Monday, February 15, 2010

Ravell out of Globovision: the politics of survival under XXI century neo-totalitarianism?

Alberto Federico Ravell, director of the lone remaining opposition network, has been ousted of his job.  This modest blogger of course has no access to the juicy information that all crave when such an event takes place.  But historical precedent and logic can go along way in establishing at least a credible hypothesis of what might be going on.

Let's start by reviewing the single facts.

Globovision is owned by several people, one of them is Ravell.  But two other, and the main stockholders we understand, are Mezerhane owner of Banco Federal (and other), and Zuloaga owner of many business including a dealership of Toyota ransacked by the government without any legal basis and for which Zuloaga will never be compensated.  These two stockholders have been subjected to many attacks from the chavista neo-totalitarian proceedings which in many cases are just plain robbery, you know, like fascism and communism did do (and still do whenever given a chance).  Mezerhane was even detained upon a false testimony on the Anderson case.  Here the question is not "how come Globovision owners are caving into the government  pressure?" but "How come they did not cave in earlier?".

The other fact is that the political times have changed.  If the hard line approach of Globovision paid off earlier in keeping the flame of liberty alive in Venezuela, today it is not working as well in front of a government growing desperate because of a situation it cannot control.  For those of you a little bit dense or anti Chavez beyond reason: a softer Globovision is better than no Globovision.  And Globovision without the financial banking of things like Banco Federal has little chance to make it alone.  Let's go a little bit into the history here.

First, I am not exaggerating when I write that Globovision courageous fight has been essential in slowing down our march toward an outright repressive state).  When we compare its role with those of Venevision and even Televen, we must be proud of Globovion stubbornness in refusing to play the game Chavez wanted to force upon the media.  Venevision and its owner Gustavo Cisneros are now into the opprobrium list of Venezuela history from which they will never recover, Gustavo Cisneros being the ultimate capitalist pig, making a deal with Chavez to save his investments while he lives safely anywhere else but Venezuela, all sponsored by his good fishing friend Jimmy Carter.

Those who criticize Globovision assertiveness in reporting the news are either never watching what the State Networks do, think that Venezuela is a normal democracy or simply live overseas and do not suffer from cadenas and other such evil.  Globovision news line until today was a product of the times, a forced necessity.  Bemoaning its energy was simply idiotically out of touch.  Not that yours truly did not think on many occasions Globovision exaggerated some of the stuff it reported, but such excesses where commented in selected company, as a concession to the war we had to fight because Chavez imposed it on us.  Public dissent over Globovision line was a waste of time, a demonstration on how out of touch with reality one was.

However this was changing because Globovision, or rather Ravell's line, was to play among the opposition groups and leaders to decide who were the chosen ones.  And this was becoming more and more difficult to tolerate.  This was done very simply: some opposition leaders were frequent guests, and some not. After the exit of RCTV from the open airwaves you can imagine the importance of such guest appearances for the alleged careers of many opposition politicians, or even NGO.  The more so that Globovision was always suffering of a Caracas centered approach with the political leaders having return performances.

Now we can try a theory.

The owners of Globovision must have realized collectively that after the second closing of RCTV, Globovision closing was just a matter of time.  The modus operandi, ruining Zuloaga or Mezerhane, or closing Globovision outright was irrelevant: we all knew that sooner or later Globovision would be relegated to Cable only, and eventually closed down, RCTV style.

The owners for sure did all sense that Ravell was having a political agenda of his own: after all he comes himself from a political family.  This probably brought problems as it is one thing to oppose the regime, and another one to oppose the regime for the sake of one of the stockholders.

Also, it is not far-fetched to think that Globovision could become an issue as the opposition is getting ready to hold its primaries, trying to cobble together some credible agenda.  Neutrality from Globovision among the different opposition groups (factions?) was something that, well, Ravell could not provide, and probably was not willing to provide as it is rumored he might run himself.  If indeed Ravell runs, it would be more convincing for Globovision to support him if he is not anymore its director, by the way.  No?

Sorting all of this was not easy and brought many rumors, including chavista heavy weights willing to force their way in the stockholder group.  How many of these rumors were real or were launched to distract folks is something that we cannot know for sure, nor we should care about once we understand the reality of the situation.  The real reality I mean, that the September election are the last opportunity to avoid outright civil war to remove this wannabe totalitarian regime.  The regime is doomed, we all know that, Venezuela unlike Cuba is not an island, but that does not mean we should not try civil means until all are exhausted.  For such purpose it is better to have a less engaged Globovision than no Globovision at all.  Globovision needs to be alive until next October and with Ravell at the helm it was less likely than without Ravell to succeed.

What will be the new Globovision?  Let's not forget that if Zuloaga was not associated with the day to day running of Globovision, he was certainly not an absentee landlord and supported fully the Globovision editorial line until at least the second semester of 2009.  Certainly a certain tone down is to be expected, in particular those highly irritating for chavismo when Globovision repeats endlessly their very own oral mistakes, vulgar gestures, idiotic stagings.  And does it matter much at this point?  Is there really anyone in Venezuela that does not know what is going on?  The question here is whether folks will be willing to keep enabling this regime, and those who chose to enable, trust me on that one, know they are doing it, with or without Globovision telling them.  If we were talking long term maybe, but we are talking months here, and there is little that Globovision can do in addition of the electric crisis that need no comment as people are going to suffer its consequences, even the idiot ones that think it is swell to work 4 days week.

So we must now wait.  Will "el ciudadano" come back?  Was strident Nitu put there to replace him during the crisis to make chavistas miss Leopoldo Castillo? Will we find out what was real show and real tragedy in the insight fighting of Globovion?  ¡Pon Globovision!

Post with no links because too many would be required, and all is of public notoriety by now.  If you want to know more you can use the key words globovision, mezerhane, zuloaga, etc  on this blog for a start :)


  1. We watch Globovision (here in NY) all the time but didn't have any idea of this backstory. Fascinating. We were sad to see him go. He used to be on the air a lot more than he had been recently. It would be very interesting to see him run for office!


  2. Charly3:14 PM

    Really enjoyed this article. It all makes sense.

  3. Boludo Tejano5:58 PM

    Those who previously criticized Globo's journalistic standards for being too stridently anti-Chavez will have even more reason to criticize them now. But for another reason. Oh well.

    If Globo had been more "objective" w.r. to Chavismo this would still have come to pass.

    The point about Ravell's playing favorites regarding giving oppo people air time, something I didn't know about, is something to be factored into the equation. It will be interesting to see how air time for oppo figures changes.

  4. Ravell may have played favorites but anyone else would too. That is impossible to avoid because you have limited airtime and you have to be selective. In a normal country that is barely noticeable because there are many channels playing their own favorites and it tends to balance out.

    Also it wasn't only Ravell since every program producer has their own favorites and so is typical to see the same guest repeat in one program and yet never appear in others.

  5. Maria Colomina has an article about this in El Universal today. It's a little bit of a different take. He was taken out because of a deal to save one of the owner's bank. (You talked about this somewhat in your post but this made it sound more like saving the bank out of self-interest than to finance Globovision.

    Also, I didn't realize that this was the end of Ud. Lo Vió and Aunque Ud. No Lo Crea.


  6. mucho

    i do not quite agree with marta colomina on that one. if it were a question of only saving the bank mezerhane would have sold his take on globovison much earlier. zuloaga and mezerhane know very well that they are doomed under chaevz. being nice to him today at best postpones the closing of globovion for october or later and the take over of the bank until chavez runs out of money.


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