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Publishing

UPDATE 1-Chavez demands Venezuela TV station be punished

* Chavez may personally act against Globovision

* Station executive will be charged after police raid

* Small, independent station takes anti-government line

(Adds charges against TV executive, Toyota threat)

CARACAS, May 28 (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened on Thursday to personally take action against an anti-government TV station if the nation’s authorities do not punish the channel, which expects to be closed.

Separately, prosecutors said the president of the station, Globovision, will be charged for illegally storing new Toyota vehicles after one of his properties was raided by police last week in case he says is politically motivated.

Chavez, who has stepped up pressure on private industry and the political opposition in recent weeks, previously said that Globovision’s editorial line had to change.

“If what has to happen does not happen in the correct institutions then I will have to act like I have had to on previous occasions,” Chavez said on state television.

Two years ago Chavez refused to renew the license of Venezuela’s largest private television station, which was implicated in a brief coup against him. That provoked international criticism and anger in Venezuela but did not dent his popularity.

That station, RCTV, is now available only on cable systems and has ceased to be a political force.

HOURS OF SPEECHES

Chavez spends hours every week giving speeches on state television in programs often picked up by private channels or broadcast on all frequencies via a system known as “the chain.”

He uses the medium to announce most policy decisions, including a wave of nationalizations in oil and iron this month.

Globovision’s owner, Alberto Ravell, told Reuters last week that he expected the station would be taken off the air in the near future.

The channel’s president, Gillermo Zuloaga, most appear in court on June 4 to be charged with the “irregular storage” of a 24 new Toyota pickup trucks found at a property of his. Prosecutors say he was storing the vehicles in a form of price speculation.

Zuloaga says the vehicles belong to a legitimate business and that the case against him is politically motivated.

Chavez said that Toyota Motor Corp should should explain its role in the distribution of vehicles, which has become a political issue in Venezuela because of inflated prices.

The socialist president criticized the attorney general and a cabinet minister charged with regulating telecommunications for not having taken swift action against the TV station.

Globovision, a small but influential station, has drawn Chavez’s ire for various reasons. In one instance it broadcast a chat show in which a guest said Chavez would end his days by being hanged, like Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

Venezuela’s most watched TV station by far is Venevision, which takes a neutral political line and broadcasts many soap operas. (Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel, editing by Chris Wilson)

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