Venezuela: government probes media coverage of prison riot repression

Venezuela’s National Telecommunications Commission announced June 30 that it has opened sanction proceedings against Caracas-based news channel Globovision, which it accuses of spreading “anxiety in the population” by broadcasting images of the recent deadly violence at El Rodeo prison. Globovision faces charges of violating the country’s Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television. Peter Maldonado, director of the telecommunication agency, said that Globovision could be subject to a fine of 10% of gross income obtained in the previous fiscal year, and may have its transmission suspended for up to 72 hours.

Government troops stormed the Rodeo prison complex on June 17, five days after violence erupted between rival gangs that left at least 22 dead at the compound east of Caracas. The government action sparked fierce gun-battles between National Guard troops and armed prisoners, which left seven more dead. Authorities regained control one of two facilities at the compound, but some 1,200 inmates remain entrenched at the second facility, Rodeo II, holding off security forces with a reported arsenal of weapons. The director of Rodeo II, the subdirector of Rodeo I, and a National Guard captain have all been detained on charges of trafficking arms to prisoner gangs.

Globovision also came under attack in 2009, when the station’s headquarters were besieged by a mob loyal to President Hugo Chávez, after the president had accused the station of conspiring against his government. (InSight Crime, July 1; Dow Jones, June 30; El Dia, Spain, June 29; The Guardian, June 28)

With President Chávez incommunicado and reportedly convalescing in Cuba following cancer treatment, his brother Adán Chávez told an audience that both arms and the ballot box could be used for Venezuela’s ruling party to retain power. “As authentic revolutionaries, we cannot forget other forms of fighting,” Adán said at a prayer meeting for his brother’s recovery in Barinas,. Quoting Latin American revolutionary icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara, he added: “It would be inexcusable to limit ourselves to only the electoral and not see other forms of struggle, including the armed struggle.” (Miami Herald. June 22)

See our last post on the struggle for Venezuela.

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