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Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez, who pulled the plug on 34 radio stations that broadcast opposition news, turned his attention Monday to the country's coffee plants.
Chavez seized control Monday of Venezuela's two largest coffee processing plants, claiming they were illegally smuggling coffee out of the country to sell at a higher price. The Venezuelen leader threatened to expropriate the businesses if a government-run investigation reveals the plants violated the law.
The crackdown came just two days after Chavez revoked the licenses of 34 radio stations, ruling the stations were operating illegally. The closings were met with fierce protests from international media groups and human rights activists that have accused the government of trying to stifle dissent.
Chavez said previously that the revoked licenses could be given to broadcasters who share his socialist vision.
More than 200 other radio stations are under investigation, as is Globovision — the only strongly anti-Chavez television station remaining on the open airwaves. Lawmakers, meanwhile, are discussing a bill that would punish yet-to-be-defined "media crimes" with up to four years in prison.
Some 200 Venezuelans gathered outside a Caracas radio station over the weekend to protest Chavez's decision.
The demonstration occurred outside CNB 102.3 FM, which cut its over-the-air transmission Saturday morning on orders from the telecommunications regulatory agency and is now transmitting only over the Internet.
Station director Zaira Belfort said CNB planned to appeal the order, but she warned that the shutdown decision is likely "only the beginning of the closures of free media in Venezuela."
"This is a government attack," she said. "We want to keep living in democracy, and once again they've silenced us."