A good, old-fashioned newspaper closure

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The offices of newspaper La Verdad de Vargas, right after being closed down by the local authorities last Friday.

Sometimes, buying newspapers in mysterious ways or depriving them of their most basic resource to keep running isn’t enough. Sometimes, the hegemony needs a classic newspaper closure.

That’s what La Guaira newspaper La Verdad de Vargas went through last Friday, when several local and national government agencies decided to make a visit to its newsroom. Allegedly, the paper didn’t pay taxes and its social security fees, so the punishment was to shut it down for the whole weekend. They even forbid them to publish online.

It seems like there’s more to the story than meets the eye. It’s not just the fact that multiple agencies decided to strike all at once (an administrative “cayapa“, so to speak) or the really swift decision to close down the newspaper, but that the whole thing seems to have been coordinated by the Prosecution Service of Vargas State (Procuraduria General del Estado Vargas).

What’s this closure really about? Seems like retaliation for a news report published by this paper earlier this month.

On June 4th, an article about delays in the construction of a new stadium for the local baseball club – the long-suffering La Guaira Sharks (Tiburones de La Guaira), sort of the criollo version of the Chicago Cubs – came out. Written by journalist Genesis Arevalo, it quoted unnamed sources admitting the project was going slower than usual and was facing obstacles in both its planing and its execution. What’s more, it reported that the Ecuadorian company in charge (Fondo Global de la Construcción) is now under investigation back home for alleged corruption invoving another project (public housing) in Venezuela.

The proposed stadium (to be named after the late baseball player and La Guaira native Carlos “Cafe” Martinez) was first presented by Vargas State Governor (former Army General and Defense Minister) Jorge Luis Garcia Carneiro in 2012. Last year, he promised on live TV that the stadium would be ready soon, but looks like the long-awaiting dream of the Tiburones to actually play ball in La Guaira for once instead of Caracas will take way longer than expected.

One week after her article was published, Genesis Arevalo was fired by La Verdad de Vargas. In an interview with news website La Patilla, Arevalo said that the paper cut her loose after not passing “a working trial period”, but that the true reason was the pressure from Governor Garcia Carneiro’s office, specially after she denounced the case on a radio interview. But still after that, the newspaper got some fallout coming and was shut down a couple of days later.

This shutdown provoked protests by the press sector and Vargas locals. Less than 24 hours later, the decision was lifted and La Verdad de Vargas was allowed to work again. But nobody knows if this is just a temporary reprieve…

But that hasn’t stop the pressure against what’s left of free press in Venezuela: This weekend, a big protest in support of Valencia newspaper El Carabobeño was held to demand the end of its newsprint shortage. The paper has enough newsprint to keep publishing for a least another week. To save as much paper as possible they cut several of their editorial sections, including its beloved kids edition (Suplemento Infantil) after 38 years.

Newsprint-geddon (and the hegemony at large) doesn’t care much about the children… it cares only about itself.