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Venezuelan officials raid business of TV news station owner

CARACAS, Venezuela — Government agents Thursday night raided a car dealership business here owned by the main owner of Globovision, an all-news television station that President Hugo Chavez has been threatening to close in recent days.

Guillermo Zuloaga Jr., son of Globovision’s main owner, told McClatchy Newspapers that the agents were illegally searching the business where his father managed his Toyota dealership.

"It's just another aggression from the government to try to scare us," Zuloaga said.

The station couldn't immediately broadcast the news on the air, however, because Chavez had taken over Venezuela's main television channels to speak to a group of supporters about socialism from a provincial capital.

Venezuelan state law prohibits any station from breaking away from Chavez when he is speaking in what's called "cadena," or chain.

Chavez and senior government officials have been escalating their attacks against Globovision, which they believe slants the news against the government in concert with the opposition.

They have accused Globovision of sowing panic this month when the station scooped the government in reporting that a mild earthquake had struck the country at 5:21 a.m.

"We’re not going to tolerate a crazy man with a cannon shooting it at the whole world," Chavez said May 10 on his weekly television and radio show, referring to Alberto Ravell, the Globovision general manager. "Enough! ... This has to end or I'll stop calling myself Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias."

After Chavez shut down RCTV by not renewing its license two years ago, Globovision is the only channel that aggressively reports the government's failings. Free press advocates have rallied behind the station.

(Miami Herald special correspondent Phil Gunson contributed to this report.)

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