“At any moment there could be arrests of journalists. The fear has become real.”

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Because it’s been so gradual —a regional radio station taken down here, a newspaper pressured with lack of newsprint there— the full scale of chavismo’s onslaught against freedom of speech has been easy to miss. It’s taken a keen eye to keep cataloguing each new outrage, keep creating a record of every new move that makes us that little bit less free.

Here on Caracas Chronicles, Gustavo Hernández Acevedo has been tracking every single move of the communicational hegemon for five years now. His interview yesterday for German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle lets him stand back and review it all from 30,000 ft for an international audience:

The situation in Venezuela over the last few months has deteriorated to the lowest point and has made it almost impossible for journalists to work on the streets. In the last two months, the security forces – the national guard, police and intelligence services have become more aggressive against journalists and have literally made them targets.

We have seen multiple cases of journalists being attacked using tear-gas canisters and even cases of journalists being shot at. We also have cases or journalists whose equipment has been confiscated or damaged. We have cases of journalists who have been detained for hours at military installations without access to lawyers. They were eventually released. We have cases of journalists who have been threatened by security forces for doing their jobs.

This situation is not new. We have had situations like this since 2014 but not to the scale that we are seeing today.

We’re incredibly lucky to have GEHA on our team. Go read his whole interview.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Can’t believe that CC has not picked up on the recent “discovery” by the regime of 200M BsF on Leopoldo Lopez’s possession (family car). Even Lilian admitted it.
    While 200M BsF might only amount to around $15K (nothing that would raise an eyebrow in the US or Europe), it is a princely sum in Venezuela. Why? Doesnt Leopoldo’s family have bank accounts that can be used to wire funds when needed?
    The reason provided by Lilian is that this would be for Granny, so she can take care of medical issues (and I hope she gets better)….however, this shows very poor planning.
    The regime had a field day with that. I have no reason to doubt on LL integrity and that the origin of those funds is legit, but…..WHY, WHY, WHY carry boxes of cash???? Unbelievable.
    At the very least, this is a major Faux Pas.
    Leopoldo, you and your family have endured considerable suffering. You can’t be too careful, all of you are under a permanent watch by the regime, trying to discredit you. This episode has not helped the cause.

      • Marc, NOBODY carries a sack full of cash in Venezuela. Even when you purchase from a bachaquero or buhonero in the street, they have “punto” (a way to swipe your bank card).
        That is no excuse for pissed poor planning. When you are on permanent watch, you need to think and analyze potential outcomes beforehand.
        Maybe if somebody needs to pay for house help, cash is needed on hand (and nowadays larger denomination BsF are hard to find). But that amount of cash?
        Finally…Yes, there is an obvious need for cash on hand. If somebody is a potential kidnapping target (many unfortunately), it helps having a respectable sum ( $5k – $10k stashed away).
        They don’t take AMEX. Green US $ preferred over BsF.

        • And I would have preferred Lilian to denounce the rampant insecurity indicating that those confiscated funds were going to be kept because in the family all are in fear of being kidnapped. Hit them back, hard!

  2. Gustavo has documented here the slow but steady strangulation of the press in Venezuela that I’ve not seen anyone else cover so deliberately, or cover so well.

    The strategy of the regime has been slow, deliberate steps, and often indirect measures, so that with each advance, not so many people notice that a major crisis erupts, and not so many people care that the event trumps the other (bad) news of the day.

    And the strategy has involved a steady, official narrative, backed by the bully pulpit of the President, and often delivered half-comically out of the mouth of El Commandate Supremo, and then less adroitly by Maduro and his circle, that: the press is the enemy of the people, the press has no legitimate function, the press is controlled by outsiders and hatemongers, the press is a failing business, the press manufactures fake stories (and with these latter pronouncements, globs of undigested Chomsky, when appeals to nationalism and xenophobia did not fit the occasion).

    So the combined strategy is to leave people with the impression that nothing of value has been lost, when it is taken away by official measures.

    The strangulation of the press has been one of the few policies executed under chavismo that has been carried out with great craft, efficiency, and long term thinking. It is as if they were carefully following a user manual. They wanted nobody to notice that much or to care that much.

    Gustavo understood the plan completely. Way back. His posts were an affront to the regime’s game plan. They documented every little step. And you could see in each of his posts, the seed of where Venezuela has arrived today. Way back when people who only half understood Venezuela were yammering on about whether Chavez was a dictator or not, or whether he was a democrat or not, or whether things would get darker or not, you only had to read Gustavo’s posts, and you would have the key to what this regime has been all about, all along: the consolidation of power for a few.

    • Subtle?

      From day one, the censorship was obvious. Hours-long cadenas, and their mandatory airing, is a form of censorship.

      And RadioCaracas, anyone?

      The writing was on the wall was their from the very beginning.

      • I would not call the regime’s actions subtle, but I would call them carefully calibrated and executed. And it was not as if nobody understood what was going on.

        There is a distinction between a modern and relatively sophisticated approach to censorship of the press, which mitigates the risk of alienating bases of popular support – and neighboring countries- with actions that are crudely dictatorial, and the methods other despots have used.

        And if you think to yourself, well, “who the fuck cares how its done”, and “I knew this all along”, then my response would be, based on some of your posts: you may think you get it, and the whole thing is about “socialism” and liberals and leftists or whatever, but actually, when the thing we are talking about here does not carry the label you are looking for, you don’t in fact get it.

  3. “Because it’s been so gradual —a regional radio station taken down here, a newspaper pressured with lack of newsprint there— the full scale of chavismo’s onslaught against freedom of speech has been easy to miss.”

    It’s the Castrista model. The infamous Boiling Frog effect. Se lo meten a la gente, pero poco a poco, pa’ que no se note tanto.. aunque sin anestesia. Sin prisa pero sin pausa.. Everything Chavismo has been doing for 18 years has been the same Boiling Frog treatment.. disguising an authoritarian Kleptocracy as “socialismo” or “rebolucion” para el pueblo.. allowing certain liberties and some Capitalism, while they tightened the noose, progressively, poquito a poco.. until people sorta get used to it, Cuban style.

    • All of it started way back when Castro in Cuba was strongest, and it was not limited to Venezuela. Bolivia and Venezuela are places where it still holds sway (please excuse me if I’m not detailed on current political scenes and history). Chile kicked it out with a military overthrow by Peron, and is now doing well. Many countries in Europe have been crippled by socialist thought and have 25% youth unemployment because it is so hard and costly to fire a useless slacker.

      The very obvious fact is that societies do much, much better – actually prosper, even in a crazy world – under free market capitalism. One has to be willfully blind to not see that. China began kicking (extremely repressive, execution-style) communism out, and experienced explosive growth that caught the world’s attention.

          • Oops. Pinochet was a dictator under whom journalists were jailed, tortured and murdered, but he was not a socialist. Big blunder. Totally wrong example.

            But I like the shout out to China for its explosive growth …while it follows even more repressive policies against journalists and internet users than even Maduro. That’s dandy. So long as I can sell my stuff for a profit, who the hell cares about a free press?

  4. I thought Castro like the old-style despot that he was, just seized the frog and threw it in jail or shot it, but I’ll defer to the historians out there.

  5. “Everything Chavismo has been doing for 18 years has been the same Boiling Frog treatment.. disguising an authoritarian Kleptocracy as “socialismo” or “rebolucion” para el pueblo.. allowing certain liberties and some Capitalism, while they tightened the noose, progressively, poquito a poco.. until people sorta get used to it, Cuban style.”

    Indeed, I told every Venezuela who would listen 18 years ago that Chavismo would slowly but surely take away their rights until the point that once they figured out what was happening, it would be too late.

    We’ve obviously reached that point. Little did I know they’d not care.

  6. La periodista gringa que recientemente salió fue para su seguridad en lo que relaciona los narcosobrinos. Ella está expuesta como próximo rehén de Cilia quien busca otro/otra para canjear.

    A failed strategy IMO. Releasing JH or negotiating his release in exchange for sentencing terms and conditions never broached. So they are left with stacking the deck. Journalists historically targets.

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