VIO News Blog

June 17, 2009

Prosecutors Investigate Globovision for Inciting Crime

On Tuesday, Venezuela’s telecommunications regulator CONATEL instructed prosecutors to investigate whether or not the Globovision news channel incited a crime when it aired the comments of a newspaper editor who stated that President Chavez could end up “hanging” like the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. A spokeswoman for CONATEL stated that if the investigation determined that Globovision was responsible for supporting criminal activities, it’s broadcasting license “could be revoked.”

An article posted on CNN’s web site presents a variety of quotes from individuals and organizations that are critical of this and other CONATEL investigations of Globovision. The article, however, fails to present a single contrasting point of view or critical background information regarding, for instance, the role that the news station played during the April 2002 coup against Chavez. CNN also quotes the NED-funded NGO Reporters without Borders making the false claim that Globovision is currently the only Venezuelan television station that has “kept up its criticism of the government.” In fact, as any frequent watcher of Venezuelan television knows, other private channels such as Televen and Venevision continue to frequently air criticism of the government, while the RCTV network broadcasts intensely critical views of the government on cable and satellite television.

In recent weeks, pamphlets threatening to “socially cleanse” communities of transvestites, sex workers and thieves, among others, have been distributed throughout communities in western Venezuela, according to Venezuelanalysis. Signed by a group named “Black Eagles”, believed to be a splinter group of the defunct Colombian paramilitary organization A.U.C., the pamphlets have been accompanied by violent acts, including the brutal murder of a transvestite sex worker in the state of Merida. Venezuela’s national police investigation unit has launched an investigation into the pamphlets and the murders. Meanwhile, President Chavez and the Venezuelan Minister of Interior and Justice have accused the governor of Tachira, Cesar Perez, of conspiring with paramilitary groups to mount a violent plan to secede from Venezuela.

The communications industry research group Telegeography reports that President Chavez has invited Caribbean countries to share the use of Venezuela’s new Simon Bolivar satellite which began to operate in January. Science and Technology Minister Jesse Chacon explained that the satellite would allow Venezuela to provide high speed internet and TV services to remote areas of Venezuela. He also announced that the government would soon launch a free public Wi-Fi network that will cover 50 square kilometres in the city of Barquisimeto.

The Venezuelan government announced Monday that CADIVI – the country’s foreign exchange administrator – would be allocating $2.5 billion to the national car industry to allow for more imports of motor vehicles and car parts following a plunge in car sales during the month of May. The government has limited the amount of dollars made available to the industry in order to decrease car imports and boost national production.

In other economic news, Bloomberg reports that the Venezuelan National Assembly has approved a law requiring all chemical production to be placed under the control of government-controlled joint ventures. A number of strategic industries have been nationalized since 2007, including Venezuela’s steel, cement and electrical industries.

October 15, 2008

Venezuela an Oasis of Calm in Troubled Financial Times

Yesterday, tear gas was thrown at the headquarters of Nuevo Pais, a Caracas newspaper whose editor promoted the assassination of President Chavez. The AP reports that a “radical pro-government militia” called La Piedrita took responsibility for the act. Though it is unclear in the article, the group is not affiliated with the government and has been publicly condemned by prominent officials in the Chavez administration. On Monday of this week, the minister of justice and minister of information spoke out against La Piedrita and called their violent tactics “political childishness,” for which they were praised by Reporters Without Borders.

Also in Venezuela, Reuters reports that some 6,500 relatives of incarcerated people held a protest on Tuesday to demand better conditions in jails. Prison violence in Venezuela is widespread, and last year produced 500 deaths. The government promised reforms to the system this year. The challenges are considerable, but some small steps have already been made, such as bringing the famous music education program, “El Sistema” into jails to help rehabilitate the incarcerated.

Developments came yesterday in the “suitcasegate” trial in which Florida-based Venezuelan businessmen are accused by the US government of acting as unregistered foreign agents. The Miami Herald reports that the lawyer for the sole defendant in the case, Franklin Durán, was finally allowed to introduce evidence that “he says could create reasonable doubt about the government’s case.” The lawyer contends that the charges were “calculated to smear both Mr. Durán and the Venezuelan government.” So far, judges have refused to consider the political context of the allegations.

Finally, The Financial Times calls the Caracas stock market an “oasis of calm” amid the global financial crisis. As in most countries, Venezuela’s banks have felt the effects of the crisis, but “the system as a whole is reckoned to be solvent.”

October 14, 2008

Venezuela Nabs Drug Kinpin, Gets Praise from Reporters Without Borders

Eight suspects were arrested yesterday in the recent murder of a student in the western state of Zulia. The Attorney General said those arrested include police officers and businessmen, according to the AP. Zulia borders Colombia and is known to be quite violent. Bloomberg reports that President Chavez recently claimed that the CIA has offices there. Buried in that article is the news that Venezuelan officials made their fifth major drug arrest this year. Eber Antonio Pulgar Chacon, a drug trafficker wanted in the U.S., was captured Saturday. No other sources report on the arrest, although the White House’s recent claim that Venezuela is failing in the fight against drugs earned intense media attention.

Similarly, Venezuela has come under fire from the White House and human rights groups for allegedly having poor press freedoms, however, no U.S. newspapers report on recent praise from Reporters Without Borders. The organization hailed the government’s vocal rejection of violence against reporters during a demonstration. Venezuela’s Justice Minister and Information Minister both strongly condemned attacks by citizens on journalists from the anti-Chavez broadcaster Globovision in the Caracas neighborhood “23 de Enero.” Reporters Without Borders also welcomed the announcement by Information Minister Andres Izarra that opposition candidates in the upcoming elections will be given air time on the main public TV channel, Venezolana de Television (VTV).

The Washington Post reports on the disqualification of some candidates from upcoming state and municipal elections. The claim is made that only those politicians that “posed a challenge” to the political party of President Chavez were disqualified. However, the hundreds barred from running for office due to corruption probes do include pro-Chavez candidates. According to the Post, a government official says that “the decisions to disqualify were made on legal grounds after long probes in which investigators did not even know the political affiliation of those they were investigating.” Of Leopoldo Lopez, the opposition mayor of Chacao accused of misuse of public funds, the official said: “He has planted the idea that it is political persecution. That is false, it is completely false.”

The AP and AFP report on the declining influence of the U.S. in global politics. AFP quotes a British philosopher who calls it “a historic geopolitical shift in which the balance of power in the world is being altered irrevocably.” This has been the theme of much of the press coverage of joint military exercises by Venezuela and Russia. A Washington Times article claims that the political career of President Chavez is based on anti-Americanism, when in fact the Venezuelan leader has good business relations with the U.S. and has only responded to attacks by the Bush administration. Chavez has also said that he looks forward to working with the next U.S. president.

Indian Country Today reports that U.S. Indigenous communities continue to rely on reduced-cost heating oil from the Venezuelan-owned company CITGO. CITGO’s donations last year alone totaled $100 million. The aid goes to low-income families in 24 U.S. states, including 223 tribal communities. Meanwhile, USA Today anticipates the end of Venezuela’s oil-funded social programs due to lowered oil prices. While some social spending has been cut back recently, this is fairly unlikely; oil prices were still several times lower when the anti-poverty programs began, and Venezuela’s economy remains in good shape.

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