October 10, 2007 / 10:52 PM / 12 years ago

Venezuela scraps pop concert over Chavez barbs

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela has scrapped a concert that Spanish pop singer Alejandro Sanz planned to hold in a state-owned stadium because he criticized President Hugo Chavez, a minister said on Wednesday.

Singer Alejandro Sanz performs during a concert in Santiago de Compostela in north-western Spain August 4, 2007. REUTERS/Miguel Vidal

Sanz, who is widely popular in Latin America, in 2004 accused Chavez of trying to stymie a nationwide campaign for a recall referendum against him and jokingly said if as many people demanded he quit singing, he would do so.

“If an artist comes to Venezuela to rail against Chavez, against (Chavez’s political) movement, how do you think the people of this country would respond if he were to be allowed to use” the stadium, Higher Education Minister Luis Acuna said in a radio interview.

It was unclear why the government had initially agreed to the concert, which had been scheduled for November 1.

Acuna said Sanz, a Latin Grammy music award winner, could give a concert in a privately owned venue.

Chavez regularly holds political rallies at the site, which is owned by a university that the president created and is one of the country’s largest stadiums, often hosting international artists’ concerts.

Chavez, a self-described socialist revolutionary, has won the support of the poor majority, but his shutdown this year of a TV station and push to scrap presidential term limits have sparked opposition accusations he is increasingly autocratic.

The president can appear sensitive to criticism, sometimes lashing out at journalists in news conferences or publicly lambasting foreign politicians for questioning his policies.

This year, after high-profile visitors gave speeches criticizing his government, he said foreigners who show a lack of respect for Venezuelans should be deported.

Acuna over the weekend said that from now on, the government will ensure concerts held at the state stadium do not promote “anti-educational values.”

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