CARACAS, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday condemned an attack on an opposition-aligned TV station that he has threatened with closure, announcing that one of his radical supporters was detained for allegedly taking part in the assault.
Chavez called the attack "counterrevolutionary, anarchist and an attempt against peace in the country."
He said Lina Ron, leader of a far-left party that supports the government's socialist policies, was arrested over the attack. He said Ron and those who accompanied her "must face the force of the law."
On Monday, government supporters riding motorcycles and waving the flags of Ron's party tossed tear gas canisters at Globovision, the country's last over-the-air television station that is a strong critic of Chavez. Globovision broadcast video of the incident, allegedly showing Ron among the attackers.
Chavez has recognized Ron as an ally, but he has also criticized her in the past for going too far. Last year, she led Chavez supporters when they stormed and temporarily occupied the offices of the Vatican's representative in Caracas. She also led street demonstrations against Globovision to protest the channel's criticism of the government.
Globovision said one of its security guards suffered a burned hand when he tried to pick up a tear gas canister and a police officer posted outside was hit in the head by a hurled object and required stitches. Two Globovision employees were treated for inhaling tear gas.
Globovision's director, Alberto Federico Ravell, condemned the violence and urged Chavez to control his backers. He said some of the armed assailants threatened security guards.
Amnesty International expressed "profound concern" over the incident, urging Venezuelan authorities Tuesday to guarantee that those responsible are brought to justice.
The attack came as tensions are rising between Venezuela's government and private media.
Globovision is facing multiple investigations that could lead to its closure. Broadcast regulators, meanwhile, announced Friday that they were shutting down at least 32 radio stations. More than 200 other stations are also under investigation.
Media groups and human rights activists accuse Chavez's government of trying to stifle dissent. The government denies it is targeting media for political reasons, saying the stations under investigation have broken broadcasting regulations.
Other Latin American leaders have begun to weigh in on the issue.
Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, a left-leaning leader, told reporters in Asuncion that he didn't agree with "the Venezuelan government's decision to close down news media."
But President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, a close Chavez ally, announced Monday that "many" radio and TV frequencies in his country would revert to the state over what he called irregularities in their licenses. He gave no specifics.
Ravell, Globovision's director, told Radio Quito in Ecuador on Tuesday that it seems Correa "is copying President Hugo Chavez's media policy."