Maduro TV Plays ‘Soul’ and Nobody Bats an Eye

Years before sanctions, chavismo took our country out of global accountability. Now state TV stations broadcast Hollywood movies without answering to their owners

Photo: Sofía Jaimes Barreto

When it comes to the media, people in Venezuela don’t really have to get Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max,  or even go to movie theaters anymore. You can just turn on your TV, find a public TV station and who knows, you may watch the recently premiered (and copyrighted) Pixar movie Soul, as it just happened on March, 19th.

Most folks around here don’t pay much attention to the TV anymore, the content neutered by sets of draconian censorship laws, but those who do were quick to share the evidence on social media: The channel Televisora Venezolana Social, better known as TVes, was merrily and shamelessly showing the Disney flick, ignoring copyright agreements and anything that may forbid a regular TV station from showing a movie that’s barely today, as you read this, getting a home release.

What may be worthy of note for locals is that this time the move reared heads outside of Venezuela, with website TAVI Latam (focusing on audiovisual content news for all of Latin America) reporting that, indeed, the Venezuelan TV station didn’t have the rights to broadcast this movie, in case you needed any confirmation, and The Walt Disney Company was refraining from commenting on the incident for now. I say “may be” like that, in italics, because this is only shocking if you’ve never been in today’s Venezuela.

You know that email you get when you torrent something? Say, you’re downloading Zack Snyder’s Justice League from The Pirate Bay. Two hours later, you get this email from your internet provider telling you that aha, it’s nice getting carried away with the hype, but what you just did is a crime against copyright laws and this is the only warning you’re going to get. Well, that never happens in Venezuela; I personally know people with massive movie catalogues, all torrented, all very illegal, with no consequences.

And I get it: “This is Venezuela, what did you expect? I bet it’s the same in Nicaragua and even in Mexico.” Sure, but what’s setting Venezuela apart is that this isn’t just individuals anymore, these are TV stations showing copyrighted content, all over the country, not even getting a word of reprimand. TVes (which belongs to the State and is part of the public media system) did the deed this time, but this has been happening for years, and we Venezuelans have seen Netflix’s House of Cards on small “communitarian” TV stations and even Evangelical channels in the inner country show La Casa de Papel just like that. Sometimes the content is edited to cut out any references to Netflix or to the actual laws that are being broken, but sometimes otakus just watch their animes with the full markings of the legitimate owners.

The reason at the heart of this all is the same reason why chavismo does everything: they know they can get away with it.

When you think about the lawlessness in Venezuela, we tend to look at big issues: there’s no functional judicial system, so people do what they want on a sort of trust pact; you can’t work with the actual legal tender anymore, so everyone pays for everything with foreign currency. But the lawlessness has also extended to things that you may perceive as non-essential, like entertainment.

The reason at the heart of this all is the same reason why chavismo does everything: they know they can get away with it.

When Hugo Chávez said he didn’t care about the DEA and the OAS, and he was going to kick those organizations in the rear (pretty much using those words) and nothing happened, they got that message. A government, or a regime, or however you wanna call it, can be indifferent to international outcry from any source and play by its own rules on its little sphere when it knows that what it’s getting, at most, is a slap on the wrist. This began years ago: in 2006, Hugo Chávez had Venezuela retire from the Andean Community, and later took Venezuela out of the IMF and the World Bank, for considering both as subservient to American interests. He also threatened to quit the OAS if the international organization dared to criticize the shutdown of TV station RCTV (Venezuela would quit the OAS under the Maduro era, in 2019). Same with many other international agreements, such as CIADI, while the region took steps to get into the global order of arbitrage and trade agreements.  

And it was all on purpose. Chavismo took Venezuela on the path of sanctioned nations who just don’t care about international disapproval, an isolation from the international lawful context that has now seeped into pretty much every aspect of Venezuelans’ daily lives. What’s The Walt Disney Corporation going to do about this Soulgate thing, send legions of Mickey-Mouse dressed soldiers? Sue whom? Where? Remember, the patriotic government of yadda-yadda is an anti-imperialist, sovereign State, and if you consider it’s breaking international agreements and legislation on everything from human rights to showing some cartoon flick on TV, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

For people outside of Venezuela, this may have raised some eyebrows. For us, here, it was just Friday.

Victor Cuotto

Victor usually writes about geek culture and punk music. In 2015, he won the Concurso Venezolano de Literatura Fantástica & Ciencia Ficción SOLSTICIOS. He thinks Magneto makes some valid points.