Archive for May 28th, 2007

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.

Some new flowers

May 28, 2007

Cattleya Warnerii from Brazil top left. On the right a very nice Cattleya Mossiae, a little past its prime.

Its Laelia Purpurata time, on the left not a very good one, but nice lip. On the right a nice rose one.

Brassavola Little Stars.