Photo: Verifikado

Last month, Barquisimeto journalist Brian Vidal wrote a report for local newspaper El Impulso (only digital, because Newsprint-geddon), speaking of a communal council allegedly implementing a survey of unoccupied houses to move people in, as part of a presumed government plan “Ubica tu Casa” (Locate your Home). The piece says that no official entity had confirmed, at the time, the existence of such a plan to begin with.

The piece got the attention of the chavista-controlled State Legislative Council (CLEL), which formed a special committee to investigate the report and subpoenaed Vidal.

(Note: State Legislative Councils are useless, but I’ll leave that rant for another day.)

On June 25, Vidal went downtown and met with the CLEL special committee, which gave him a questionnaire and berated him for doing his work: “They rejected the relevance of my sources, taking the matter as a gossip rather than a complaint. They catalogued the article as an instigation to violence and hatred among Venezuelans.”

He insists these threats won’t intimidate him.

But this latest incident highlights the fact that the so-called “Ubica Tu Casahas turned into an issue that began as a rumor, and has grown into something more complicated, even if high-ranking chavistas like Pedro Carreño and Diosdado Cabello have vehemently denied it.

The piece got the attention of the chavista-controlled State Legislative Council (CLEL), which formed a special committee to investigate the report and subpoenaed Vidal.

A couple of weeks earlier, an incident in La Mora (near Cabudare) involving a person who had leased her home to a local businessman, and the court-supported attempt to evict him, became tense when the “Ubica Tu Casa” excuse was used to avoid compliance by the tenant — who, by the way, also threatened the house owner.

The first signs of the alleged plan became known in social networks right after the May 20 “election,” creating concerns in those who already left the country but still own real estate in Venezuela. The lack of an official response provoked the Venezuelan Real Estate Chamber to publish a statement.

“In the wake of news reports and messages on social networks displaying concerns about visits by unidentified individuals to unoccupied houses,” the text reads, “the Venezuelan Real Estate Chamber exhorts the national government to explain if those activities are part of an official policy.”

At the time, the Habitat and Housing Ministry hasn’t offered a formal response to the request.

Without clear information by the proper authorities on this, and other issues, the work of local journalists like Mr. Vidal is more relevant (and necessary) today than ever. He’s being publicly scolded by government officials, and could even face charges.

He has our full solidarity and support during this, Venezuelan journalism’s darkest hour.

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