People march to support new channel in Venezuela

On June 2, masses of people from different parts of the country descended on the streets of Caracas to march in support of the government of socialist President Hugo Chavez, and the new TV channel Venezuelan Social Television (TVes). TVes is broadcasting on Channel 2, previously used by RCTV — owned by multi-millionaire Marcel Granier — whose 20-year concession ran out on May 27. RCTV will continue on cable, but many Venezuelans feel that after helping organise the April 2002 coup against the elected government, RCTV is lucky to remain on air at all.

June 2 was a day of protest and celebration. People took to the streets to support the right to have a state-supported channel that will better meet the needs of the people, and to celebrate Chavez's decision not to renew RCTV's licence. The march was longer than the march in support of the revolution on May Day — which was said to be between 500,000 and 1.5 million people — and involved many different groups, such as the social missions, cooperatives and unions from all over the country.

The march wound through the rich part of town before making its way into Avenida Bolivar, where their president gave an outstanding speech. During the march I asked Alexis Medina, who is from Altimano, an impoverished Caracas barrio, why he was marching. "I came here today to support Chavez and the new channel", he explained. He said that the opposition had a right to protest, but he didn't understand their support for RCTV. Medina explained that he had no malice towards the opposition, but that he strongly supported the new state-backed channel.

As I write this, people are still protesting in support of TVes. Venezuela has been criticised by the international media, which only presents the viewpoint of the opposition and repeats the lie that RCTV has been "closed", when it is free to continue broadcasting via cable. The mass protest is a message to the world that the Venezuelan people want this channel and support their president.