Venezuela silences conviction of the First Lady's drug-running nephews

As Venezuela's state media blacks out news that Cilia Flores's nephews were convicted on big time drug charges, we take a tour of Communicational Hegemony today.

Imagine that two close relatives of your country’s head of state are caught red-handed in big time drug trafficking. Imagine those relatives confess their involvement and then point the finger at powerful people in the government as accomplices. Imagine they declare under oath they fly cocaine out of the presidential ramp at your country’s main airport. Imagine they’re caught on tape bragging about access to powerful people in your country and saying they intend to use the proceeds of the deal to finance the ruling party’s election campaign. And imagine that those relatives are found guilty in a court of law and face decades in prison.

In any other country, this would be a massive scandal, causing large demonstrations in the streets. But here in Venezuela, the public reaction’s been. M-E-H. Meh.


When it comes to the State Media System (SIBCI), the story simply does not exist. It never has.

Start with the obvious: many ordinary Venezuelans are struggling with a brutal humanitarian crisis, a collapsing currency, a dying economy and a daily struggle just to stay alive. There’s not a lot of mindshare left for anything else.

But even if you’re interested in the case, finding so much as a single mention of it in the local media is a struggle.

Once again, the State’s communicational hegemony pays off.

As the news of the Floreses’ conviction broke on Friday evening, reports appeared quickly in independent online news outlets. But when it comes to the State Media System (SIBCI), the story simply does not exist. It never has. SIBCI’s effort are made instead to push the most useless radio show in Venezuelan radio history. (BTW, did you know that Miraflores Presidential Palace has its own radio station? Just because.)

What about those private outlets deeply involved but not officially part of the hegemony (I usually refer to those as part of “HegemonCorp.”) Well, they have pulled some impressive journalistic gymnastics to pass over official complicity in the narcosobrinos’ crimes.

Take Últimas Noticias. The paper ignored the news in their front page and include only a brief note in page ten. Their headline was…curious: “Venezuelans guilty of drug trafficking”. Just a couple of guys, nothing to see here. Later, the report disappeared from their website.

It took Venezuela’s new breed of genuinely-independent but online-only sites to give us the straight dope on the “Narcosobrinos” case.

Globovisión followed suit in their online version of the story. Another HegemonCorp newspaper, El Universal at least names both nephews in the headline. But they then proceed to bury the lede by putting the family connection in the fourth paragraph.

It took Venezuela’s new breed of genuinely-independent but online-only sites to give us the straight dope on the “Narcosobrinos” case. Special mention goes to Maibort Petit and Jessica Carrillo, who covered the hell out of the trial.  

Earlier this month, NGO Reporters Without Borders presented their annual list of what they call “press predators”, very much including Nicolás Maduro. Does he deserve to be part of this list?


In recent days, three papers in Zulia State ran out of newsprint, a radio station in Caracas got a hefty fine with two years of delay and there’s the burglary incident last week at El Estímulo. l would pass this case as an unrelated crime, but the similar cases at Crónica.Uno back in August and La Region in late September tells me this isn’t a coincidence: it’s becoming a worrisome trend.

As the discussion about the media role in the global stage heats up, from the influence of fake news sites in the recent U.S. presidential election to the negative effects of propaganda outlets in Europe, the Venezuelan case is starting to look less and less like a rarity. The Hegemony didn’t invent disinformation, but it’s now just an example in how effective it can be.

As for the “Narcosobrinos”, the final chapter of this case is yet to be written. Sentencing is expected in March. Veremos.