Through this holiday week in Venezuela I was observing with some incredulity how some of the official media were promoting an official public lynching of Marcel Granier, the RCTV director. For those late to this game let's start with a recap.
Marcel Granier is one of the directors of RCTV, the oldest TV network in Venezuela. Marcel Granier is also an articulate opponent of Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, who Granier likes to call "el teniente coronel", for the last grade in the army Chavez held before trying the bloody coup of 1992.
In 2002 during the April events RCTV had a perturbing moment of silence while the Carmona ill fated adventure was collapsing. There are many possible explanations for this silence but to date no impartial inquiry has been launched on this. In fact, as we are nearing the 5 anniversary of the April 2002 events, there is still NO ONE duly inculpated AND completely judged for any of the murders that happened that day, and we are still waiting for an impartial "truth commission" to works its wonders, something that after 5 years would be a real miracle. However the only people who were filmed with gun in hands are free, found innocent. Then again they were chavistas.
But back to Marcel Granier. Since 2002 the Chavez administration has been hard at work prosecuting Granier and his business. It is important to note that no significant judicial investigation has been launched against Granier, that all the vindictiveness seen from chavismo toward Granier is solely due to his political opinions.
Eventually for no good legal reason the government has decided to close down RCTV in the hope to silence Granier once and for all. This is a tremendous attack on freedom of expression as RCTV is THE ONLY TV NETWORK WITH NATIONAL COVERAGE THAT IS NOT EFFECTIVELY LINED UP WITH THE GOVERNMENT. After RCTV is closed, to find critical information on the chavista regime you will have to rely solely on the press or payTV, if you can afford it.
The lynching of Marcel Granier
Now, this would seem to be nasty enough for the casual observer from a democratic country. But the government has taken a step further: there is an official campaign to vilify Granier, RCTV and whomever dares to defend them. This week we were given two clear examples on how "enemies" of the regime will be treated. Today it is Granier, tomorrow it could be this blogger.
It all started with a weird but troubling call to control a long Venezuelan tradition, burning a rag doll of a Judas at the image of some public figure who has defrauded the people. The government very clumsily did try to make the "spontaneous" folk activity into a generalized Granier witch burning (here, here and here). All reports that I have received on this seem to indicate that Granier was burnt only when chavista political hacks were involved. There seems to have been a significant amount of Chavez figures that were also burnt but of these you would be hard pressed to find any evidence in state media. However official media has been very diligent in coordinating its news to make the world believe that everywhere the popular glee was burning Granier.
But one has to watch this news clip from the state TV, VTV, where on prime time news the burning of Granier is shown, in a curiously humorless way when the tradition is to show these things with humor and grace and interviewing the folks burning, a little bit like an April's fool activity. No one is interviewed, demonstrating like no words could do how arranged these folk manifestations were.
This video is quite self explanatory, there is only one little section worth translating. At 12 seconds the TV broadcaster says the following: ... they burned the image of Marcel Granier, director of RCTV, for his participation in the coup of April 2002.... Now, this is very grave because to begin with we are on the eve of April 2002 commemorations and also because there is no trial, no official and legal investigation on Granier for his 2002 role. This small legality does not stop the state TV in declaring him fully guilty, fully deserving of him being burning yesterday, and more soon. In a normal country Granier could sue easily a network doing such a lynching.
I must state that it is posted by radio Aporrea, which is also a branch of the regime propaganda. What is astounding in this act is that chavismo, or at least a sector of it, is proud of such a fascist activity that harks directly from the Salem witch trials, through the Komintern declarations and show trials of Stalin, and the public lynchings of Hitler. This is not fascism or communism we are talking about, it is the first baby steps in the establishment of a totalitarian regime in Venezuela.
To complete this post I cannot fail to address the interview given by William Lara to El Nacional this past Easter Sunday (no link, by subscription, write me if you want the whole thing). This interview was about the TV network that will succeed in the airwaves of RCTV. There is no need to go into it all, suffice to highlight the following [with my comment]:
We need more children information in the country. It is insulting that Globovision is not respectful of the RESORTE law ["gag law"] putting a teenager to repeat news. [The absolutely ridiculous "gag" law was designed to all but ban reporting news during day time, at a political moment where the streets were hot with protest. When the misguided lawmakers were making that law, many people claimed that a news channel could not have a children programing by definition and that the only thing it could do was not show gory details. Now, what is troubling about Lara words, as a Communication minister is that if Globovision is indeed so out of the law how come he has not applied sanctions. And this is of course a threat that once RCTV will be dealt with, the last network that reports real news will be the new target for closing. It cannot be any clearer]
The new network [news section] will not be a clone of VTV, ViveTv, Televen or Venevision [A precious moment, Lara recognizes that the news existing outside of Globovision and RCTV are all the same at least as far as blandness when dealing with government abuse].
Why did the state decided not to renovate the [RCTV] concession? Follows a long string of things for which RCTV has not been sued officially. [The question is of course, RCTV being such a rogue channel how come nothing was done until it was simply decided to close it altogether?].
A survey made in February by Datanálisis said that 24% of the polled folks supported the closing of RCTV. This poll is a statistical lie. I do not give any credibility to this poll. [Interestingly when Datanalisis was giving good numbers for Chavez in December 2006 Lara was not so upset about Datanalisis methodology. Thus we can expose easily the schizoid minister, a pathetic low class liar. Note: the minister says he has other polls supporting his opinion, but does not cite any name nor publishes any result].
And there is more but that will suffice for tonight's point.
We have clearly the outline of what is coming toward freedom of expression in Venezuela. To avoid to be totally an outcast in the world it seems that for the time being Chavez will allow for partial networks and small papers to survive. But nation wide network broadcast will be chavista or neutral, or will not be. The radio, we are also told, will be mercilessly squeezed out of any opposition hands (a threat in the same Lara interview).
The perspective, for this blogger, is that within two years Globovision will be out of business or subject to a forced sale to chavista interests; there will be no radio with opposition talk shows except for Caracas and a couple of cities (Union Radio is already rumored to be under attack) and it is possible that newspapers will be forced into self censorship. We will get our news only from Cable TV (though the government is trying to exert some form of control there). The surviving newspaper and the Internet (although the takeover of CANTV, the main Internet provider of Venezuela, could force out a few connections! And also cyber cafes could easily be regulated).
And all of this as Lara and chavismo brags of a legality that no court dares to counter. Look at Granier public attempt at humiliation (even if it did not work out that well, the objective being really the VTV viewer alone). And this in Caracas, under the glare of all sorts of international observers. Now look at the case of Lapi, alone in Yaracuy, forgotten by those who should protect him first and foremost, the OAS and the Carter Center. Look at Lapi totally depending on a sworn sadistic and probably drug addict enemy. Look at the farce of justice that has been applied to him, where even gimenez was offering to help him escape (to murder Lapi better?). And then wonder why should Lapi have remained in jail. When will Granier leave the country?