The paradox for the casual observer of Venezuela is that people like me can write in blogs or in twitter the darndest things without anything happening to us. Yet. But it is a very misleading appreciation.
The fact of the matter is that we have long lost freedom of expression due to self censorship and even outright one. The latest attempt of the regime is an insistent series of accusation against newspapers to stop publishing any of the gory details of the crime wave that has been wrecking the country for the last decade, reaching numbers higher than countries suffering an outright war. Using specious laws developed by the regime such as those supposedly to protect minors, the regime has already successfully banned to late nights, or out of the airwaves, quite an array of news.
Still, with national circulation newspapers and Globovision on cable, we could manage to be informed of what truly happened in the country. Now, since last May when Globovision was bought by interests close to the regime there is no TV networks that carries all the news we need to know. In fact, outside of Caracas, in many areas you only get through TV or radio music, bland talk shows and pro regime information. Nothing else. This is the case of my home state of Yaracuy and I went from an avid radio NPR listener in my US salad days to never turn on the radio in Venezuela. Never. There is nothing there unless you want music. Though there is not even classical music left in the air in Caracas so there is really nothing left for me.
The problem is that freedom of expression goes together with freedom of information and killing one kills the other one invariably, the order of factors being irrelevant. The regime understands that very well and started by killing first freedom of information, something less painful for the hoi polloi, something less visible for the foreign observers who still can watch in a hotel room the late news of Venevision or Televen with a selection of negative news, the most important being ignored or minimized least these last private networks get fines or something. Though a case can be made that Venevision is pro-regime.
The regime has succeeded in creating an "hegemony" of communication on air waves though the ownership of the majority of TV networks, a large chunk of the radio and the neutering of the rest with some exceptions. With the loss of Globovision this year the processes was as completed as the regime cares to be for the time being. Our freedom of information is restricted to some newspapers, those that have either a national base or which come from cities where there is enough ad revenue to allow for their independence (Valencia, Barquisimeto and Maracaibo really). And those are under constant attack, from refusing them the import of the paper they need to print their daily edition to, as I mentioned above, specious lawsuits and disproportionate discretionary fines levied by mere bureaucrats without any legal ruling. Chavez knew his speeches were enough to counter any negative information coming the way of his hardcore supporters. But Maduro realized early this year that he did not benefit from this advantage. So since his arrival to Miraflores Palace he has been diligently shutting down dissent from beating up representatives in the Nazional Assembly to levying fines on newspapers.
Next, of course, is Internet. Already some twitterers have been prosecuted and some web pages shut down whenever possible. We can be sure that at some point even this blog will be under direct threat. It is just a matter of time as I have already been pointed out by regime supporters of diverse level. It is not that I may or may not have high ratings, that writing in English "no sube cerro", it is in the nature of the beast to shut down any dissent. Any.