Venezuelan prez seeks to clean up crime with soap

Posted: January 23, 2014

SINCE TODAY looks like a perfect time to stay inside and watch TV, here are a few TV-related Tattle items.

In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro is blaming soap operas for the country's high crime rate, accusing them of spreading "anti-values" to young people by glamorizing violence, guns and drugs.

Last year, Maduro attacked violent video games and the movie "Spider-Man," which, we guess, spread the value of being bitten by a radioactive spider to young people.

It's unclear, however, whether the government will take steps to restrict programming or impose harsher rules on the soap operas, known as telenovelas, which are hugely popular across Latin America.

And critics warn that Maduro's campaign could be used as an excuse to further gag media criticism of the government.

"It's a smoke screen to distract attention away from the real causes" of violence and crime, said Roberto Briceno Leon of the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, which estimates the country's murder rate has quadrupled in 15 years of socialist rule.

Pressure on the government to crack down on crime heated up this month after former Miss Venezuela Monica Spear and her ex-husband were shot to death by robbers, with their 5-year-old daughter looking on.

The double slaying shocked even Venezuelans hardened by rampant bloodshed and put the government on the defensive on an issue that surveys say is the biggest concern among voters.

In his state of the union speech last week, Maduro took aim at a popular soap opera, "De Todas Maneras Rosa," produced by Venevision.

He accused the nation's biggest broadcaster of profiting from violence by celebrating the crimes of one of the melodrama's lead characters, Andreina Vallejo. Does Vallejo's character break into homes and shoot people? No, in classic soap fashion, she's a psychopathic former beauty queen who fatally poisons her own mother to hide the paternity of her son.

Barrera Tyszka, "Rosa" creator, said the president's campaign also reinforces government control of the airwaves, providing it with another tool to bully channels whose news coverage it frequently attacks as part of a right-wing conspiracy to destabilize the nation. Media self-censorship is already high after several years of the government imposing multimillion-dollar fines and even taking channels off the air for allegedly slanted coverage.

"There are almost no guns in Venezuelan telenovelas," Tyszka said. "There are a number of things that aren't shown for fear of being fined."

* In England, one of the gentlest deaths in soap-opera history has provoked one of the strongest reactions.

More than 10 million people watched the long-running soap "Coronation Street" on Monday as Hayley Cropper, sick with incurable pancreatic cancer, took an overdose of drugs and died peacefully in the arms of her loving husband, Roy.

Some praised the story line for its sensitive handling of terminal illness and death, but others said it risked encouraging suicides.

Right-to-die campaigner Jane Nicklinson, whose late husband suffered from locked-in syndrome and waged a court battle for the right to have a doctor help him end his life, said the story had "done our cause proud."

But anti-euthanasia group Care Not Killing said yesterday that the program was "in great danger of normalizing an occurrence that is actually very rare indeed."

* In American soap news, Alison Sweeney told " Ellen" yesterday that she is leaving "Days of Our Lives" at the end of 2014, after 21 years. Hard to believe Alison is old enough to have done anything for 21 years, but she's probably making so much dough hosting "The Biggest Loser," it's a good time to ease up.

TATTBITS

Ringo Starr got an early start to Grammy week, with famous friends honoring him for his life and work.

The former Beatle received the Lifetime of Peace and Love award from the David Lynch Foundation on Monday night during a tribute concert at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles.

In turn, Starr led the crowd in singing happy birthday to Lynch, the director known for "Blue Velvet" and "Mulholland Drive," who was celebrating his 68th birthday.

Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono expressed their love for Starr via videos, while George Harrison's widow, Olivia, was in the crowd. Starr and McCartney will perform separately at Sunday's Grammy Awards.

* According to recent reports, Anne Hathaway almost drowned while on vacation in Hawaii.

According to Hathaway, that is not what happened and the truth is not very interesting.

Anne, alive and dry, was at Sundance promoting her film "Song One."

* Two members of the Russian punk-rock band Pussy Riot who were recently released from prison will appear at an Amnesty International concert to be held in Brooklyn on Feb. 5.

A news release yesterday said Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina will appear during the Bringing Human Rights Home concert to be held at the Barclays Center.

The lineup, aimed at raising human-rights awareness, also includes The Flaming Lips, Imagine Dragons and Lauryn Hill, with more to be announced.

* While a storm made it snow all over the Northeast, Justin Bieber made it rain in Miami.

According to TMZ.com, the Biebs left his ski poles in Colorado for the stripper poles of Florida and dropped more than $75,000 on a bevy of gyrating beauties.

Does that boy know how to celebrate and honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day or what.

- Daily News wire services

contributed to this report.


Email: gensleh@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-5678

On Twitter: @DNTattle

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