globovision-presoBoris Muñoz is characteristically excellent in his treatment of the fall of Globovision to the Dark Side, in a post that covers all the story’s basics.

And yet, I couldn’t help but feel he’s doing his readers a subtle but serious disservice: his laser-like focus on Globovision obscures the broader trends in press freedom in the era of Communicational Hegemony, trends that go far beyond the fate of a single – if emblematic – TV channel.

Here, I gotta toot our own horn a bit: Gustavo Hernández Acevedo has been doing a tremendous job for Caracas Chronicles chasing down stories that capture the breadth of the onslaught, from the takeover of Cadena Capriles to the forced sales of hard-hitting regional tabloids like Maracaibo’s Versión Final and local player Global TV for the sin of carrying Henrique Capriles’s broadcasts to the way CONATEL blocked the sale of AtelTV to or any similar station out of opposition hands.

These stories are less flashy than the Globovision story, but they paint in the detail that Boris just missed. The issue here isn’t about one station being bought or sold, it’s about a new, more aggressive interpretation of Communicational Hegemony: a multi-pronged attempt to just drive any kind of critical content off of the airways and even the printing presses.

The regional angle is especially important: national outlets like Globovision were never going to run down the kinds of local stories that Correo del Caroni or Version Final could be expected to cover. In chasing down local outlets, chavismo is closing down key mechanisms for accountability not just nationally but regionally too. A mayor or a governor in a state with no independent media acquires the kind of implicit immunity from scrutiny that can’t help but turn him into a tiny-tyrant. Just imagine what can happen when you have the likes of Adan Chávez running Barinas with nobody at all looking over his shoulder.

The story, in other ways, is both broader and deeper than Boris lets on. With 6to Poder now out of publication and its editor starving himself in detention, El Nacional under intense pressure and Correo del Caroni against the ropes, it’s easy to grasp the kind of media landscape postchavismo is aiming for…and it’s dePRAVDAd.

As it turns out, Valentina Lares’s readers in El Tiempo will be much better informed about this than Boris Muñoz’s in The New Yorker, just more grist to the mill of my latest theory: everything is better in Colombia.

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  1. The Muñoz piece lacks clarity. A much more assertive composition was required to bring the situation home to readers who don’t follow Venezuelan events. For example, he says it is a “half-truth” that “freedom of the press is thriving in Venezuela.” This sounds, to the unwary, like a statement that, while things aren’t perfect, they are still pretty good.

    It would be sharper, and much more accurate, to say that freedom of the press is under sustained attack in Venezuela, so much so that no independent tv channel remains on the air. Having made that point firmly, he might have gone on to say that newspapers face harassment, local papers are being bought up, etc.

    And it doesn’t count as “press freedom in Venezuela” that (some) people can watch internet tv. All that means is that there are still ways to circumvent censorship.

    You are completely correct that Acevedo’s reporting on this has been far superior.

  2. Gustavo’s done a great job on this for sure. The Prensa de Barinas, to take one of the examples he raised, is basically a puny little community paper with reliable and graphic coverage of local homicides, car wrecks, and weddings, but it was the only media outlet I am aware of covering with any degree of interest the dirty- little- secrets- that- everybody- in-Barinas- knows- about of the Chavez family, and the political dissent going on within the ranks of the local PSUV, which expressed itself in the form of who is more loyal to Chavez ideals sort of thing, but was actually dissent….

    To give an example, if I am not mistaken, these guys tracked down the locally famous penniless testaferro who had title to one of the large and opulent Chavez fincas, living out of some shack in Barinitas, valiantly claiming that the Chavez family only borrowed the finca from him and that he liked to live modestly etc etc on his carpenter’s pension or whatever it was….this was the kind of thing that would turn up in the Prensa every once in a while and you’d be thinking over your cachapa and coffee: wow, this is not what I expected from Prensa de Barinas….

    In any event, as Gustavo pointed out/pointed to, this modest vehicle for free expression cannot now cover football games in Barinas because Argenis Chavez owns the team (or Agelis, I can’t keep their holdings straight anymore), and the paper is getting fined to death for covering ….violence! (what local paper does not cover the daily death toll, the infinite, random ways that people are being slaughtered?) You take violence and football out of a local Venezuelan paper and you’re left basically with 15th birthday parties and ground-breakings on government projects that will never be completed.

    The place is turning into some comic-horrific fifedom of half-wit caudillo princelings. And they are getting expert advice from Russia, Cuba and China on how to make violations of fundamental human rights look to the outside observer somehow factually complicated and equivocal. The plan is working perfectly.

        • I can’t access ANY archived stories with a search on their website, and no links back before this year. Either this story, or one similar to it, was picked up by a number of media outlets and bloggers in the spring of 2008, but with no local detail or interviews, if you google “testaferro”, “chavez” and “finca”. I’ll see what more I can find.

          • I bet, if you traced the El Pais story, or this New York Times story, also loosely referencing the testaferro incident, you would trace it back to local journalists who were on it.

            It is interesting that the clamp down on this particular regional paper is happening now. It almost suggests that Chavez was a force of restraint when it came to censorship, because these guys were on his family corruption years ago.

  3. I read the muñoz article and, in his defence, I think that he tried to be balanced in the subject of globovision, still, I was left with the feeling that he talked to vaguely about some aspects like when he mentioned “official truth”, I think that the gringo reader wouldn’t really know the difference between what the goverment says and what their critics say, and as you all say he failed to grasp the media suppresion problem in venezuela in full, but then not even venezuelans are fully aware of what’s happening, the vast majority of the population doesn’t know or care about what’s happening to version final, correo del caroni, 6to poder etc… thats why the goverment have been able to so easily do what we are all so outraged about, it might not even affect them in the december polls as a reasonable person would expect.

    • I would even add that most people don’t even care about globovision either, not like rctv anyway, even a lot of opposition people hated globo, I guess that that say something about the culture of liberty of expression in this country, that is probably why the mud haven’t even tried to harness public unrest about this subject, it is impossible to predict if this is going to cause a major impact in the polls for any side

      • I have been oppo since day 1 but I live abroad. I can understand why a lot of people hated Globo. I sincerely think had Globovisión tried to report more from the start without giving opinions on every fart, just put the numbers there, just let them all talk, Chavismo would have closed it down much faster. The way it functioned for many years (not at the bitter end), it was, I think, having the opposite effect on a lot people.
        My relatives in Venezuela were telling me I didn’t know because I don’t live there, but I don’t think that’s the point.
        If you use media more as catharsis than anything else, you are just going to preach to the choir.
        If you show a real alternative and let the public think for itself, you are a real threat to the government.

  4. Maybe too much is made of globovisions sometimes partial presentation of news because there was usually a core or kernel ( take your pick) of truth to what they reported, enough so that a person endowed with a modicum of judgment could distinguish between the relevant part and the partisan garnishement or exageration . The notion that most people just take the news wholesale and uncritically is likely naive , people have a sense of reality unless they are totally fanatized by their outlook . Also keeping the oppo stalawarts energized is as important a task as trying to adapt your reporting in order to find converts among the least fanatized of the Chavez faithful .!!

    Take this blog for example . people visiting it know that they will find mostly pieces which are critical of the regime and its absurdities , it does not pander to proselytist ambitions . The only difference (vs globovision ) is that its journalistic standard of its journalism are very very high but that probably is only made possible because of the high educational standard of its typical devottees and the fact that it is not really targeting english speaking Chavista synpathizers as an audience , only people who are interested in Venezuela and have an open mind .

  5. “everything is better in Colombia” – just another baseless opinion of yours Toro.

    Now let’s get back to the government attempts to establish a Communiucational hegemony in Venezuela. (I won’t mention international media, since they are all anti Bolivarian Revolution).

    Instead of making a blanket statement about Communicational Hegemony. give us some numbers.

    For example – how many newspapers are controlled by the private media in Vnezuela compared to government newspapers?

    Sale goes for radio stations including community radio.

    Same goes for TV stations including community TV.

    And you can include internet sites if you want.

    When you give the first three figures and see the huge advantage in numbers the opposition media has, then your argument falles falt on its face. Communicational hegemony indeed – it belongs to the opposition and you know it.

    Why mislead your readers?

    • Arturo, you will ignore the following questions because you know the one miss-leading is you.
      1) is a private media outlet per definition critical of the regime? (think Venevisión in the year 2013, hint, hint, HINT!)
      2) how many people read El Universal outside the 3 main cities? (in fact: how many do that in the poorer sections of those cities.)

      If you do answer 2), I do anticipate you will say something about “it’s because they are so bad”. Take a new hint: most people in those regions a) do not have the money to buy newspapers, b) if they do, they buy the cheaper and more tabloid-like papers. This is not a bias, it is a fact. Try to see the amount of The Guardian or Financial Times bought in a poor sector of London as opposed to a better off area.

      • Let me add: 3) how much time do you think is left before the goverment take over the remaining private media, I dont think that even venevision and televen are really safe from goverment intervention

        • Not all media is equally important , TV has the furthest reach so it is the most important , All TV channels are either owned or controlled by the regime or by its cronies . Some may still exist in the interior but their days are counted . Radio is next and here the persecution has been more selective , lots of places (Los Teques for example) have had all opposition or independent Stations closed some two year ago so you can only hear stations repeating the govts messages , Caracas still has oppo stations as probably some other large cities but their number is limited and of course get harrased all the time . Papers are last because the typical chavista doesnt read anything except sports and Ultimas Noticias . Now ultimas Noticias is bought by regime cronies and there are several papers owned or controlled by the regime , Even here there are efforts by the Govt to close down unriendly or independent radio stations or papers or make them subservient to the regimes commands . Cable tv has a limited reach and generally broadcast programs that are acritical by design and nature . Then finally there are the social media and internet channels , they also have a small reach and may even be used as listening posts to communications and messages between oppo figures . They will be the last to go although with more difficulty . .


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