Saturday, March 04, 2006

Media hearings in Venezuela

Friday we had a most unusual and enlightening show in Venezuela: the heads of the two major opposition networks were at the National Assembly for a grilling. Well, the grilled fish turned out not to be the expected one.

The Anderson case has been a suppurating sore in Venezuela as the General Prosecutor has proven totally unable to deal with it in a way that could come across as semi-convincing. Thus the media had to step in to try to put things together since Isaias Rodriguez is obviously unable (unwilling?) to figure out who the heck put that bomb under the seat of Anderson. But that initiative, which turned wildly successful as the Prosecution star witness turned out to be a fraud, has not amused the powers that be. Indeed, earlier in the Anderson case investigations some fingers pointed at some sectors within the government as maybe having something to do (an extortion ring seems to have floated around the cases that Anderson was investigating). It was thus not too hard to think this as a possible reason to mire the investigation in a swamp of delays.

Not amused at the media uncovering the disaster of his workings, Isaias could come up with only one idea: to accuse the media of violating the secret of the case instruction, of discrediting the star witness and what not in order to defend “obscure interests” (conveniently never specified). The media of course was only doing its duty but that did not stop some judge, Florencio Silano, to issue an order restricting, directly, for the first time under Chavez, freedom of expression: the press and the media are banned from publishing official acts and other items of the case. Appeals of course are been made.

As a result of all of this mess the director of Globovision, Alberto Federico Ravell, and one of the owners of RCTV, Marcel Granier, were convoked to the National Assembly for an hearing. I have no way to know if the representatives holding the hearings were hoping to set a trap, but it did not work. Not only it did not work but in addition we had a direct confirmation of the low quality of that monochromatic batch that made it to the National Assembly last December.

There is no point in detailing all what was said. Globovision of course lovingly lingered on all the replies of its boos who left the representatives speechless and pitiful. Ravell among other things, brought to stacks of videos made by Globovision to show that even today, the stack before Mezerhane “indictment” was still higher than the post indictment stack (Mezerhane is one of the owners of Globovision). To top it off Ravell even allowed himself to tell Tascon of the famous list, one of the panel, that since he knew about lists he certainly would appreciate some of the stuff presented by Globovision. Tascon did not reply but interestingly seemed to be the most “professional” of the lot of representatives, no wonder he was the one of the list idea…

The crowning moment came when the committee tried to detour the hearing as an indictment on Ravell for a possible association of this one with the April 2002 coup. Ravell’s reply? Words in, words out: “I have nothing to do with April 2002. I am a professional. Had I been running that coup d’etat it would have been a success”.

I did not get as many details on the Granier intervention. After all Globovision is going to highlight its boss rather than the one from RCTV which is not a news channel. However la Hojilla, the infamous VTV program, did spend an inordinate amount of time on Granier. La Hojila is supposedly a comic talk show which was created to counterweight the successful Alo Ciudadano. It failed of course. Though for the hard core chavismo it has become the daily gospel as it manages to concentrate all the resentment “resentimiento social” which is the only drive of some chavista sector bent on humiliation and revenge above any other consideration.. At any rate, they devoted a lot of time on Granier, including mocking his hair. But what was the counter arguments to the solid case that Granier presented? That he had been associated with the Lusinchi administration, including kissing the hand of Blanca Ibañez, the most infamous official from those corrupt days.

Note that this might all be true, Granier might have cavorted a lot with these unsavory folks then (as did, by the way, many who today wear a red beret). But in what does this distract from the very pertinent remarks he made Friday, on how freedom of expression is increasingly threatened in Venezuela? On how Isaias failed in his duties as the Nation's provider of justice? Nothing much of course. Even Ravell acknowledged it when he said he did not care whether the star witness of Isaias, the fake psychiatrist Giovanni Vasquez, was a petty thief as long as his statements could be verified. What these string of mediocre folks interrogating or mocking Ravell and Granier are doing, agents who only made there because Chavez put them there, is the same strategy that all the failed players use when they run on empty: shoot the messenger.

Note: the videos of the hearings are, at this typing, still free to consult on Globovision video page.

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