MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) - Uruguay's local media groups should not fall into the hands of foreign investors like Argentina's Clarin group or Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, outgoing President Jose Mujica said on Tuesday.
The leftist Mujica, who will hand over the presidency on March 1 as one of Latin America's most popular leaders, spoke as senators began debating a draft communications law that critics say is ambiguous and hands the government too much regulatory oversight.
"There are sharks circling and they will end up swallowing us if this is not regulated," Mujica told local radio station Ocean FM. "I don't want Clarin, (Brazilian group) Globo or Slim to become media owners in Uruguay."
The Senate is expected to endorse the bill after which it will head to the lower house for final approval.
The draft document states entities applying for licenses to operate audiovisual media should not be affiliates or subsidiaries of foreign companies.
Mujica last year signed a presidential decree revoking an agreement that gave Claro, a subsidiary of billionaire Slim's telecom group America Movil , rights to provide cable television services in Uruguay. Claro is Uruguay's smallest telecoms and internet provider.
Supporters of the communications bill say it is designed to prevent ownership from becoming concentrated among a few powerful commercial interests, as well as promoting local content.
"It seems that anything related to (government) regulation is a mortal sin. It is ok to have a free press, but we don't need monopolies," Mujica said.
Reporting by Malena Castaldi; Editing by Richard Lough and Alan Crosby