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Venezuela's Chavez Threatens Another Private Television Station

Two days after forcing a private Venezuelan television station off the air, President Hugo Chavez has threatened to crack down on another non-governmental TV broadcaster. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington.

It has been two days since opposition-allied Radio Caracas Television ceased transmission, replaced by a state-funded network called Venezuelan Social Television. Protests against the move continue to grow and expand across Venezuela, with students and others taking to the streets in many cities.

Government backers have mounted counter-demonstrations in the capital. President Hugo Chavez has brushed aside concerns voiced by international press freedom groups that liberty of expression is under attack.

At the same time, however, officials have launched an investigation of another broadcaster, Globovision, accusing the opposition private television station of using subliminal messages to incite an assassination attempt on the president.

Addressing supporters, Mr. Chavez delivered a direct message to Globovision, which has provided extensive coverage of anti-government demonstrations.

He says, "To the people of Globovision, if you want to continue calling for disobedience and inciting a presidential assassination as was done openly two nights ago, when Globovision clearly urged that I be killed - then I am warning you in front of the entire nation that you calm down because I will apply the minimum."

The president did not elaborate, but Venezuelan media experts say Mr. Chavez' rhetorical use of the word "minimum" is meant to suggest the opposite, that the maximum sanction would be applied. Moments later, the president said he is prepared to die to defend his beliefs and he asked if opposition media outlets are similarly prepared.

Globovision's director, Alberto Frederico Ravell, called government accusations against his station "ridiculous."

The Inter-American Press Association has labeled Mr. Chavez' crackdown on Venezuela's private news media "undemocratic."

Mr. Chavez acknowledged increasingly fierce protests in the country, but said upheaval is normal during revolutionary times. The self-proclaimed socialist leader said student demonstrators are being manipulated in defense of Venezuela's capitalistic oligarchy.