Silence like a cancer grows.
For the last time maybe I read my Sunday edition of El Universal. I suppose that the new owners still did not have time to change the contains significantly but I am more than certain that within weeks major journalists will be leaving the paper, that the editorial line will go from confrontational to bland if not outright supportive of the regime. It happened with Ultimas Noticias, it happened with Globovision, it was such since day one at Tves. And more minor examples that I could list. Today we are left with only two national papers that publish it all, El Nacional and Tal Cual; some local papers like El Carabobeño and El Impulso; some AM radio here and there. Period. If you live in Yaracuy State, you need to make a significant effort to get news that are not filtered to support the regime in its main points (even though the red page cannot hide the whole truth). The hoi poloi cannot be bothered.
But this is not really the point of this post. The point is that the purchase of El Universal by "mysterious new owners" is a profound reflection of the ways the country has changed. And what is ahead.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
The first real problem with that El Universal purchase is that its cost is comparable to what was paid for the Washington Post or Le Monde in France. And yet these papers quality and reach are incomparable to what El Universal can bring today, when it cannot even get all the printing paper it needs, even less finance foreign correspondents, investigative teams, etc. Clearly, El Universal is overpaid and the people paying for it do not care. Why?
The first observation comes straight from Alek Boyd which finds out that the front company purchasing El Universal is barely around 1 year old and has no assets. And yet manage hundred of millions of dollars.
Then the few people that we know are associated with this purchase have a checkered past, linked to groups with financial scandals before the Chavez era, namely Banco Latino.
This is enough to draw already a conclusion: people that can pay so easily a newspaper whose lone real asset is a building downtown Caracas and whose brand is only worth something in Venezuela, losing it as soon as the identity of the buyers will finally get known, are laundering money. They are willingly doing that because the laundering is made it easier by a complacent regime that wants the critical voice of El Universal silenced, in particular the voice on economics about Venezuela as El Universal for better or worse has been the most reliable chronicler of the waste the regime has brought upon us.
And to add insult to injury, crooks of pre Chavez era are advising looters of Chavez era on how to round up such business.
And the people bowed and prayed
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.
Unfortunately for us the evidence of financial corruption that allows for the sale of a crown jewel of Venezuelan history and Establishment to basic looters has been made possible by too much complicity, too much disgusted silence, too much cowardice. In short, intellectual corruption.
We can start by the never ending debacle of the organized political opposition, never willing to take a definitive stand to defend our liberties. We must remember that it was in the students in 2007 that defended RCTV when the regime decided to close it down. Today, after Globovision gone, after El Universal gone we can read stupid tweets from Capriles touring Podunk and abandoning Lopez and Machado, blaming them for his own bad luck. I wonder if he realizes that nobody will be reporting of any upcoming campaign where he may be a candidate. As for Aveledo? He is shocked!
But I also remember many an attack made by people that should have known better, people bemoaning the poor quality of Venezuelan journalism without understanding truly what is at stake, under which conditions Venezuelan press had to operate. And I read that same intellectual weakness from foreign papers to Venezuelan blogs, who know have not much credibility in defending freedom of information in Venezuela.
Because a vision softly creeping,
People writing songs that voices never share
This week also illustrates already how much we are going to miss El Universal. See, a few weeks ago nothing else but the mayor of Caracas, backed by some of the highest dignitaries of the regime, accused half a dozen opposition politicians of planing the nth assassination attempt against Maduro. Unfortunately for mayor Rodriguez, who looked like a true psychopath while accusing the others of being such, one of his victims has resided in the US for many years and has access to the US judicial system. Pedro Burelli took that advantage of an independent judiciary to get a court order and get from Google the proof that the e-mails presented by Rodriguez were lousy forgeries.
In short, Rodriguez was caught lying through and through.
If we had an independent press, and a public opinion supporting it, defending it, we would have by now a polite but firm campaign demanding that Rodriguez either resign as mayor of Caracas, or at least makes a public apology. But besides a few notes, including an editorial from El Nacional we are not going to get much and Rodriguez will go unpunished for an infamous act that put in danger the lives a dozens of innocent people.
The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
For us still trying to write inside Venezuela, the situation becomes complicated. Now we have less reliable sources of information. We re going to have to learn the hard way to read in between lines the official news, if we have the stomach for it. We will have to rely more on Twitter with all the risks that this entails, the worst being the brevity and lack of details. We are going to have to take educated guesses in the way we report stuff, be it on newspapers to avoid censorship, be it in modest blogs that pretend to remain respectable. And the foreign press may be even less reliable as it depends already too much on limited sources and joints like El Universal.
All of this while not trying to grow bitter because we have been abandoned by media owners, by opposition politicians that were supposed to defend our liberties at their own risk, watching those that did so it rot in jail, abandoned by their colleagues.
Truly prophets we shall become...