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In the early 1970s when I first became involved in shortwave, there were over fifty Venezuelan stations at least sporadically active on shortwave. Today that number has fallen to less than ten, but almost all of those left are in the three Andean states that I visited. Most of the radio audience is in or near sizable towns and are reached by AM or FM radio, so it is not surprising that I was repeatedly told that shortwave has no commercial use in Venezuela. Several informants said that domestic shortwave was something for religious or cultural broadcasters to do, which is curious as Venezuela has no religious stations on shortwave and the only government/cultural station, Radio Nacional uses shortwave for an international, not domestic, audience.

I visited five broadcasters that currently use shortwave - Radio Mundial Los Andes, Radio Valera, Radio Frontera, Radio Tachira, and Ecos del Torbes (the last two being co-owned and sharing technical staff). At each I was told that there is an audience for their shortwave in remote areas of the Andes and the nearby llanos (inland plains) where AM can not be received. While this is true, people in these areas are probably so removed from the money economy, that there is no commercial value in broadcasting to them. Of course, there is also an international audience of shortwave hobbyists, and all stations took pride in having an audience on other continents. But, again, there is no direct commercial benefit from this, although it may impress a few advertisers. Ecos del Torbes and Radio Tachira claim that many people in neighboring countries listen to the station for the nightly numbers in the popular Loteria de Tachira at 0200 UTC. (Apparently, people outside the country have means of obtaining tickets. Addendum: I have since learned that there are a number of other lotteries throughout Latin America that use the same numbering system and winning numbers as the big lotteries in Venezuela and Colombia. Tickets to the Venezuelan and Colombian lotteries are not available elsewhere.) When they recently cut back on shortwave transmission time to save on electricity, they couldn't sign-off any earlier than 0230, so as not to miss the lottery numbers. Domingo Tedesco of Globo FM told me that Radio Valera uses shortwave because it helps them sell ad time to firms headquartered in Caracas. The firms can then tune in the station to check if the ads are aired. I find this hard to believe myself.

Three stations I visited, Radio Universidad, Radio Trujillo, and Ondas Panamericanas, still had their old 90 meter shortwave transmitters that hadn't been used since the 1970s. Each expressed interest in putting their shortwave back on for the international audience and the international mail that they used to receive. However, none could justify the cost and none thought they would get any kind of domestic audience on shortwave. Still, shortwave has some importance, if only in name, to the domestic audience. Radio Trujillo had a brand new lighted sign over their door with both the AM and SW frequencies prominently displayed. The sign couldn't have been more than a year or two old, yet they haven't used shortwave for twenty years. I heard another station, Radio Occidente in Tovar, Merida state on 1100 kHz AM identifying and giving their shortwave frequencies of 3225 and 9750 kHz. Although the 31 meter frequency is occasionally reported, especially by Venezuelan DXers, I don't believe the 90 meter frequency has been on the air since the 1970s. It hasn't been listed in the World Radio TV Handbook for over ten years. All the active shortwave stations also have flamboyant canned identification announcements with the shortwave frequencies. There is perhaps a certain degree of prestige with the local audience to also claim international listeners. I include this information on domestic shortwave, as I suspect there may be a connection between audiences for domestic and international shortwave broadcasts. In countries like Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, and even Colombia, where there is more domestic shortwave, listeners tuning for domestic shortwave stations may also listen to international stations which they will naturally also come across. However, if there are few domestic shortwave broadcasters to listen to, no such impetus to get people to listen to foreign shortwave broadcasts.


Religious broadcasting is a very visible part of the media in certain Latin American countries. For example, the Roman Catholic church operates an extensive network of stations in both rural and urban Bolivia. One of Colombia's five large networks, Colmundo Radio, is evangelical. In western Guatemala, Protestant Evangelical and Roman Catholic stations are almost the only broadcasters serving the millions of Mayans in their native languages. Throughout Latin America, religious radio forms an important subgroup of the local media.

By contrast, Venezuela has very little religious radio, at least compared to other Latin American countries. There are a few Roman Catholic stations. There are two named Radio Fe y Alegria, one in Guasdalito, in the remote llanos near the Colombian border and the other in Maracaibo. According to a letter recently received from Celso Atencio, manager of the station in Guasdalito, the programming at his station is mostly oriented towards basic education for poor adults. I suspect that the Maracaibo station has similar goals. These stations are relatively young - the one in Maracaibo is only about a year old and that in Guasdalito is less than five years old, according to World Radio TV Handbook listings.

The only other Roman Catholic station in Venezuela that I know of is La Voz de La Fe in Maracaibo, one of Venezuela's oldest stations. I believe this is a more traditional spiritual-oriented religious station, at least from my monitoring. They were, however, promoting themselves as "the new Voice of the Faith" while I was in Venezuela. According to Manuel Rodriguez Lanza in Caracas, this station is planning to reactivate its shortwave transmitter which has been off the air for about twenty years. The reason given is to help counteract the effects of ever-expanding Protestant Evangelical programs on Venezuelan radio stations.

To my knowledge, there are no Evangelical Protestant stations in the country. I certainly heard none among the eighty-plus stations I logged in my visit, and there is nothing in the names of the other stations listed in the World Radio TV Handbook to imply that others are Evangelical. I also heard almost no Evangelical radio programming on Venezuelan radio stations - just a little while scanning the AM band a few mornings. Most Evangelical programming heard was clearly coming from Colombian radio stations. I did see a few advertisements for Evangelical programs on commercial broadcasters on Sundays.

Except for Orlando Suarez, the DXer at Ondas Panamericanas, none of the shortwave listeners I spoke with mentioned listening to HCJB in Ecuador. Considering that all of them were interested in shortwave primarily as a news source, this is not necessarily surprising. The control operator at Radio 1560 in Merida told me that his father listens to Trans World Radio from Bonaire every night. TWR's 800 kHz frequency with 500 kW puts in a solid fade-free signal all night across western Venezuela, but during the day the frequency is blocked by Radio Fe y Alegria in Guasdalito. (One wonders if the Roman Catholic church requested that frequency!)

Ivan Escobar of the Ecos del Torbes group is member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and listens to AWR Pan-America from Costa Rica, although he says the signal is not very good. He also said that the Adventist Church operates an FM station in a one of the cities closer to the coast, although he couldn't remember exactly where.

In general, Venezuela seems to be a much more secular country than others I have visited in Latin America. Roman Catholic religious figurines such as crosses, statuettes of the Virgin Mary, etc, were far less common in buses, taxis, stores, etc than elsewhere in Latin America. Most Roman Catholic churches had their doors closed throughout much of the day, which is unusual in Latin America. I also saw very, very few non-Catholic churches. Ivan Escobar said that there are three Adventist churches in the San Cristobal area plus an Adventist school. According to what I have read, Venezuela has had far less conversion away from Catholicism than most other Latin American countries. The reason seems to be more a lack of interest in religion than a strong bond towards Catholicism.

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