In yet another twist in the ongoing saga at beleaguered Venezuelan news web Globovision, President Hugo Chavez declared Tuesday that his government was claiming a stake in the opposition-leaning web.
Chavez is appropriating the 25.8% held by banker Nelson Mezerhane, who fled the country in May after the government seized his Banco Federal.
“This is going to cause an uproar in the opposition,” Chavez said on state television.
Chavez said he would name either Mario Silva or Alberto Nolia, both his staunch allies, to the Globovision board.
“Legally, it is impossible for the President to appoint a board member to Globovision; only the board can do that,” said its former director Alberto Federico Ravell, who was ousted in February under political pressure but remains a board member and shareholder.
Chavez said the state could nab another 20% of the 24-hour news web from the estate of late shareholder Luis Teofilo Nunez, claiming that media stakes could not be passed on to heirs.
“Adding 25.8% to 20%, we get 45.8% of Globovision,” Chavez said. “No one can say that we are expropriating. We’re incorporating ourselves into the business,” he added. “We will defend the interest of shareholders — pure capitalism.”
Globovision released a terse statement saying that the company’s editorial stance could never be “expropriated or intervened.”
Globovision president and owner Guillermo Zuloaga and his son also fled to the U.S. to escape arrest stemming from alleged charges of usury.
“It seems Chavez now wants to get rid of all of Globovision’s board members,” said Ravell.
Globovision, which reaches 42% of the country, is the last remaining voice of dissent on Venezuela’s free-to-air TV airwaves. RCTV, the oldest web in Venezuela, was relegated to cable and satellite in 2007 after the state refused to renew its terrestrial broadcasting license for its alleged support of Chavez’s detractors.