Future of Venezuela's Catholic TV in Peril


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CARACAS, Venezuela, JULY 21, 2010 ( In the latest move of an escalating conflict between Church and government leaders in Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez is taking back a television channel run by the Caracas Archdiocese.

Chávez asked the minister of the interior, Tareck El Aissami, to "revise" the concession of a television channel to the archdiocese soon after reiterating his intention to reexamine Venezuela's agreement with the Holy See.

The president announced his intention to "recover" the broadcasting station known as Vale TV (which stands for Television Educational Values) and "place it at the disposition of the people."

On its Web page, Vale TV identifies itself as a non-profit, open channel dedicated to culture. Founded in 1952, it was the first public television channel of that country, and was handed over to the archdiocese in 1998 by President Rafael Caldera. The archdiocese began broadcasting Dec. 4 of that year.

Chávez claimed that Caldera's act "violated a set of procedures." He said, "That channel, when I was already president-elect in December of 1998, was transferred (to the bishops) without following the procedures exactly."

This move is the latest in a series that began earlier this month. On July 5, the president leveled verbal attacks against the archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa, who in turn spoke out against the "illegal" and "unconstitutional" actions of Chávez.


Chávez then announced that he wants to revise Venezuela's agreement with the Holy See, and he invited the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, to "talk" on the matter.

The president also said that Benedict XVI's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, called Venezuela's foreign minister, Nicolás Maduro, this week, "concerned" about the recent statements regarding a revision of the 1964 agreement between the two entities.

"It seems that they are very worried in the Vatican because I announced, and we are going to do it, a revision of the agreement," said Chávez, in reference to the signing of the Modus Vivendi of March 6, 1964, between the Venezuelan State and the Holy See.

Among other things, this document provides resources to the local Church for the financing of social works and educational projects.

Chávez continued, "I told [Maduro] to hear him and see what he is going to say [...] and to tell him that we are faced with [Venezuelan] bishops and cardinals who have taken part in the coup d'etat," which ousted the president from power for two days in April of 2002.

Chávez said that he is a Catholic, but he expressed the belief that in Venezuela, "all religions are the same" and "there can be no privilege."