Bayly: ‘I am a con­spir­a­tor in fa­vor of free­dom’

Pe­ru­vian gives U.S. voice to hard-lin­ers from Venezuela

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Nation & World - By Gisela Salomon

MIAMI — An emi­gre who once fled a right-wing strong­man in Peru has made his U.S.-based tele­vi­sion pro­gram a fo­rum for hard­line op­po­nents of Venezuela’s left­ist Pres­i­dent Nico­las Maduro — in­clud­ing some who are quite ready for the shed­ding of blood.

“I am a con­spir­a­tor in fa­vor of free­dom,” Jaime Bayly says.

Bayly’s news and opin­ion pro­gram airs each week­night on Mega TV, a small net­work of Span­ish-lan­guage sta­tions around the United States. But YouTube videos of his pro­grams are viewed by tens of thou­sands of peo­ple.

Pro­grams have fre­quently fea­tured Venezue­lan op­po­si­tion lead­ers such as Hen­rique Capriles, Leopoldo Lopez and other crit­ics of the Maduro ad­min­is­tra­tion, many of whom have en­cour­aged their coun­try’s en­trepreneurs and mil­i­tary of­fi­cials to re­pu­di­ate the em­bat­tled leader.

That cam­paign got a dra­matic boost last month when the head of Venezuela’s op­po­si­tion-con­trolled congress, Juan Guaido, a Lopez pro­tege, pro­claimed him­self the coun­try’s in­terim pres­i­dent. The United States, Canada and a dozen re­gional na­tions quickly an­nounced that they rec­og­nize Guaido as pres­i­dent, say­ing Maduro’s re-elec­tion last May was a sham.

Hours af­ter Guaido’s an­nounce­ment, Bayly was be­hind his wooden desk on tele­vi­sion call­ing on mem­bers of Venezuela’s all-im­por­tant mil­i­tary to rally be­hind the Na­tional Assem­bly leader and main­tain­ing that “the dic­ta­tor Maduro has his hours counted.”

Bayly says he has done noth­ing wrong, but his pro­gram has fea­tured guests who openly ad­vo­cate killing Maduro and quite a few of his sup­port­ers.

In a pro­gram fol­low­ing an Aug. 4 at­tempt to as­sas­si­nate Maduro with ex­plo­sives-laden drones, Bayly ex­pressed re­gret it failed.

He also had a sym­pa­thetic ex­change on the pro­gram with op­po­si­tion ac­tivist Roberto Oli­vares, an oc­ca­sional guest, who called top­pling Maduro “a spir­i­tual duty.” “What good is it to an­ni­hi­late Maduro if Ca­bello takes of­fice?” Bay­ley re­sponded, re­fer­ring to so­cial­ist party leader Dios­dado Ca­bello.

How­ever, Bayly then noted Maduro’s de­nun­ci­a­tions of as­sas­si­na­tion plots and said: “But it seems to me that’s the nat­u­ral con­se­quence of all the evil he has done, no?”

With no ob­jec­tion from Bayly, Oli­vares pro­posed “a civil­ian-mil­i­tary junta, more mil­i­tary than civil­ian, that at a min­i­mum would im­pose or­der for six months, a year, to be able to clean up cer­tain rad­i­cal fac­tions on their side who are go­ing to re­main in the coun­try and have to be elim­i­nated as well, and elim­i­nate them is kill them, full stop.”

Maduro has taken note of such state­ments, ac­cus­ing Bayly of con­spir­ing with the U.S. to re­move him from power and say­ing he had proof the po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor was in­volved in the drone at­tack.

“It’s easy for a U.S. tele­vi­sion sta­tion to di­rect the death of a pres­i­dent,” Maduro said. “What would hap­pen if a brag­gart like this one, from a Venezue­lan TV sta­tion, or­dered the as­sas­si­na­tion of the pres­i­dent Jamie Bayly of the United States? We would pros­e­cute him, be­cause that is a se­ri­ous crime.”

David Smilde, a pro­fes­sor of so­ci­ol­ogy and Latin Amer­i­can stud­ies at Tu­lane Univer­sity, said the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion has never paid as much at­ten­tion to Span­ish-lan­guage me­dia as it should.

“Jaime Bayly en­gages in speech that can rea­son­ably be said to in­cite vi­o­lence,” Smilde said. “It is doubt­ful that an English-lan­guage show with this con­tent would be able to op­er­ate with­out FCC in­ves­ti­ga­tions or im­ped­i­ments.”

Bayly says that be­fore the drone in­ci­dent, a group of sol­diers told him of the planned at­tack.

Bayly in­sisted he played no di­rect role in vi­o­lent plots to bring down Maduro.

“No, it doesn’t come to that,” he said. “It’s about pro­mot­ing it, per­suad­ing peo­ple that it’s the best op­tion.”

A well-known nov­el­ist and jour­nal­ist in Peru, Bay­ley fled to the United States in 1992 dur­ing the stron­garm gov­ern­ment of Al­berto Fu­ji­mori. Af­ter Fu­ji­mori was driven from power in 2000, Bay­ley be­gan re­turn­ing home and dab­bling in pol­i­tics, and sev­eral times toyed pub­licly with a pres­i­den­tial run.

He re­it­er­ated his dis­dain for right-wing and left­wing dic­ta­tor­ships and said he is solely tak­ing a stand against abuse of power.

Bayly said he has been threat­ened be­cause of his op­po­si­tion to Maduro. Af­ter the as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt, Bayly said, his car was rammed against a lamp post. The at­tacker man­aged to flee.

Bayly said he feels afraid at times, but tries to fo­cus putting the news in con­text and giv­ing his opin­ion.

“If I let my­self be trapped by fear, I don’t leave my house, I don’t do the pro­gram,” he said.

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