Owner of TV channel rejects accusations by Chavez

The owner of Venezuela's only remaining opposition-aligned TV channel said the government would be carrying out an unwarranted attack if authorities pursue legal measures against the station as demanded by President Hugo Chavez.

Guillermo Zuloaga, the president and majority owner of Globovision, also rejected an accusation by Chavez of having offered money for his assassination. Zuloaga addressed Chavez in remarks broadcast by the channel Monday night, saying: "You know that any legal action that is tried against Globovision will be an attack for the company and its workers."

Chavez stepped up his threats over the weekend, demanding authorities take action in a pending criminal case against Zuloaga and calling him a fugitive criminal. Chavez's demand for action came after Zuloaga made critical remarks about him at a forum last week in Washington.

Zuloaga, who has recently been in the United States, fled Venezuela in June after a court ordered him to be jailed on charges of usury and conspiracy. He calls the charges bogus and politically motivated.

Zuloaga said he does not intend to return to face the charges because he wouldn't receive a fair trial under Chavez. "In Venezuela, the justice system has turned into your tool to persecute and intimidate all those Venezuelans who dare to publicly criticize your government performance," Zuloaga said.

On Saturday, Chavez claimed, without offering any details, that he has intelligence that some of his opponents have offered $100 million for his assassination and that Zuloaga "is one of them."

Zuloaga dismissed the accusation. "President, I don't want you dead. I want you to be very healthy to see you when you have to account for ... your bad handling of the government," he said.

Chavez has waged a long-running battle against Globovision and has threatened the news channel before.

Globovision has been the only opposition channel on the air in Venezuela since another one, RCTV, was forced off cable and satellite TV in January. RCTV had been booted off the open airwaves in 2007.

(This version CORRECTS translation of quote in fifth paragraph.)