Spain and the United States on Friday called on the Venezuelan government to reopen a leading opposition TV station whose closure has prompted street protests and condemnation from press freedom groups.
''We ask Venezuela to reopen the independent TV and cease these attacks on the free press,'' Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said after talks with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.
''We have expressed our wish and our will that all Venezuelans who want to use news spaces should have guarantees in regard to freedom of information and expression,'' Moratinos added.
The Venezuelan government refused to renew the license of Radio Caracas Televisión, or RCTV, forcing the channel off the air Sunday and sparking both angry protests at home and condemnation abroad from governments, press freedom groups and international organizations.
President Hugo Chávez accused RCTV of helping incite a failed coup in 2002, violating broadcast laws and ''poisoning'' Venezuelans with soap operas and game shows that promoted capitalism. He said his decision to replace it Monday with a new state-funded public channel, TVES, is a step toward ''democratizing'' the airwaves.
On Thursday, Chávez claimed that a right-wing conspiracy led by Washington is out to demonize his government for forcing the channel off the air.
''One has to be concerned about what is happening in Venezuela,'' Rice said.
Asked if she thinks there is a danger that decisions like Chávez's to close the channel could spread to other Latin American countries, Rice said the United States is concerned about what she called Venezuela's meddling in other countries' affairs.
''There has been an active interference by Venezuela in its neighbors,'' Rice said. ``Venezuela should respect the sovereignty of its neighbors.''