Sunday, May 27, 2007

The RCTV closing: the teachings on Venezuelan society

Perhaps some might raise an eyebrow for the title. After all there are still a few hours to go before the closing time of RCTV. But as far as I am concerned, not only there is now 99.9999% chances of RCTV being closed, but even if by some last minute miracle an extension were granted, the lessons that we can learn about this experience would be exactly the same.

The Venezuelan government manipulates. No surprise there of course, coming form a government who refuses to discuss publicly the constitutional change it wants. However what is becoming increasing revealed is the intense manipulation and preparation that the government has put into closing RCTV. This was quite a requirement as the closing is illegal. Not to mention that Chavez could not do it before the presidential elections of December 2006 and thus that closing HAD TO be done this year so that by 2012 people would have long forgotten about RCTV.

But the extension of the manipulation is only becoming apparent. For example I was watching Saturday a certain Mr. Bisbal been interviewed in "Que Fuente" and he was showing us an ad that appeared two days after the December 28 Chavez announcement. That advertisement appeared in most Venezuelan papers and in that time of year probably required it to be done BEFORE the Chavez speech so that it could make it by December 31. However, that ad was wrong since it accused RCTV to violate article 58 and 28 of the RESORTE law. Unfortunately article 58 does not exist and article 28 is an organizational matter that does not contemplate any sanction (if I remember well the numbers I heard then) . The ad was not published anymore, but it showed at the same time the preparation and the incompetence of those behind this crass maneuvering.

It is impossible now to pretend that the government of Venezuela is open to scrutiny, is open to discussion, is transparent, is considerate of the rights of minority. Minority rights have been violated more in Venezuela in the past 6 months than during all of the preceding Chavez tenure in office. The Venezuelan government has been acting more in the dark shadows since December 3 than at any previous period.

The judicial system has no independence and is servile to Chavez. We have also known that all along, since 2000 in fact. It has just become worse and worse, and now without any pretense to the contrary. But what has happened in the campaign to RCTV defies any accurate explanation or moral examination. Ethics is a word that must be definitively removed from the Venezuelan language.

But what astounds us is the direct complicity between the judicial system and the government manipulations to bag the RCTV case. In other words the TSJ knew quite well that it could not close RCTV and diligently it has paved the way through indirect means for the government seizure not only of the Hertzian range of RCTV, but also of its properties in transmission equipment and the land where it is placed (and perhaps even the studios?). This included all the judicial arsenal that one could think of: delays in some decisions, expediency in others before RCTV even could know that it was a party of a given decision, distortion of the law at will, avoidance of any solid decision pretending that some day RCTV could aspire to redress but AFTER TVes would have been solidly on the air for months or years, etc, etc...

It is impossible now for the observer to pretend to even discuss possible objectivity of the judicial system in Venezuela. Oh, sure, it is all perfectly legal, and so were the Nazi concentration camps.

The Venezuelan people are afraid, or even worse, indifferent. How else can one explain that with polls at 70 to 80% against the closing of RCTV you do not see spontaneous marches of protest everywhere? It is not a matter of been indifferent, or even of wanting to keep a job in the public administration. No, now the Venezuelan people are becoming afraid. There is less open criticism from the masses, more discretion. And the state through its selective criteria as to who gets what, and with his weapons shown whenever needed to intimidate the hoi polloi, is not afraid to scare people as much as needed. It comes from the president himself who cannot help but insult whomever disagrees with him in his now overwhelming TV presence.

What we have learned through this past few months is that the Venezuelan people has no democratic backbone in it, that it is is disposed to sell its freedom for peanuts, and that more dangerous for our future than the scared people, are the indifferent ones who sigh and look away no matter how much they dislike what Chavez does. And thus Venezuela will get what it deserves, the only way it can learn that happiness cannot depend on what our new Deimos decides to do.

Freedom of information is lost. The distinction is important, a mangled freedom of expression still exists in Venezuela, but freedom of information is already lost. Yes, I know, there is still newspapers, Internet and Globovision. But who can access them? Globovision reaches by cable only many areas of the country. Internet must be payed for by the people and they will rather spend their money in e-mail, porn and game pages, even more so now that they cannot enjoy games and soap operas anymore with RCTV who at least had the grace to be free. As for newspapers, outside of Caracas their information tends to be more limited to local matters and sometimes to local gossip. Besides how long until some of them are closed or neutered or bought out by chavista capitalists?

This had been announced for years by people such as your favorite blogger and no one paid much attention. My words are no impossible to deny. There is no more liberty of information and thus there will be necessary a decrease in the liberty of expression which is the natural outcome desire of an informed people.

A new leadership for the opposition. The strong and dignified defense of RCTV by Granier and his team is an essential event. When we put it together with the late coming defense of the opposition political leadership inherited from December vote (with the honorable exception of Petkoff who has defended RCTV from the start) and the accomplice silence of some sectors such as the Cisneros of the world (who know is seen as traitor by the opposition, sinking even further the Carter center if it were possible), we can see that all of these people are doomed to irrelevance as voices of the opposition. After the Granier presentation last Friday in Globovision, who do you want to speak for you? Borges? Rosales? Venevision? In the mêlée they all lost some credibility, if they had any left, and the one coming out with the oval ball is Granier.

Big time ahead for Granier. Now the government will brand him and seek to destroy him. He has managed to reveal to the world as no one else could before the vulgarly crass abusive low life cheap military that Chavez is. And Chavez cannot forgive that, nor his followers from having been exposed to be servants of such a low creature. It is Granier's choice, to become the leader of the opposition, risk ending up in jail as a martyr, and in the end prevail, or leave for exile.

The violence ahead. Of course, with a trumped CNE, a servile TSJ and no freedom of information, how can fair elections ever take place in Venezuela? How can political participation not cowed by the government abuse of power can take place? Not that democracy died today, for me it died in February 2004 when Chavez sent the army to shoot protesters. Today is only an additional step. But today marks possibly, unfortunately, the day in which violence becomes now the only option for more than just a tiny minority of the opposition. Violence is now the option for the chavista supporters who cannot express their complaints on a TV camera, a TV camera ONLY offered by RCTV or Globovision. Will these people stay home quiet when they cannot express their angst? I doubt it. The opposition is fast been redesigned, from the forced dissolution of PODEMOS and PPT, to the extreme military right plotting uselessly somewhere. That new opposition will soon find out that through normal channels it cannot express it self and thus it will take alternative paths, with all of their implications. What scares me is that this is exactly what Chavez want, excuses to tighten his grip and "eliminate" those who oppose him. He already killed them with words this week, it is just a matter of time for him to act on his words.

Conclusion. There were even more revelations through this last few months. But I am tired and I do not feel it in me to qualify what has happened in Venezuela. After all, when everything that is done is "so legal", adjectives become unnecessary.

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