#TropaTelesur under siege

WyssImagine what would happen to your business if you discriminated among your employees based on nationality alone, and they knew about it. What would your workers do if they found out that some of their colleagues earn 100 *times* their salary by virtue of simply being foreign?

Well, could you blame them if they took the story to someone you really dislike?

After a prior post on what goes on at Telesur English, the English-language all-news channel funded by the Venezuelan government, I thought that would be the end of that. Turns out it wasn’t, as I was contacted by several more of its employees.

Being the recipient of these stories is surprising to me, and I have made efforts to check the veracity of the claims. After hearing from several sources, I am ready to go forward with the second part.

The previous story was about how shoddy the operation at Telesur English is – hack work, poor pay, mistreated employees, labor laws ignored. This one is about the recent fiasco of the media campaign that used the picture of reporter Jim Wyss, how it was handled, and what it says about the toxic working environment inside the channel.

As you will recall, a few weeks ago a mini-scandal broke out when Telesur was caught using a picture of a US journalist, Jim Wyss, arriving home in Miami after being detained in Venezuela. The problem was two-fold: the picture was being used without permission, and it was for a campaign about how much Venezuela loves its foreigners.

Wyss himself took the whole thing in stride, and Telesur English was – once again – left to wipe the egg off its face.

My source tells me about how the whole deal played out inside the channel.

The ad had to be seen by Helga Malave and Yoalbis Gourmetts, both of them local employees who earn wages in BsFs. They alerted the higher-ups about how inconvenient it was to use the picture, but they were ignored, and final approval came from Alejandra del Palacio (a Mexican) and Yeimy Ramírez Ávila (a Venezuelan).

Del Palacio earns 4000 dollars a month, which Telesur pays in dollars … which it obtains from the central government at the unattainable rate of 6.3 BsF per dollar. Yeimy earns $6,000 per month, in spite of the fact that she is Venezuelan and the rules forbid Venezuelan employees from charging their salaries in dollars.

How do my sources know what everyone makes? Well, Greg Wilpert sent an email to the entire staff – by mistake – with everyone’s salaries. All hell broke loose when people found out. Some people earn BsF 10,000 per month. Yeimy’s salary at black market rates is roughly BsF1,500,000.

Ultimately, Del Palacio and Yeimy personally approved the Wyss picture that was used. People tried to dissuade them, but del Palacio in particular is apparently a piece of work, frequently chewing people out, and difficult to work with.

When the scandal broke just like the employees had warned, del Palacio ordered the staff to make up some other ads … as if to say this was a campaign. But it was not – it was always supposed to be the one-ad thing. Management was livid, and del Palacio and Ávila decided to blame the kid who handles social media, who was summarily fired.

The lowly Venezuelan employee took the fall. This has fuelled further resentment inside the company.

I tell one of my sources how baffling it is to be getting this information. He/she says that the previous emails caused a stir inside the channel, and that they are tired of the poor working conditions, abuse, and “ideological persecution” inside Telesur English.

Whoa – “ideological persecution”? No offense, source, but … aren’t you guys all committed chavistas?

“Whomever thinks Venezuelans working inside Telesur are chavistas is ignorant of reality,” source says. “We are all workers, just like other Venezuelans, and we are all trying to do our job. Foreigners are also trying to cash in, joining the channel in search for an opportunity to advance their career.”

Source continues telling me about the harassment of employees inside the channel. Private Facebook accounts are monitored. PCs are scanned. Skype conversations are listened into. Several top-level management types support their lovers with money from the channel, while sugar for employees’ coffee is rationed.

In spite of all the persecution, my sources tell me many inside Telesur’s top echelon harbor serious doubts about Maduro’s ability to steer the Revolution, and they fear Diosdado Cabello would be worse.

Ultimately, what this story tells me is that chavista bureaucracy is not monolithic. If this happens in Telesur, what can we expect of workers inside the Prosecutor’s office? Inside the Armed Forces? Inside ministries and embassies? Who says targeted sanctions against a few of these bureaucrats can’t/won’t work?

The ship is leaking, chavistas. How are you going to stem the tide?

Note: If anyone from Telesur wishes to respond to these leaks, I’d be more than happy to accommodate you.

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