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I fully agree: “There IS a strategy against freedom of expression in Venezuela”
by JESUS MARIA NERY BARRIOS
Email: jesusnerybarrios (nospam) yahoo.com
22 Mar 2007
VHeadline en Español News Editor Jesus Nery Barrios writes: On Sunday, March 18, at the 63rd half-yearly meeting of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) in Bogota, its chairman, Rafael Molina said that “there is a strategy against freedom of expression in Venezuela” ... a statement with which I fully agree.
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Most people around the world believe that the Bolivarian Government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela has been brutally repressing the media, jailing, disappearing and murdering “many” journalists and “closing” TV channels opposed to him.
But the truth, ironically, is that since 1999 that selfsame media have been the first to hide the facts and the truth about what has really been happening in Venezuela, and they continue to do so in the most impudent manner.
It is worth remembering the closure of Catia TV (community TV) on July 10, 2003 ... by former Caracas Metropolitan Mayor Alfredo Pena (currently a fugitive from charges of conspiracy against the democratically-elected government as well as misuse of Caracas Police' funds)...
...the closure of state-owned Venezolana de Television TV channel by Enrique Mendoza, the then Governor of the State of Miranda, right after the April 11, 2002 coup d'etat against Chavez...
...and the media black-out imposed by all of the privately-owned TV stations over the three days that President Chavez was out of power ... they instead broadcast baseball games, Hollywood movies and cartoons while the people of Caracas were protesting Chavez’ removal, furiously demanding his return to legitimate and legal power.
That's why I agree with the IAPA and not because I think Chavez and his administration are chasing or killing reporters and editorial writers.
It is true that many press photographers and journalists have been killed under Chavez' presidency but, believe it or not, they have not died at the hands of his officials or by his command, as the local and international media want you to believe.
To illustrate how the Venezuelan and international media lie to you about this topic and to remind the IAPA about its true duties to defend freedom of speech and the safety of all the reporters, journalists and press photographers in Venezuela, below is a list of the best-known cases of press workers that have died while doing their work:
Jorge Tortoza, press photographer of the national newspaper 2001 (owned by the business family De Armas), and formerly working in the Investigative Police (PTJ) photographic lab, shot dead on April 11, 2002, while covering a march organized by political parties and media owners opposed to Chavez. Many subsequent photographs and videos from other sources show that Tortoza may have been killed by snipers placed in buildings around Puente Llaguno by Alfredo Pena, Enrique Mendoza and the CIA because he took compromising pictures of them.
Other sources have reported that he could have been killed by some hit-man hired by the De Armas Family because of old squabbles and secret information he had about their business ... as was reported by his relatives in the local press and VTV.
In any event, Chavez’ officials were not involved in his death because, among other things, they were very busy trying to protect Chavez and to defend democracy in Venezuela.
Mauro Marcano, journalist and town councilor in Maturin, State of Monagas (east of Venezuela), former member of Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS) and elected on the list of his own political movement “Fuerza Monaguense” in 2000 (and not on the Accion Democratica list, as some media claimed then to establish a relationship between his death and Chavez, because of this party’s hostility toward Venezuela’s President), had a radio show on Radio 1.080 AM called “De Frente con el Pueblo” and an editorial column “Sin Bozal” in La Prensa. He was shot dead on the streets of Maturin on September 1, 2004 by two hitmen allegedly hired by a National Guard (GN) General (according to some sources); although other sources claim (based of relatives’ testimonies) that he was killed by powerful drug-trafficking cartels and very important businessmen and politicians in the zone involved in such activities.
In any case, he was killed because he was pressing charges of drug-trafficking, concealment of the participants in criminal activity ... a scourge that has been punishing Venezuela for many decades and that has provoked the death of many other journalists in the past ... much before Chavez.
Jorge Aguirre, press photographer working for El Mundo newspaper (owned by the Capriles family), shot dead in the head on April 5, 2006 while covering student riots in the Venezuela’s Central University (UCV) against the kidnapping and subsequent death of the Canadian-Venezuelan Faddoul brothers (among other public demonstrations instigated by the political parties and media opposed to Chavez as part of their campaign against “the increasing crime on the streets under the Chavez regime”). Before falling, mortally injured, he was able to take a picture of his murderer, a man riding a motorcycle wearing a black jacket similar to those used by many law-enforcement officials in Caracas (a fact used by the private-owned media to state that Aguirre was shot by a Bolivarian official under Chavez command, but was suitable to identify him).
The subsequent investigation led to the discovery that Aguirre’s murderer was actually a former member of Policia de Chacao, one of the municipal police cops who participated in the deaths on April 11, 2002 in Caracas, a police corp that is run by the Chacao Mayor Leopoldo Lopez (Primero Justicia), a radical opponent to Chavez and the Bolivarian government.
In any case, once again, no Chavez’ official was involved in the case.
These are the cases where we see the freedom of speech very endangered and for which the IAPA should be monitoring Venezuela while it tries to show this country as “very dangerous for journalism" ... while we see so many radical writers and radio hosts like Marta Colomina, Ibeyise Pacheco, Marianella Salazar and Berenice Gomez (aka. La Bicha) spitting all kind of lies and insults at Venezuela’s President and people, displaying all their frustrations in face of the increasing popularity of Chavez and the people’s support for his politics and initiatives.
It is somewhat different with Patricia Poleo (daughter of El Nuevo Pais newspaper owner Rafael Poleo), who is a fugitive in Miami charged as one of the masterminds of the murder of the National Attorney Danilo Anderson. She cannot exercise her right to express herself in person within the country, but is virtually doing it by “remote control” in her column “Factores de Poder” and thru many TV appearances.
As you can see, by simply analyzing these three particular cases, it’s the private media owners, crime mobs and political opponents who threaten freedom of speech permanently in Venezuela, by muzzling it, hijacking it every time they get the urge, treating journalists and reporters as employees only as tools in their power games ... not as social communicators for people eager to know the truth and social reality.
The problem for the Venezuelan people is that the IAPA is not going to help them since its members are these same elites who, without any restraint, use their huge fortunes and influence to manipulate the minds and distort the dearest desires of a people that has been submitted to their most despicable whims for now more than 40 years.
Jesus Nery Barrios
jesus (at) vheadline.com
This work is in the public domain