State of media in Venezuela

    English

    Venezuela's Union of Press Workers reported a week ago that Rona Rísquez, Raquel Seijas, Luis Martínez and Eliberth Edardo, former coordinators in El Nacional's press room, were unfairly dismissed last week. El Nacional's management tried to force another 40 workers to resign. Little has been made about this. Aside from Union of Press Workers' rather brief release, timidly replicated, and some reactions on Twitter, no international media seems to have picked up on this new development. According to most accounts, El Nacional is one of Venezuela's largest newspapers, wholly owned by Miguel Henrique Otero. It has a long and rich tradition, by Venezuelan standards, and some of the country's most respected writers and intellectuals have provided commentary for it. However, like other non-fully-aligned newspapers, whether large or small, it is hurting. A shadow of its former self.

    Its owner, Miguel Henrique Otero (pictured with wife Antonieta Jurado), is meant to be leaning towards the opposition, politically speaking. What not many people know, is that Otero's wife, Antonieta Jurado, used to be Juan Barreto's PA. For those who don't know Barreto, he is a former Caracas Mayor. A dyed in the wool chavista. Barreto was an employee of El Nacional, much before Hugo Chavez got to power. Before "making it" as media advisor of Chavez, he held some academic posts, which reportedly came to an end due to a knife attack he launched on a student. Let's just say that Barreto is the kind of Mayor that spent copious public funds in propaganda in the very newspaper that used to employ him (evidently no conflict of interests there); the kind of Mayor that insults, and spits other elected officials in public; in sum, a thug. It's no surprise that El Nacional's pages are always open to Barreto, a clear case of former boss returning the favour to patron.

    But things don't end just there. In a conversation with Nelson Bocaranda, I asked why he had removed from his site Runrun.es an article criticizing El Nacional for giving tribune to what amounts to Derwick propaganda. Bocaranda's answer startled me: he said that Otero and Jurado were interceding in his favour with chavismo, in relation to some accusations that had been made against him. Therefore he couldn't possibly be seen as openly hostile to use of El Nacional as Derwick's propaganda platform. But Bocaranda added another bit of info that shocked me even more: he claimed that Danilo Diaz Granados, a Bolivarian "banker", was the source of funding keeping El Nacional afloat. If more evidence of lack of editorial independence in certain topics were needed, there's Nelson Rivera, yet another employee of El Nacional, who dabbles as Derwick's PR man. I recently got an exchange of messages between Rivera and Franklin Chaparro Rojas (see below). Readers may remember my exposing of Chaparro as one of Derwick's "enforcers", a man tasked with conducting illegal surveillance and spying on journalists.

    Participantes:
    -------------
    Franklin Chaparro Rojas, NR - @papeliterario

    Mensajes:
    ---------
    Franklin Chaparro Rojas:
    Estimado, aprovechando saludarte y darle seguimiento a nuestro ultimo encuentro
    NR - @papeliterario:
    Hermano te atraje con el pensamiento! ya la cuestión esta “lista”,  por acá es seguro?
    Franklin Chaparro Rojas:
    Claro que es seguro, igual no estamos haciendo nada malo. Recuerda que los malvados son ellos.
    NR - @papeliterario:
    Cierto. Pues
    si ya el chamito envío la cosa a maduradas.com el que te comente que trabaja conmigo para el propio, esperando que lo repliquen en varios medios, sobre todo en Miami y Argentina.
    Franklin Chaparro Rojas:
    Excelente, y metiste a la familia del susodicho?
    NR - @papeliterario:
    Claro y como 50 rojizos mas, para darle sabor y veracidad a la lista, sobre todo ahora con el tema de las sanciones que vienen.
    Franklin Chaparro Rojas:
    Zapatero a su a zapato. Se va morir cuando se vea que lo pusieron en un pozo que el combate, recuerda ponerlo a pelear.
    NR - @papeliterario:
    ‎Si ya sabemos con quien y como, eso déjamelo a mi.
    Franklin Chaparro Rojas:
    Ponemos a los electricos?
    NR - @papeliterario:
    Mmm no, luego mas
    trabajo para el burro.
    Franklin Chaparro Rojas:
    Ok
    NR - @papeliterario:
    Le vamos hacer un favor a muchos, por cierto como sigue tu rodilla?
    Franklin Chaparro Rojas:
    Bien bien, ahi vamos, en Caracas ya me la vi, porque en Panama no confio en nadie.
    NR - @papeliterario:
    Bueno reposo y paciencia, aquí en el periódico las cosas no están buenas y Miguel desde que se dejo seducir por Mezeranhe con lo del portal diario las americas, nada que nos toma en cuenta como antes.
    Franklin Chaparro Rojas:
    El es asi, ya se le pasara el enamoramiento. Antonietta es la que lo ubica en sus cabales.
    NR - @papeliterario:
    Bueno esa es otra orgullosa, lo que tiene de enana lo tiene de egocentrismo. 
    Franklin Chaparro Rojas:
    Mujer que no jode….. debo irme a una reunion, favor avisame como queda el trabajo y nos vemos igual el jueves donde mismo.
    Franklin Chaparro Rojas:
    Mientras mas sea replicada mejor. Saludos de Alejandro por cierto que lo tengo acá.
    NR - @papeliterario:
    Saludos igual, cuenten con eso. Un abrazo.

    For clarity: NR @papeliterario is a Twitter account of El Nacional controlled by Nelson Rivera.

    As it turns, Rivera and Chaparro have been keeping themselves busy with a defamation campaign against me and my family. That comes with the territory I guess, when one exposes Derwick-style "entrepreneurs". In another message, where Chaparro calls Rivera a "genius", they congratulate each other for the "scoop" of getting an Argentine website to post their list. But notice how Otero's alleged partnership with Nelson Mezerhane is decried by Rivera and Chaparro as the reason why they no longer have Otero's ear. Funny also, how they refer to Jurado. In any case, the proliferation of blogs as tools to settle petty scores does not surprise anyone, but large newspapers that pretend impartiality and objectivity should not be caught in this way. The fact that Otero has no qualms in taking dirty money from boligarchs and bolichicos, or worse, from thugs like Barreto, speaks volumes about the state of the media in Venezuela, and the integrity of those who run it.


    Former Caracas Mayor Juan Barreto, riding with pro-regime paramilitaries known as "colectivos".

    Barreto took over as Mayor of Caracas from Alfredo Peña, yet another employee of Otero's El Nacional. Otero and Peña are at each other throats due to a $3,513,072 loan that Peña gave to Otero in January 2003, which has mushroomed to a $9,000,000 claim (do handle link to Noticias24.com with care, as it's owned by Otero's other half Antonieta Jurado). Please note that in January 2003, Peña was acting Mayor of Caracas. I have received documents of Peña's declaration of assets right before assuming as Mayor of Caracas in March 1999, having an estate worth just over 162 million Bs. (about 278,000 USD at the time).

    How did Peña make more than $3.5 million between March 1999 and January 2003? Given that Otero had been for years Peña's employer at El Nacional, how come he did not question Peña's sudden wealth? Did funding needs cloud his judgment? Did Otero not see the problem of using funds most probably derived from Peña's corruption? No moral dilemma there? Peña claims Otero never returned the money, and is suing. No word from Peña about origin of that small fortune. Chavismo got wind of the spat, it issued an arrest warrant against Peña and froze Otero's accounts. So much for Otero's and Jurado's power to influence chavista justice, right Bocaranda?

    I did ask Otero about Peña's claims, alas he never replied.

    Of the other two national newspapers, El Universal and Ultimas Noticias, only the former remains in non-chavista hands, despite persistent rumours of acquisition by Samark Lopez, frontman of Tareck el Aissami. Sources very close to Andres Mata, El Universal's owner, have denied the sale, although request for comment sent to Mata has gone unanswered. Cadena Capriles' Ultimas Noticias, on the other hand, is firmly under chavismo's control. The illegal involvement of a small UK investment firm fronting chavismo in Cadena Capriles $140 million purchase seems to have piqued the interest of London's Private Eye:

    With all but one national newspaper in truly independent hands, all TV channels toeing the regime's line, all internet service providers under the regulator's thumb, and all manner of official and State-funded radio and media platforms spreading chavismo's propaganda, it remains a mystery, to me at least, how come media from other countries are not reporting on this. It is truly a postmodern hegemony. Goebbels had nothing on Hugo Chavez's socialism of the XXI century.

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