Archive for May, 2007

So far Nielsen ratings suggest Government gained little by RCTV’s shutdown

May 31, 2007

According to rating numbers quoted by Nelson Bocaranda in his Runrunes column and corrected in the radio today for some small details, the strategy of the Government to control the broadcast media is not going very well. First off, RCTV received an incredible 80% rating on Sunday night, as VTV got 9% and Globovision 4.1% of the Nielsen ratings. Globovison was of course broadcasting the RCTV signal anyway, so the number of TV’s tuning in to the watch the last brodcast of RCTV was truly outstanding.

And the situation for the Government has not improved since. Yesterday, Venevision had a 33.5% rating, followed by Globovision with 16.3%, Televen 11.5%, VTV 7.3% TVES 5.6%, Meridiano 1.9% and cable TV 10.3%, with the regionals channels receiving 13.7% of the audience.

The numbers for improvised TVES are simply the pits. After a first day of 10.2% rating, it dropped to 7.2% the second day and was only 5.6% on its third day, as viewers find little of entertainment value in the new TV channel, led by the former announcer of Radio Havana.

Thus, Venevision has picked up market share, despite the bad taste it left in everyone’s mouth and Globovision appears to be the main beneficiary o RCTV’s disappearance jumping from 3.8% average up to last Sunday for the year of 2007, to 16.3% market share. Venevision’s average so far in 2007 had been 29%. Cable TV appears to be another beneficiary of RCTV’s demise.

The one clear conclusion is that the Government’s TV stations gained very little since last Sunday. It takes more than a salsa expert loyal to the revolution and confiscating RCTV’s equipment to set up a TV station appealing to the general public in Venezuela, Pro-Chavez or otherwise.

RSF issues another sharp criticism of the Chavez Government

May 31, 2007

And Reporters Without Borders (RSF), who nobody can question where it stands in the political and ethical spectrum, in contrast to its unrelated cousin PSF, issues another precise and priceless statement, which includes jewels such as these:

“By calling Globovisión’s staff ‘enemies of the
motherland’ and by clearly threatening participants in its broadcasts
‘if they don’t calm down,’ President Chávez is displaying paranoia and
intolerance,” the press freedom organisation said”

“Unfortunately, there is no longer any doubt
about his goals,” Reporters Without Borders added. “RCTV’s closure was
just the prelude to the progressive disappearance of all the opposition
press. Media that criticise the government will be snuffed out one by
one until only the pro-government media are left.”

Without Borders also condemns the activities, reported by the Agencia
Bolivariana de Noticias, of a group of pro-Chávez journalists called
“Periodistas por la Verdad,” who have been trying to get people to
believe that two supposed Reporters Without Borders members – Enzo
Pierini et Carlos Folchi – were distributing leaflets containing hate
messages targeted at President Chávez.”

“These allegations are unfounded and ridiculous, and the press freedom organisation does not know these two people.”

“It is easy for the authorities to condone this
kind of slur while refusing our requests for a meeting during the
fact-finding trip we made to Venezuela from 24 to 28 May,” Reporters
Without Borders said. “And it seems they did not agree that the news
conference we gave on the last day should be broadcast live and in full
by Globovisión”

Take it easy Mr. President by Teodoro Petkoff

May 31, 2007

Take it easy Mr. President by Teodoro Petkoff in Tal Cual

Tell me what you boast about and I will tell you what your failures are. “If we had to launch another April 13th. I will command it myself”. There is the portrait of the man that trapped in the Military museum, did not command anything on February 4th. 1992, the same way he did nothing on Nov. 27th. 2002, nor on April 11th. Nor April 13th. 2002.

In any case, with his military credentials, victory looks dubious. All of the hang ups of someone who does not have neither a Moncada nor a Sierra Maestra behind him, are trapped in that phrase. The sick need for a personal epic leads him to try to create the junctures that will give it to him.

We can’t give him that pleasure.

Because it is clear he wants to provoke such a situation. You only had to hear him yesterday.

The dangerous incitement to violent confrontation which was his call “for the barrios to come down” constituted a mayor irresponsibility. He is not truly addressing the people but the armed paramilitary and parapolice bands, heavily armed, that the Government has promoted throughout these years.

Some of them have already left their brutal mark in the last few days, in Caracas and in Valencia. That implies substituting regular bodies to maintain public order by irregular ones, not only trained for this task, but inclined towards irrational violence.

Does Chávez have full conscience of the barbarity he is promoting? Of the disasters that the application of his line of conduct could cause? Chávez appears to be losing his composure, the “nerves of steel” that he was recently calling for. And he has his reasons. Everything has gone wrong for him lately. The PUS is not unique or unified and those registered are like his ten million voters, ghostly; union leaders are now responding to him; he is forced to postpone the constitutional reform because he feels that the time is not ripe and to top it all what he did to RCTV has gravely bruised him.

To top it all off, as if he did not have enough problems, he launches an absurd threat against Globovision, to support for the nth. time the silly accusation that they want to kill him.

How long will he do this!

Knowing that this grave rape of the nation would not go unnoticed, he and his supporters devoted themselves to satanize in advance and still today, the logical popular protest. And that is what people are doing. Protesting. There is no plan here to overthrow the government. There is no coup in the works. The fact that he feels bruised by the goal he scored on himself is something else. All of the official rhetoric on that matter, before and after the closing of RCTV, has been nothing but a clumsy attempt to criminalize a legitimate protest. They thought they were going to be able to scare people away. They did not succeed. The country turned against it. But those students that have taken to the streets direct themselves. Nobody is manipulating them. There is no hairy hand behind them. The language of Pedro Carreño, today just like yesterday, is the same as that of all Ministers of the Interior. But if you examine the events you will see that, today, much like yesterday, the key factor in excesses is the police and the National Guard. It has always been that way. People are exercising their rights.

Without hoods. Moving forward.

Backed by the Constitution.

Venezuelan police taking target price last night with pot banging demonstrators

May 30, 2007

Poll on trying to establish whether a website is being blocked or not

May 30, 2007

Poll: Are we paranoid or can you see this website?:

Tell us if you can and whether you are here or abroad. (I can’t see it!)

Update: Read the comments section, the conclusion is: Yes! Cantv is blocking that website!

Access to information is limited all over the country, as opposition leader is detained in Caracas

May 30, 2007

Oscar Perez, the political leader from the group called the “Comando de la Resistencia” who organized the protests last weekend against the shutdown of RCTV has been detained. He had nothing to do with the demonstrations this week but had been the most visible opposition leader in the last few months, organizing all protests related to the shutdown of RCTV. He ha yet to be charged with anything as 40 cops detained him and his sisters and took him to the National Guards Headquarters.

There is little information about all of the arrests made in the last two days. Different Government officials have mentioned different numbers and they differ from each other by factors of two. Separately, there is clearly a new level of self-censorship in the press as most of the day there was little information of what was going on on TV or on websites, despite massive protests by students NGO Foro Penal said most of those detained have not been charged with anything and have not been able to talk to a lawyer in over 24 hours and noted the inconsistencies in the numbers and the lack of detailed information. I know from good source that 5 students were injured in Yaracuy, but nothing has been in the news.

The student demonstration in Caracas was peaceful as the police did nothing proving once again who stirs the violence. This appeared to be a new strategy by the Government as police excesses were noted during the pot banging last night, including gassing in many places, shooting at crowds, shooting at buildings and Chavista thugs caught armed on amateur videos shooting at peaceful protesters.

Was it a quieter day or the news blackout does not allow you to really know all of what happened?

Note added at 8:15 PM: Ana Julia Jatar reports that in Merida people are not being allowed to protest.

Note added at 8:42 PM: Perez says he was mistreated and hooded while detained after a planing meeting for a march next Saturday for freedom of speech, while his lawyer says Perez was detained illegally as he is a Deputy of the Assembly of Miranda State and thus enjoys parliamentary immunity.

Note added 10:53 PM: Perez was freed now. Supposedly he was detained because his right to use a car from the Legislative Assembly had been revoke without him knowing about. If only the cops would be so efficient when it comes to crimes like murder, kidnapping and the like.

Protests in Lara State tonight!

Another intense and somewhat incoherent day of protests, threats and accusations in Venezuela

May 29, 2007

It was in some sense a fairly incoherent day. Incoherent not because the messages, such as the Government’s were incoherent, but because one was able to see only glimpses of the events of the day. Remarkably, there were more protests than yesterday, as demonstrations were reported in some 100 different municipalities across the country, making the charge by the Government that only opposition municipalities allowed demonstrations simply laughable.

Students woke up early and gathered once again in Plaza Brion in Chacao to meet, before proceeding to Las Mercedes to the OAS Headquarters to hand over a letter to that organization. The students were quite resilient as the rain did not drive them away and they stuck to their guns even beyond that, as they continued to block the streets late tonight in certain areas. In fact, I had to come home tonight by a very roundabout way, as street after street around 7 PM was blocked by either demonstrators or the police. Essentially, a three-mile drive became an eleven-mile ride as I looked for an easy way home. And it was easy as traffic was simply non-existent as people went home early, the Caracas subway was shutdown and bus drivers took home their most important property: their vehicles.

There were many rumors today, some as yet unconfirmed such as the possible deaths of some students. Despite the Government’s accusations that the demonstrations were being run by political parties, the absence of their symbols, the change in venues and the massive arrests (over 100) of underage kids indicated otherwise.

Meanwhile the Government continued its offensive attempting to construct a careful image of the demonstrations being a destabilization attempt by the oligarchic opposition. But I guess this time they did not talk to each other. The Vice President of the National Assembly blamed the CIA, even mentioning the overthrow of Patrice Lumumba; the President said ot was the opposition, the National Assembly said it was an international conspiracy or the 80’s demonstrators of Bandera Roja. While all of this was going on, the students continued demonstrating paying little attention to the news.

Chavez, who had not been on TV since last week, showed up today and once again reenacted and enhanced the glory of the “coup” of 2002, introducing new elements that made the whole thing seem something out of RCTV’s comedy program Radio Rochela, more than a serious statesman. He told the story of how the police on April 11th. 2002 had rifles and attacked, while the “poor kids” on Puente El LLaguno (all above 40!) had to defend themselves with small weapons. He then said that he would lead himself, like on April 13th. 2002 (??) any movement to start a destabilization plan. But his zenith came when he suggested that Globovision was inciting violence by showing the demonstrations and said he would shut the TV station down if it continued.

Remarkably, there were little news from other sources. Many websites were down, either because they had too much traffic or were being attacked, while the other TV stations, Government or private, paid little attention to what was happening in the streets. But Globovision did and it included coverage of a pro-Chávez demonstration which was so ‘spontaneous” that most people had red t-shirts on with the printed logo of the new Government TV station that is replacing RCTV. Even more cynical, while anti-Government protestors were being gassed for blocking streets, metropolitan police led and protected the pro-Chávez march in downtown Caracas which had no permit, showing once again the double standard being used by the Government. By the end of the day, rumors were strong that Globovision would be shut down for three days as a way of “cooling” the streets. I really hope they do it so that, the beginning of the Chavez Dictatorship can be ratified and made official.

Perhaps one of the most significant moments of the days went largely unnoticed. As Deputy after Deputy called the demonstrations destabilizing and the like, the Secretary General of pro-Chávez party Podemos Ismael Garcia rose to speak. However, the leader of the only pro-Chavez party that has refused to join Chavez’ new and “unique” party, did not join his peers. Instead he asked why it is that half the population of Venezuela no longer matters, why their voice is repressed and not taken into account, why they are always disqualified politically, despite the fact that they represent half the inhabitants of the country. While some praised Garcia, the cynics said his sudden about face suggested something was about to happen and Garcia was once again conveniently jumping sides.

Reportedly the students will continue tomorrow. Some student unions at various universities will hold meetings tomorrow to poll the students as to the course of future actions. While many University Presidents continued to say that their institutions were running normally, nothing could be further from the truth as demonstrations, lack of transportations and fear, have brought most of the large institutions of higher education to a standstill.

The Government meanwhile continues to instill fear in people. Today the demonstrations permeated down to high schools in at least three or four cities. Meanwhile the one-day street leaders turned into comfortable oligarchs in the National Assembly, called for the Government to end the demonstrations and strife, suggesting that it is their former comrades of extreme left wing party Bandera Roja who are leading the protests, much like the used to do in the eighties. I guess they know what those demonstrators led to, except that this time they happen to be in the receiving end of things. How times change!

Students rise in anger against RCTV shutdown in surprisingly eventful day

May 28, 2007

It was certainly a surprising day today in Caracas. It was as if the magnitude of the measure of closing RCTV only hit people today. Or maybe they were awaiting some form of miracle or last minute concession by a Government that is not given to such gestures once it has made up its mind.

Of course, it was all started by the University students who decide to protest what they viewed as a serious step by the Government to silence the media in its criticism of what the Government does and the constant watch over its actions and missteps. It is easy to say that RCTV participated in the so called coup/Chavez resignation event of 2002, but reality is that Chavez’ cohorts themselves never allowed the infamous “truth” commission to complete its investigation so that events and facts could be hidden, manipulated and distorted by them since then. Thus, RCTV, once referred to by Chavez as one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, became a lonely horseman, as Venevision and Televen are following the party line and getting the Government’s business, while Globovision’s rating is a scant 5% of the audience and the Government probably understands it is a 5% that it will have en extremely hard time convincing to jump sides.

In contrast, RCTV had 40% of the audience, which was gone with the cancellation of the concession and whose possible rebirth from its ashes as a cable or satellite station, was impeded by the perverse and absurd confiscation of its equipment last Friday. Moreover, cable and satellite’s reach is a scant 28% for obvious reason, which would have severely limited its coverage anyway.

So, there were no magic solutions and while students decided to protest within the bounds of their campuses, the repression by the police ignited a countrywide movement. It was mostly sparked by injuries at Universidad Metropolitana and Carabobo and the refusal by the police to allow students from Universidad Central de Venezuela to hold their rally at Plaza Venezuela. I guess they forgot the multiple entrances of the “The house that defeats the shadows”, as the students simply left out the backdoor, wandering around the city in search for a place to hold their rally. As they did, they called other student movements and agreed to join the event by Reporters for Free Speech in Plaza Brion in Chacao in the afternoon, where a lot of the action I reported today took place.

As I joined the students this afternoon, as they just happened to go by where I was at the moment, two things struck me: One, that this is the first nationwide involvement of the students in protests since Chávez took over, as only local issues like those at the University of Los Andes have raise the outcry of the students. Moreover, voter registration by the young has been very low in the last few years. But the second factor that I noticed, was a level of anger that I had not seen since 2002. One lady walking next to me walked over to the Metropolitan police and started calling them cowards, who have no qualms about attacking peaceful demonstrations, but fail to meet crime head on because they fear the criminals.

Meanwhile, as if there was any doubt that the Chavez Government had crossed an important threshold in terms of its credibility in its commitment for plurality and human rights, a new offense appeared to begin and the foreign press was in focus this time, as CNN was targeted, together with Globovision. While this may seem like an empty threat, it would be quite easy for the Government to obligate both cable and satellite systems not to carry certain networks and broadcasts because they violate the country’s laws. And as we have seen in the last few years, these international concerns care little for the rights of Venezuelans, as long as the bottom line is doing well.

And even those TV stations abiding by the desires of the Dictator were surprised to learn that they will be under constant watch, as the regime was very careful to extend the concession of Venevision, at the last minute, by only 5 years, rather than the customary twenty years of the past few decades. Could it be any clearer than that?

And the workers of Venevision clearly decided to split from the owners of their TV station, crowding Plaza Brion to support RCTV and showing up at the Globovision studios to make amends with their now out of work colleagues, after the tough words of RCTV’s Marcel Granier directed at them last night.

And to close a long list of international organizations with exquisite credentials in the defense of human rights and freedom of speech, Reporters without Borders published a strong condemnation of the shutdown of RCTV on the part of the Chávez Government, which left no doubt in the clarity of its words:

“The closure of RCTV, which was founded in 1953, is a serious violation of freedom of expression and a major setback to democracy and pluralism…President Chávez has silenced Venezuela’s most popular TV station and the only national station to criticize him, and he has violated all legal norms by seizing RCTV’s broadcast equipment for the new public TV station that is replacing it…The grounds given for not renewing RCTV’s license, including its support, along with other media, for the April 2002 coup attempt, are just pretexts.

thus leaving no doubt in its arguments and its strong criticism by an organization of unquestionable credentials in defending human rights, which now joins similar ones like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

The Government continued on the offensive all the day, using excess force at every step and manipulating its own TV stations to claim the demonstrations today were not student led, but a new manipulation by the coupsters on the opposition. But it was clear where the violence came from, in a clear attempt by the Government to intimidate and instill fear in the population to attempt to contain future protests.

But the Government may have awakened a formidable competitor in the university students. While this battle for RCTV seems to be a lost cause, the Dictator has clearly stated that control of the country’s universities is now at the top of his priorities in the upcoming year and will b handled within the Enabling Bill. Having the students ready to protest and demonstrate against him, may lead to the type of opposition to Chavez’s actions that the opposition no longer seems capable of coordinating, but which the students proved today they can do on the spur of the moment.

Pictures of students attacking the police and the cops peacefully defending themselves

May 28, 2007

Some good pictures from today: The first three show the students viciously attacking the cops. Raising the hands took place every time the cops on motorcycles came. Note the woman in the third picture who must obviously be stepping on a cop hiding under the pavement. The last two pictures show the cops with their characteristic peaceful stance. Particularly interesting is the technique invented by the revolution whereby, rather than using tear gas to contain demonstrators, you have two guys on a motorcycle going after them to make sure the tear gas canisters hit close to you or actually hit you. It is very effective, I have been the victim of this.

Students protest as Minister charges Globovision, CNN and Venezueladigital with promoting the killing of Chavez

May 28, 2007

There were protests at local universities this morning. At Universidad Metropplitana the police gassed the students. At Universidad central de Venezuela the students tried to hold a rally at Plaza Venezuela but the police tried to block them from going outside the campus. This incensed the students who then simply left the University and began wondering around the city. I joined them near Chacao where I took the pictures above, where the students were waiting for those from Simon Bolivar University and Universidad Metropolitana. However, the students from Simon Bolivar were stopped in La Trinidad. Amazingly enough little of this is being shwon by TV or the press and some websites seem to be down again.

Separately the Minister of Communications William Lara, who is also the official spokesman for Chavez’ political party, made a formal penal accusation against CNN, Globovision and VenezuelaDigital. I did not understand well the charge, but he said that they were inciting for the killing of Hugo Chavez and using his image the wrong way. From what I understood is that they are accusing the three of being part of a conspiracy. CNN for showing a picture of a dead A-Qaeda leader at the same time they showed a picture of Chavez, Globovision for showing a clip of when the Pope had an attempt on his life a the website for running a poll with a question on whether Chavez should be killed. Once again, it was very difficult to understand the charges. Is this the beginning of the end for globovision?

Updates at 3:40 PM Caracas Time: Police started gassing students from Simon Bolivar University as they tried to leave for the Chacaito rally. Meanwhile in Chacaito, the police started gassing the students for unknown reasons, given that it is a closed square with no traffic circulation. But the police came from one side gassing the demonstrators. They dispersed and now have regrouped. Essentially when the cops came the students sat down and the cops retreated. The polices says that the students went to an area that they were not allowed (??) and they will not permit it. They crowd is thinner but the students say they are waiting for others from various universities.

Update at 4:47 PM: The police now attacked the students with the “whale” and tear gas. The “whale” is a water tank. It is unclear why they decided to do this, since the rally is in Plaza Brion of Chacaito, which is a pedestrian walkway. The Minister of Interior and Justice is saying that these are “coupsters” trying to use the unions and students to destabilize and the US Government is behind the whole thing. Government TV only showing when Mayor Leopoldo Lopez said the demonstration had to peaceful and saying this is another opposition rally disguised as a student demonstration.

Update at 5:50 PM: Now the students are actually occupying the streets and the cops are doing nothing about it. Go Figure. Supposedly, the cops were sent to Conatel, the telecom regulator where the protests took place yesterday. Dificult to understand why they attacked an hour ago, when the students were only in the pedestrian area and now they are allowed to go and obstruct the streets.

Update at 6:20 PM: A torrential rain poured on the demonstrators and the crowd dispersed. Then all of sudden there is a shooting going on, and I mean tear gas and bullets this time. Nobody understands what is going on, as there seems to be more police that demonstrators left due to the rain. Reporter saying that some students starting throwing stones at the police and that is why the police began using plastics bullets in Chacao. There are four injured at the University of Carabobo and three at Universidad Metropolitana.