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18 Nov 2008 07:53
Government wiretaps of opposition politicians usually remain secret, restricted to the ears of spooks and ministers. But in democracy Venezuela-style, everyone gets to listen in.
President Hugo Chávez has filled the airwaves with tapped conversations of his political foes to embarrass and apparently intimidate them in the run-up to regional elections.
State TV has broadcast the recordings, enhanced with comic sound effects, in a barrage of attack adverts that would make even Karl Rove blush.
The prime target has been Manuel Rosales, an opposition leader who is tipped to become mayor of Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second city.
Another advert plays a conversation with Rosales negotiating the purchase of cattle, to a backdrop of mooing sounds and cartoon pictures of coins.
Other politicians, as well as journalists and diplomats, have found private conversations, as well as photographs and video images, broadcast on state TV.
“They use shameful systems to get information, but that’s their problem—I’m relaxed,” said Rosales.
Much of the information is believed to be intercepted by the Cuban-backed intelligence services. The government passes selected excerpts to state networks.
Mario Silva, a pro-Chávez TV host who blasts political foes on a nightly chat show, is running for governor of Carabobo state. Silva has aired conversations of army officers allegedly plotting to overthrow the president, as well as photos of a US diplomat dressed as a nun with fake breasts at a Halloween party.
Opinion polls suggest the opposition will win several key governorships and municipalities in the regional elections, on the back of public frustration over crime, inflation and public services.—guardian.co.uk
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