I know, I have not been posting much. Spending a week in Caracas takes a lot of energy. It is not easy to digest, investigate, see friends, party, eat, drink, work, have gastritis and expect me to write at the same time. More so, when you decide that you better listen to a complete Maduro “cadena”, something I did twice this week, which is enough to cause a variety of ailments, both mental and digestive ones.
But I will start with a simple issue, the attack on the press by the Maduro administration and directly by Maduro personally. For those that even dare suggest there is freedom of the press in Venezuela, please shut up!. Every single day there are threats to sue, to bar, to fire, to do anything to intimidate the press. The Government controls the media and the media which is not controlled has been effectively silenced with few exceptions. With the recent sale of the Cadena Capriles to unknown “forces”, everyone was looking at flagship Ultimas Noticias to see if any changes would take place, but the first casualty occurred in sister publication El Mundo, whose director of four years Omar Lugo, was fired for putting this on the cover:
A bit scandalous? yes, for a serious a economic newspaper it may be somewhat over the top, but certainly not as scandalous as Maduro’s accusations, charges and speeches. Yes, everything is on sale in Venezuela as the headline says, including the country’s international reserves that are going down at a rate of one billion dollars a month. Lugo had been asked to “behave” by the new owners, which he didn’t and he was summarily fired.
Then, Minister of the Interior and Justice Torres threatened to sue newspaper El Universal for publishing a picture of the pool of blood left on the ground by the death of an engineer who had been kidnapped and was killed by police when his relatives were trying to pay the ransom. The police happened to be nearby coincidentally, leading to the deaths of both the kidnappers and the victim. The picture was this one:
Gruesome? Of course, but that is daily life in Venezuela, that happens to be the truth, a trith that the Government controlled media simply does not talk about at all, as if the dead were Martians. As if those killed were not Venezuelans, on both sides. As if those killed had no relatives and nobody noticed their deaths.
Similarly, Maduro accused regional newspaper El Tiempo of “inciting violence” for publishing the words of a storekeeper who said that he preferred to be looted than to sell goods to the public at an arbitrary discount, as it was cheaper for him. Given that it was Maduro who promoted the looting in the first place, this statement is simple pressure to not report what is going on with Maduro’s forced sale by merchants in Venezuela. Which by the way, is an absolutely illegal act, not backed by any act of a Judge, nor a process in which people have been allowed to defend themselves.
Then there is Miami Herald reporter Jim Wyss, who was held for 48 hours by the military for trying to report shortages at a city near the border with Colombia. Wyss is in charge of the Herald’s Bogota’s office, but is registered with Venezuela’s information Ministry, and went to San Cristobal, in Tachira State to learn about the upcoming election, smuggling and shortages. He told his story very clearly in this article, where he tells us how his belongings were removed from his hotels, he was checked out and his computer and phones inspected and copied in what is certainly an illegal procedure in Venezuela. It is unclear if he would have been held longer, had he not been seen by someone when he went to the bathroom.
Maduro has also accused El Nacional of promoting an economic war against the Government, withheld permits to import newsprint for a number of papers and criticizes in a very explicit fashion the editorials of newspapers for being critical of him. To say nothing of the banning of a number of websites that publish the price of the black market rate, but taking advantage of the opportunity to ban any website, blog, page or site that links to any of them at the same time. Who knows how many websites have been banned by now? I do hope they find ways to use Facebook and Twitter, which would have a much higher politically cost if blocked. The Government even banned URL shortener Bitly to stop dollar pages from tweeting the price. Of course, all users of the service are now banned from using it in Venezuela. Yes, there are others, but…
The telecom regulator in Venezuela even asked Twitter to block the accounts of those that publish the black market rate via Twitter, because publishing such a number was illegal in Venezuela. These guys really have little understanding of what freedom of the press means around the world.
What’s next? Facebook? WordPress? Twitter? There is no limit for these little dictators, whose fascist roots seem to be surfacing more and more these days.
So, going back to the question: Freedom of the Press in Venezuela?
Are you kidding me?