Argentina has become the first nation to leave TeleSUR, the news network established by former president of Venezuela Hugo Chávez.
The government of Mauricio Macri, who became the president of Argentina in November, has announced that they will no longer be affiliating themselves with or financing TeleSUR. They are the first founding member to do so, leaving behind Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Uruguay.
While a good portion of the country is no doubt applauding Argentina’s departure from TeleSUR, the channel itself and Argentinians who watched it are outraged. When announcing that Mauricio’s government would be pulling out of the network, the TeleSUR article ended with other examples of media repression they say have taken place in Argentina.
“Within days of taking office, Macri started taking steps to undermine the country’s Media Law, a 2009 communications policy designed to promote media diversity by limiting the dominance of big media corporations and creating space for smaller, alternative, and community outlets… Argentines have protested against the news measures, saying that they amount to repression and censorship.”
The disassociation of Argentina and TeleSUR is also linked to Mauricio’s changes to the Media Law. According to local paper La Nación, TeleSUR was estimated to reach 80 percent of the Argentine population. Classified as a government signal, it had to be included in even the most basic of cable packages. A national decree from the Macri administration dissolved the organization who put that motion in order, already putting the future of TeleSUR in Argentina in an uncertain position.
As TeleSUR itself was founded to overcome a so-called neoliberal and hegemonic slant, the channel is, of course, quite at odds with the new policies of Mauricio. Macri’s primary goal has been getting Argentina back into capital markets. In order to do that, he must get Argentina’s budget deficit down from a staggering 7 percent of GDP, aggressively pursue corruption, and pay billions to holdout creditors.
All of these actions have been achieved through means directly against the populist values of TeleSUR, as well as those of the recently departed Kirchner administration — who played a direct hand in the founding of the channel. Mauricio’s extreme criticism of her government has likely not gone over well at the TeleSUR headquarters in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.
Furthermore, anti-corruption maneuvers have nabbed many high-ranking members of Cristina’s government, and even the ex-presidenta herself may be facing charges. Subsidies have been cut. Thousands have been fired from public sector positions deemed political favors from the previous administration. Macri just took out the largest loan of any developing country since 1996 to pay off vulture funds. A Chavista revolution, Argentina is not, at the moment.
In addition to that internal conflict, Mauricio has also been outspoken about Venezuela’s imprisonment of political opposition figure Leopoldo López, who was jailed in a proceeding many human rights groups have called unjust. Macri has been outspoken in his defense of Leopoldo since he was first campaigning for the presidency, and it has no doubt made him an even bigger enemy of TeleSUR.
Now that Argentina has officially left TeleSUR, the channel is likely to unleash its full force of chavismo opposition at President Mauricio Macri.
[Image via Mario Tama and Spencer Platt/Getty Images]