A Venezuelan cable television channel critical of President Hugo Chavez has been taken off the air after refusing to air footage of the president's speeches.
Radio Caracas Television, an anti-Chavez channel known as RCTV disappeared from TV sets
shortly after midnight after the government cited noncompliance with new regulations requiring that Chavez's speeches be televised on cable as well as terrestrial television.
RCTV was dropped from cable and satellite programming just hours after
Diosdado Cabello, the director of Venezuela's state-run telecommunications agency, said several local channels carried by cable television had breached broadcasting laws and should be removed from the airwaves.
Cabello warned cable operators that
they could find themselves in jeopardy if they keep showing those channels: They must comply with the law, and they cannot have a single channel that violates Venezuelan laws as part of their programming.
RCTV's removal from cable and
satellite television prompted a cacophony of protests in Caracas neighborhoods as Chavez opponents leaned out apartment windows to bang on pots and pans. Others shouted epithets and drivers joined in, honking car horns.
They want to silence
RCTV's voice, said Miguel Angel Rodriguez, the channel's most popular talk show host. But they won't be able to because RCTV is embedded in the hearts of all Venezuelans, he said.
The U.S. Embassy in Caracas expressed concern about the
decision. Access to information is a cornerstone of democracy and provides a foundation for global progress. By restricting yet again the Venezuelan people's access to RCTV broadcasts, the Venezuelan government continues to erode this cornerstone,
Embassy spokeswoman Robin Holzhauer said.