Venezuela police raid broadcaster

CARACAS: Police and soldiers on Thursday raided a property belonging to the head of Venezuela's only anti-government news network amid a growing confrontation between the station and President Hugo Chavez's government.

Judicial police chief Wilmer Flores Trossel said authorities found 24 Toyota vehicles on a property in eastern Venezuela belonging to Globovision president Guillermo Zuloaga. They raided the property after receiving an anonymous tip.

"The owners of the residence will have to explain what these vehicles are doing there and why they aren't in a dealership," he said.

Zuloaga said he had "nothing to hide" and that the cars were stored for safe keeping because a dealership he owns had been robbed. He suggested the raid was an attempt to intimidate him.

"I don't know if they're trying to find something to try to shut me up. They won't shut us up," Zuloaga told Globovision reporters.

Broadcast regulators are investigating Globovision for inciting "panic and anxiety" by criticizing the government for its slow response to a moderate earthquake earlier this month. Globovision is Venezuela's only remaining anti-Chavez television station on the open airwaves.

Chavez warned private media last week that they're "playing with fire." He specifically targeted Globovision director Alberto Federico Ravell, calling him "a crazy man with a cannon." Human Rights Watch on Thursday criticized Chavez's government for investigating the station. The organization's Americas director, Jose Miguel Vivanco, accused the government of using the probe to harass critics.