Facing a group of presidents loudly critical of Washington, the U.S. government's Voice of America broadcast is expanding its audience in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, VOA officials say.
VOA's Spanish-language division also will step up its use of Radio/TV Martí's production facilities in Miami because of budget pressures on both broadcasters, the officials added.
The VOA effort to grow its Latin American audience comes as the Obama administration tries to counter the attacks on U.S. policies by several presidents in the region: Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.
"Our focus is on the Andean region because of the upheavals that are going on there," said Spanish division director Alberto Mascaro. "Our second priority is Central America, especially Nicaragua and Honduras."
The Andean region includes Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, a Chávez ally, was ousted in July and is seeking to return to power.
VOA -- which only broadcasts internationally -- transmits its reports via shortwave radio, local FM affiliates and satellite television as well as its Web pages. Funded by the government, it is required to observe standards of "accuracy, balance, comprehensiveness, and objectivity."
"We need to contribute to informed dialogue" in the Andean region and Central America, Joan Mower, VOA public relations and development director, told El Nuevo Herald in a telephone interview from Washington.
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