Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Corruption in Venezuela and Argentina: the media role

The "maletagate" scandal keeps going apace. Each time I am trying to get some update, new elements arrive that stop me from writing more on it. Thus, considering that I am too busy to post the 20 links I should be posting, I will instead limit myself tonight to a general observation: the scandal in Argentina is having results in governmental actions because the press and the media there are much more lively than in Venezuela. In fact, many observers are slowly converging on that scary notion: Chavez has been so successful in castrating the media and the press in Venezuela that we had to wait for such a major scandal to observe how self censored the media is in Venezuela.

In Argentina from the major newspapers to the media, with the provision that there is also an electoral campaign going on, there has been a general desire to examine this affair of the 800 000 USD. All want to know why, how, how often such entries of cash happen in Argentina.

It is important to note that the Kirchner administration, as a good old fashioned Peronist ersatz, deals with the press in hardly better terms than Chavez. However Kirchner has not been as diligent at silencing the press and the media as Chavez has been. Perhaps it is due to a tough journalism corporation who had to survive the awful dictatorships that came and went in Argentina. Perhaps it is due to a better general level of education of Argentinean citizens. Perhaps it is due to a genuine basic respect on freedom of information. Whatever it is, the Argentina media have managed to put enough pressure on the Kirchner administration and have forced him to investigate and take sanctions. Oh! Not as much as some would have liked to: for example it seems that there is some difficulty in finding a judge who is willing to take over the case, a difficulty rumored to be due on strong governmental pressure as a swift and benign decision is wished for before the Cristina Kirchner campaign goes South, literally...

But when the chips are down, one minister assistant is out, one minister is in trouble, an arrest warrant for Antonini is issued and more is expected to be unveiled (not to mention that Argentina is demanding answers to Venezuela). In fact, we, in Venezuela, are learning a lot of things about our own affairs through Argentinean or Uruguayan journalists investigations. The Fourth Power is working there.

But in Venezuela there is only some provincial newspapers, Globovision, El Universal , El Nacional and mostly Tal Cual that are on top of it. Chavismo media (dozens of radio stations and TV) are ignoring the affair of if they allude to it is to denounce the whole thing as an imperialist plot, the standard fare for ANYTHING that goes wrong in Venezuela. The alleged "independent" media, from Ultimas Noticias to Televen or Venevision, barely touch the subject, if at all. In fact some commentators are even wondering whether the affair is dealt with at all in Venezuela just because of the fuzz in Argentina.

I have to admit that I agree with these observations, the bulk of the media has stopped any strong criticism, and investigative work in depth such as we see in Argentina. In fact most of the investigative stuff we watch or read is usually mediocre. Self censorship? "Give up" syndrome?

Or is it a general sensation in the country, a resignation to the Chavez imposition? People just cannot be bothered, too involved in a daily life each day more and more time consuming with road traffic, difficulty in finding supplies and services, a sense of nothing can be done about it anyway so why bother.

Or perhaps even worse, the Gag Law, the modification of the penal code, the subservience of the judicial power to chavismo, the violence against journalists, the constant stonewalling of any public servant have finally taken their toll, have finally made the press to self censor. Has Chavez managed to eliminate the freedom of information in Venezuela? Is freedom of expression still a reality in Venezuela, or is it reserved to a small group of individuals that do care? Has the high oil price and the slow percolating of part of it (what is not stolen by the Antoninis and Kirchners of the world) manage to remove a social conscience from Venezuelans?

We will see. But if some awakening does not happen after such a scandal at home, then we will only get what we deserve when Chavez changes the constitution soon. Moral eunuchs always have it coming.

-The end-

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