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Venezuela Demands Soap Opera Be Taken Off the Air


"It is a folkloric comedy..."

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan authorities are demanding that a private television station stop airing a Colombian soap opera that they say is denigrating to their country.

The soap opera "Chepe Fortuna" features an unscrupulous secretary named "Venezuela" who has a dog called "Little Hugo," an apparent reference to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Given recent diplomatic disputes between the neighboring countries, the satire has not sat well with Venezuela's government.

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The character Venezuela, in contrast to her sister named Colombia, "is repeatedly characterized as associated with illegal activities, meddling and vulgarity," Venezuela's telecommunications regulatory agency Conatel said in a statement.

The regulator accused the soap opera of promoting "political intolerance" and notified private Venezuelan TV state Televen on Thursday that it should pull it off the air. It wasn't clear if the regulator's order included a sanction for the station if it didn't.

Filming of the soap opera began in 2009, when relations between Colombia and Venezuela were at a particularly tense moment.

The secretary Venezuela lost her dog in one episode, and another character told her not to worry and that she would be better off without her dog "Little Hugo."

Televen is owned by Venezuelan magnate Gustavo Cisneros and maintains a neutral stance with respect to Chavez's socialist-oriented government.

"Chepe Fortuna" is produced by Colombian network RCN.

Miguel Angel Baquero, producer of "Chepe Fortuna," denied that the soap opera promotes intolerance.

"It is a folkloric comedy with the sole intention of entertaining the people and showing how the humor of the people of Colombia's coast lets two sisters be called Colombia and Venezuela," Baquero said in a statement on RCN radio's website.

Televen didn't immediately respond to requests from the AP for comment.

Televen also received an order not to air the reality show "12 de Corazones" or "12 of Hearts," produced by Telemundo, the second-largest Spanish television network in the United States, because the program included content that would "deform the sensibilities of children and adolescents."

At the end of last year, the Venezuelan network pulled off the air at Conatel's request the Colombian soap operas "El Capo" and "Rosario Tijeras," which the regulatory agency said "were authentic schools on how to commit crimes." The soap operas dealt with Colombian drug lords and a hit woman.

Last year, Conatel also threatened to sanction Televen if it didn't stop airing the U.S. program "Family Guy," which Chavez's government accused of promoting the consumption and legalization of marijuana. It currently airs "Family Guy" only late at night.

Televen and Venevision, another Cisnero-owned channel, once took a hardline stance against Chavez's government but in recent years have curbed their criticism.

The government in 2007 forced another anti-Chavez channel, RCTV, to halt broadcasts. That left Globovision as the sole stridently anti-Chavez channel left on the airwaves.

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