Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela orders arrest of TV owner critical of Chavez

The Venezuelan authorities have issued an arrest warrant for the owner of a private television channel fiercely critical of President Hugo Chavez.

Prosecutors accuse Guillermo Zuloaga, who owns the Globovision channel, of business irregularities.

Mr Zuloaga's supporters say the warrant is an effort to silence him. The government says all due legal procedures have been followed.

Opposition groups accuse Mr Chavez of trying to control the media.

'Completely irregular'

The BBC's Will Grant in Caracas says members of the national intelligence police are searching for Mr Zuloaga, a millionaire businessman who is one of the highest profile opposition figures in Venezuela.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas 23 January 2010
President Chavez has been waging what he calls a "media war"

A warrant has also been issued for his son.

So far neither of the two men have been found or arrested but their home in Caracas has been cordoned off by the police.

A lawyer for Mr Zuloaga denounced the arrest order as "completely irregular".

Mr Zuloaga's supporters say the warrant is politically motivated, after President Chavez recently referred to comments made by Mr Zuloaga at an international press forum earlier this year.

At the conference, Mr Zuloaga suggested that Mr Chavez was responsible for most of the deaths which occurred in April 2002 during a short-lived coup.

"How is it possible that he can accuse me of such things and still walk free?" the Venezuelan leader asked during a recent televised address.

But the state prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, said on state television that the men were being sought over alleged irregularities in two car dealerships of which they are the main shareholders.

The government has repeatedly denied any persecution of Mr Zuloaga for his political views.

Our correspondent says it insists that crimes have been committed within the car dealerships and both Guillermo Zuloaga and his son must answer the charges against them.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites