Freedom Of The Press In Venezuela?

November 23, 2013

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?

17 Responses to “Freedom Of The Press In Venezuela?”

  1. Today, while I was at work, my siser stole my apple ipad and tested to ssee if iit can survive a 40 foot drop,
    just so shhe can be a youtube sensation. My iPaad is noww destroyed
    annd she has 83 views. I know this is entiorely off topic but I had
    to share it with someone!

  2. I’ve read some excellent suff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting.
    I surprise how a lot attempt you put to make one of
    these fantastic informative web site.

  3. Alex Says:

    Good to have you back. My wife was there too this week. Her flight back was at 4pm, she got to the airport at 9am! Colleagues recommended her to depart real early otherwise face road blocks from protesters, the massive immigration and Santa Barbara check in line and of course would miss any opportunity to hop on some other flight if Santa Barbara decided to cancel, and it so appears they’ve been cancelling flights spontaneously.

    ….oh and of course, all this crap for the cost of travelling to singapore in some cool airline.

  4. Morpheous Says:

    It is not complicated, there is a COMMUNIST DICTATORSHIP in Venezuela backed by the CUBAN DICTATORSHIP. If we don’t stop them, we all see soon the formalization of the CUBAN-VENEZUELAN FEDERATION. Are we going to continue saying “no vale yo no creo” ?

    • syd Says:

      Morph, I believe today, Venezuela turned the corner. And I’ll tell you why. For the first time since the marchas began, over a decade ago, I saw Vzlans of all stripes in the street, today. For the most part, they were serious, if not angry. I did not see as much flakey behaviour as I used to, when the opposition consisted primarily of those from the tonier east side of Caracas. Many of those ‘marchas’ had little credibility, insofar as agents-of-change are concerned.

      Yes, Venezuelans still need a(n oppo) leader to rally them. That’s human nature, and the autoconvocatorias proved it. Yet, I believe it was necessary to give the autoconvocatorias space. Meaning, I’m glad the oppo pols held back on those two occasions.

      Does all this mean it’s easy street from now on. No. It’s a long way to Tipperary. But I think that road just got a whole lot straighter, today.

  5. Island Canuck Says:

    What the hell is the Dutch royal family doing here?
    And who are those Prussian queens in the background.

    A moment of incredulous laughter in view of all the problems we face.
    All the demonstrations today must have made an impact.

    • Kepler Says:

      I was trying to talk to several people here in Europe about that.
      The Venezuelans in the Netherlands were too cautious, “less we are seen as extremists”.
      I had been tweeting to the Dutch and now I left my comment
      on the blog of a journalist

      I think some opposition leader – not necessarily Capriles – should have address the Dutch guys with some communiqué. I am sure that would have gone straight to the Dutch press and those guys would have heard about that.

      • syd Says:

        Capriles would be in a difficult position, had he said something about the Dutch royal visit, especially since his family has ties to the Dutch Antilles.

      • ErneX Says:

        I met some venezuelans in Amsterdam, I made the mistake of complaining about the money spent in Pastor Maldonado by PDVSA, they got angry and said “he’s representing Venezuela in the elite of racing, it’s money well spent” my face still hurts from the facepalm.

    • syd Says:

      Prussian queens … jajajajaja!
      I, too, wondered about the Dutch royals stopping by for tea. It left me uncomfortable, then I rationalized when reading this:

      .@NicolasMaduro no pudo reprimir por q los monarcas de los Países Bajos, Willem-Alexander y Máxima Zorreguieta están en Venezuela.

      I also wondered if our royals were present during that visit. No, no, I’m not talking about Nicolás and his Primera Combatiente. I mean the occupants of La Casona…

  6. moctavio Says:

    I dont buy the other story for being the reason, it is a story more appropiate for Ultimas Notcias than for El Mundo and it has not appeared there.

  7. syd Says:

    Must be difficult to separate fact from “chisme” in these uncertain times. Hope you are now recovered, Miguel.

  8. Alexander Says:

    For some reasons you missed the full history, how was Omar Lugo fired from the El Mundo Economico. Everybody here know that a well know banker personally fired Mr. Lugo. Please tell us the full history.

  9. sapitosetty Says:

    Good summary of the week’s events, Miguel. I need to add a detail I heard from one person close to the Omar Lugo story. It may be that the problem wasn’t only what he said, but what he failed to say. What I hear:

    El Mundo received a call from Victor Vargas’ office asking them to cover a story in the edition of Friday, November 15. The story was that on the Sunday previous — five days earlier — Jose Vicente Rangel, on his weekly talk show, had accused a certain lawyer of wrongdoing. See for details. In any event, Lugo declined to run the five-day-old rumour, and especially declined to put it on the front page. It turns out that the lawyer in question is representing Vargas’s estranged wife in a divorce proceeding. Draw your own conclusions about that one.

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