, rich and powerful rivals — sounds like the plot for a novela.
In fact, it’s the real-life melodrama unfolding as two men play out the struggle to gain control of Peru’s Panamericana Television-Canal 5.
The main protagonists are Genaro Delgado Parker, whose father launched the country’s top-rated network in the 1950s, and Ernesto Schutz Jr., whose father wrested control of the channel from Delgado Parker in the 1990s.
Delgado Parker filed numerous lawsuits at the end of the 1990s to try to grab back the net.
In the meantime, both he and Schutz Sr. were implicated in the political corruption scandal that resulted in the ousting of former President Ernesto Fujimori in 2000 after 10 years in power.
Delgado Parker was caught on video at former national security adviser Vladimiro Montesinos’ offices, agreeing to silence an anti-government newscaster. However, the case against him was dropped because authorities could not prove that he took any bribe money.
Schutz Sr. fled to Argentina to avoid arrest after video footage showed him receiving a $350,000 bribe from Montesinos to slant news coverage in Fujimori’s favor. Prosecutors are trying to extradite him on charges of corrupting public authorities and tax evasion. However, he handed over Canal 5 to his son before fleeing.
After Fujimori’s fall, there was a change in media faces as those who opposed him were welcomed back and those who supported him left the country.
With his father out of the country, Schutz Jr. took over at Canal 5. The courts awarded Delgado Parker control of the net in late 2001 — but it wasn’t until a decisive ruling in February that he, with dozens of police in tow, was able to reclaim Canal 5.
Schutz Jr. alleged political bias from the new President Alejandro Toledo swayed the court’s decision.
On July 11, a 23rd Circuit Court voided the February ruling, returning the station to Schutz Jr. — but another judge overruled him later that same day.
The situation exploded into violence just a few hours later when shareholders who support Schutz Jr. arrived at Canal 5 studios in Lima to seize the station.
Accompanied by the police, bodyguards and throngs of journalists — and before hundreds of audience members waiting to file in for afternoon talkers at Panamericana — they were greeted with a shower of yellow paint, cleaning supplies and furniture, raining down from the executive suites.
The Schutz group took control of one studio building, while Delgado Parker’s allies staked out the net’s news studios and transmission operations.
At press time, both sides remain bunkered down, waving judicial rulings favoring their claims.
The judges on the case have been suspended pending a probe by the judicial oversight board and congressional lawmakers have called on the government to yank the net’s broadcasting frequency until a settlement is reached.
In the meantime, the warring factions say the net is losing more than $200,000 a day in advertising and ratings are plummeting.