It all started with a lie. A lie organized by the State and broadcasted on prime time TV, using precisely the weapons Luis Carlos Díaz has been warned about for years.
As the lie would have it, Luis Carlos and Nelson Bocaranda knew about the looming nationwide blackout.
Nelson, a TV, radio, press and now online investigative journalism veteran, is one of the highest-profile journalists in the country. He was the only source of reliable information on the Chávez terminal illness for months, while the Maduro regime kept telling the nation that the Comandante was recovering.
Luis Carlos is a cyber activist, radio journalist and occasional Caracas Chronicles contributor who started working on new media and freedom of speech at the communications journal SIC, and then developed an international profile as a multi-channel writer and speaker on Internet-users’ rights and online journalism.
This lie was stitched out of their words, maliciously edited and tendentiously re-ordered, on a clip designed to deceive:
Así fue como prepararon la derecha local y la derecha rancia gringa lo que ellos llamaron 'operación blackout", que busca colapsar al país saboteando el centro de operaciones de gerenación del Sistema Eléctrico Nacional, del que dependen la mayoría de los servicios públicos #8Mar pic.twitter.com/kRNpzChoWC
— Con el Mazo Dando (@ConElMazoDando) March 8, 2019
This video, distributed on March 8th, claims that Luis Carlos and Nelson were aware the blackout was coming, just like US Senator Marco Rubio (the official culprit, according to the regime) and caretaker president Juan Guaidó.
Actually, Luis Carlos and Nelson were talking about the possibility of a communications blackout, organized by Russian and Chinese hackers to wipe out all chances of reporting what is happening in Venezuela. But the video, which is consistent with previous propaganda attacks against Luis Carlos, clumsily edited their words to suggest they had foreseen the power blackout just before it started, on Thursday afternoon.
As the regime’s bully-in-chief, Diosdado rains down a torrent of threats, hate speech, and fear-mongering on his audience: the most radical wing of chavismo.
Diosdado Cabello, a former Army lieutenant who took part in the attempted coups of 1992 against the democratic government of President Carlos Andrés Pérez, and who has been one of the most powerful men in Venezuela since 2000, is the sponsor of this lie.
His show on state television, VTV, called Con el mazo dando (“Swinging the Sledgehammer”) amounts to a factory of lies. As the regime’s bully-in-chief, Diosdado rains down a torrent of threats, hate speech, and fear-mongering on his audience: the most radical wing of chavismo. Only colectivos, the paramilitary forces that now carry out most of the repression, are more aggressive behind a microphone.
Here’s what happened: around 5:30 pm, Luis Carlos was seen for the last time at Union Radio, where he works. He took his bike and said he was going home to take a shower and would be back in a while.
A couple of hours later, Maduro went on the air to elaborate a bit more on his version of the cause of the blackout that brought the country to a standstill and said that two of the culprits were already in custody and talking.
Before midnight, Luis Carlos’ wife, Naky Soto —yes, the same tenacious writer whose daily briefings Caracas Chronicles used to publish— spread the news that he was missing.
Responding to her call for help, we all launched a campaign on Twitter. Some reporters and human rights activists went to DGCIM (military counterintelligence service) and SEBIN (secret police) to ask about his whereabouts. They were told Luis Carlos was no there. At 2:20 am, a SEBIN squad raided Naky and Luis Carlos apartment. Luis Carlos was with them, in handcuffs. According to PROVEA, the human rights NGO, the SEBIN squad took 4 cellphones, 3 laptops and 1 hard drive with them… and cash.
Naky, who’s recovering from breast cancer, sent this video after the raid:
#LiberenaLuisCarlos Ella es @Naky. Es paciente oncológica. Su esposo,, el periodista y activista de DDHH fue detenido este #11Mar por el Sebin. Naky estará en unas horas en la sede de la Fiscalia exigiendo libertad plena para LC. ( Hilo con la historia) pic.twitter.com/M3m6p0c7A2
— Luz Mely Reyes (@LuzMelyReyes) March 12, 2019
Later this morning, Naky, the journalism community and a number of human rights organizations are going this morning to the Prosecutor General’s office to demand his liberation.
Chavismo has done this before. Many times.
They’ll launch an absurd hypothesis blaming an opponent for something the regime has done, and then put them in jail to support their accusations.
Now, Luis Carlos, who’s made it his life’s work to explain how the Internet creates spaces both for freedom and for oppression and dissecting the ways the regime uses new media to spread lies and pollute the public sphere, has fallen victim to it.
In 2002, they opened fire on the demonstrators marching towards Miraflores palace, and accused several police officers and security commissioner Iván Simonovis of the massacre: most of them are still in prison. Years later, they accused investment bank Econoinvest of the currency control disaster and jailed them for more than two years at a military facility. In 2014, they said Leopoldo López was responsible for deaths caused by State repression; he’s still under house arrest after years at the military jail at Ramo Verde. Congressman Juan Requesens, too, is in the infamous Helicoide — a SEBIN prison — after he was allegedly involved in the conspiracy to kill Maduro with a drone, last year.
And now, Luis Carlos, who’s made it his life’s work to explain how the Internet creates spaces both for freedom and for oppression and dissecting the ways the regime uses new media to spread lies and pollute the public sphere, has fallen victim to it. He’s been made the scapegoat for Maduro’s fanciful “electromagnetic attack” theory. Because he is a “nerd” and a “hacker”, as the propaganda apparatus has been saying, he helped to hack the decades’ old, completely analog systems that generate electricity for our nation.
The Soviets were quite good at this kind of vicious manipulation aimed at personal destruction. They knew, and we know: it all starts with a lie.