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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Venezuelans Protest Chavez's Refusal to Renew TV License

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets chanting "Freedom, Freedom!" to protest President Hugo Chavez's decision not to renew the broadcast license of the country's most widely watched television station.

Radio Caracas Television, the sole opposition-aligned television station with nationwide reach, was due to go off the air at midnight Sunday. Protesters say that by not renewing RCTV's license, Chavez is attempting to silence critics of his leftist government.

Police lined a Caracas avenue while the protesters paraded past, some holding signs reading "No to silence," while others placed tape over their mouths.

"Our president wants to control everything, even what we watch on television, so his voice is the only voice on the airwaves," said Roger Montoya, 23, a university student at Saturday's march. "It's totalitarianism."

The protesters massed outside RCTV's studios, where a huge Venezuelan flag was hung from the building's roof.

During a speech that all of Venezuela's private television channels were forced to broadcast, Chavez defended his decision as a legal move to democratize the airwaves by turning over RCTV's signal to a public service channel.

"That television station became a threat to the country, so I decided not to renew the license because it's my responsibility," said Chavez. The president and his supporters have accused RCTV of supporting a failed 2002 coup against him, violating broadcast laws and regularly showing programs with excessive violence and sexual content.