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.

February 6, 2009

Alleged Destabilization Plot Thwarted in Venezuela

Two National Guard commanders not yet identified were detained Wednesday for “preparing destabilization plans,” according to televised statements made by President Chavez yesterday. The AP reports that the men allegedly conspired against the government in conjunction with local opposition groups and ex-lieutenants living in the U.S. The latter are said to be Jose Antonio Colina and German Rodolfo Varela, who tried to overthrow the government in 2002 and for whom Venezuela has been denied extradition requests since early 2004.

The AP also reports that private oil contractors in Venezuela are stopping work to protest back payments they are owed by the state oil firm PDVSA. Meanwhile, PDVSA says service providers increased their prices by as much as 40 percent last summer. Oil Minister Ramirez has said Venezuela will repay all its debts, according to the AP.

The Economist prints an article and an opinion piece on Venezuela that are nearly indistinguishable in their tone and message. The article ignores evidence to make the ludicrous claim that “a climate of hostility against Jews” is fostered by the Venezuelan government. Leaders consistently advocate religious freedom and tolerance — values that were made law in the 1999 constitution — and have also met with Jewish leaders and signed anti-discrimination accords. The Economist opinion piece claims vandalism at a synagogue last week was only “eventually condemned” by government officials, but it was immediately and forcefully denounced by the president, vice president, and government ministers who promised the culprits would be fully punished. The Economist also claims the President Chavez’s ten years in elected office have yielded no gains for Venezuela, dismissing social missions as “hard to assess.” UN data shows Venezuela has lowered the income gap and reduced poverty by 20 percent since 2002.

Finally, in other news today, El Universal reports that Venezuela will soon have a new Indigenous news agency with nationwide distribution thanks to the new Simon Bolivar Satellite, Venesat-1.

October 30, 2008

Venezuela’s Social Revolution Takes to the Skies

Venezuela’s new “Simon Bolivar” satellite was successfully launched from China yesterday. According to CNN, a government news agency stated that the equipment “is not focused on commercial ends, but on providing a service to the communities which have never enjoyed a modern communication system.” The AP reports that Venezuela joins Brazil and Argentina as the third South American nation to launch a satellite. It will begin transmitting TV, radio, and other data in three months, and should last for 15 years.

No decision could be reached by the jury in “suitcasegate,” the Miami trial of Venezuela’s Franklin Duran, who claims he was set up by the FBI to frame the Chavez government. According to the Miami Herald, the hung jury was told by U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard to try again.

A ludicrous op-ed in the Washington Times by yet another US military figure wrongly claims that President Chavez “buys politicians.” Also contrary to the op-ed, there are no Hezbollah training camps in Venezuela. If, as the op-ed states, the State Department and Navy are “well aware” of such activity, it is curious that it has never been cited in official reports on terrorism for the region. The Venezuelan government does not have links to Hezbollah, nor is it “expanding narcotics and weapons smuggling in the region.” These claims are simply fear-mongering, not fact, and do not belong in a newspaper.

In regional news, sources report that Colombia has dismissed 24 soldiers and three generals for killing civilians near the Venezuelan border. The BBC, this revelation “could just be the first stage in a wider scandal.” The US plays a large role in funding and training Colombia’s military.

Finally, the AP reports that the foreign policy goals of President Bush have been unmet during his administration. In particular, in Latin America, “Bush’s push for democracy and free trade is widely seen as failing to diminish the yawning gap between rich and poor.”

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