Friday, November 16, 2007

The Truth about the Recent Campus Violence in Venezuela

Violent opposition students outside the School of Social Work (ABN)

I'm still in the thick of wedding mayhem, but I had to post something about the recent violence at the UCV campus in Caracas. This is another astounding example of the way the US media twists 180 degrees nearly every story coming out of Venezuela now (similar to the way the King of Spain has been applauded nearly everywhere for breaking all diplomatic niceties by telling telling President Chavez to "shut up" at a recent summit in Chile). Imagine any other democratically elected leader being told to shut up by a monarch.

U.S. Media Bias and Recent Student Violence in Venezuela
by JoJo Farrell for ZNET
November 15, 2007

Why is it that the U.S. media condemns Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for limiting freedom of press while in the same breath self-censoring their Venezuelan news coverage to such an extent that it completely distorts the story? This has been the case ever since Chavez came to office, but last week, after the incidents at the Central Venezuelan University, the asymmetries once again were violently thrust to the surface.

Last week, in standard fashion, nearly every major US newspaper, momentarily forgot their commitment to an independent press, and omitted crucial facts, martyring the Venezuelan opposition student movement, and acting as a de facto mouthpiece for the opposition.

Sean McCormick, spokesperson for the US state Department had this to say, on the morning of November 8th, ³These people are just expressing themselves in a peaceful manner. They've had a view contrary to the views held by the government, but it was a peaceful protest, as far as I've been able to determine from the news reports.²

An analysis of 10 major U.S. media outlets shows very consistent reporting of the story (links below). Seven of the 10 reprinted the same AP story. Only the Washington Post, however briefly, brings to light that there are even two different sides. Most media outlets reported that following peaceful protests in downtown Caracas, masked Chavista-gunman attacked anti-government supporters on the campus of the Central University of Venezuela (UCV). Photos of the masked gunman have accompanied most of these articles lending themselves as powerful images of violence against peaceful protestors.

Violent oppositon supporters at the UCV- picture Reuters

The Miami Herald reported ³Photographers for The Associated Press saw at least four gunmen - their faces covered by ski masks or T-shirts - firing handguns at the anti- Chávez crowd at the UCV. Terrified students ran through the campus as ambulances arrived. The New York Times on Nov. 7th led with the following, ³Masked gunmen shot into a group of students on Wednesday at this country¹s most prestigious university. The students were returning from a march here protesting changes to the Constitution proposed by President Hugo Chávez that could allow him to remain in power indefinitely.² The following day, the Times printed a quote from one of the student leaders likening their tactics to those of Gandhi.

Unfortunately, these reports have left out an important chunk of the story. After last Wednesday¹s peaceful protest, many students headed back to UCV campus. Here is where things get complicated. According to Chávez supporters, eyewitnesses, and videotape recorded by the community TV station, Catia TV, opposition students, mainly from neighboring privates Universities, chased down a group of pro- Chávez students putting up signs in favor of the reform. The pro-Chavez group found refuge in the faculty of Social Work, which is known to be a Chávez friendly zone, and where it was also reported that another group of pro-Chavez students were meeting. The opposition students surrounded the faculty, armed with weapons, rocks, and gas masks shouting, ³We will lynch you all.² According to reports, opposition students fired weapons, threw rocks at the students inside the building, and lit fire to the entrance. Chávez supporters present that day affirm that the motorcyclists televised to the world as sinister gunmen, arrived on the scene as part of a rescue mission to help their companions trapped inside the building by the rabid opposition outside. They argue that this was necessary because the Venezuelan army or police force are, by law, not allowed to enter the grounds of the University. To this day, the entire truth is not known about the events at the UCV last Wednesday, but the inability of the international press to report an unbiased account calls into question their journalist integrity. The consequences of this could lead to further violence in Venezuela.

Media distortion is nothing new in Venezuela, the media played a critical role during the 2002 Coup de tat which removed Chávez from power temporarily. At the time major outlets ordered a black out of pro- Chávez street protests. The movement in the street ultimately led to the return of the President, and has encouraged a new generation of community media around the country. It was those small community stations that spread the news that wasn¹t available on the major outlets. What the private and international mainstream media reported, is that pro-government protesters had fired at opposition marchers, killing over a dozen. It was later revealed that video footage was manipulated, as were the reports, and that in fact the deaths were caused by snipers firing from the nearby buildings, and the pro-government protesters were defending themselves from the armored vehicles of the metropolitan police, advancing on the crowds from only a few blocks away. This past summer the Venezuelan government pointed to the role of Radio Caracas Television in the 2002 coup as the impetus for not renewing its broadcast license. This is a fact that was consistently left out of the story reported in the private and international media. The RCTV story read that Chávez was silencing the station due to their opposition to his policies. The same story, which continues to be perpetuated in the US media today. Unfortunately, this one-sided hypocrisy intentionally leaves out facts leading to one-sided coverage. This type of journalism not only misrepresents the truth, but its impact can have dangerous and lasting effects on Venezuela. We should call on our media to take more care, to ensure that it reports everything that is to be reported, and not just the image it wants to portray.

The School of Social Work trashed by opposition students (ABN)

Videos of the violent attack by opposition students can be seen here and here.



Blogger jsb said...

Illegal to wear a bracelet that says "cambio". Man, why do you continue to support the Castro regime? I don't get it. Kids can't wear bracelets that say "cambio"?

7:41 AM  
Blogger leftside said...

It is not illegal to wear anything. No one was arrested. People were however questioned because the bracelets came straight from the United States Government (how did I know that?) The idea was hatched in Miami and shipped in the US diplomatic pouch (Herald reported this). A brilliant PR move, but something that Cuba has the right to investigate and put and end to. No interference of this sort is tolerated anywhere (taking or buying ANYTHING from the island of Cuba can make one guilty under the embargo, patriot act and god knows what else). If you've read the coverage of the story, you'll also know that many of those interviewed said the bracelet was just a fashion piece...

What about these "peaceful protest" at UCV?

9:16 AM  
Blogger jsb said...

Um, sorry but they were detained, not just questioned.

Also, did you hear about the church they bulldozed?

I'm surprised you still support this regime.

Mario Hechavarria Driggs, Independent Journalist
It was destroyed with a Buldzer used by the polica, the local Church Evanglica Reform Apostlica, in the city of Santiago de Cuba, informed us by telephone from the eastern city, John Ramn Rivero Despaigne, human rights activist.

"The church is located in the streets Nico, # 3, in the village of El Salado. All its members are accused by the government of CIA agents. Pastor Alain Toledano continues to hold worship at the place where his was destroyed church, "concluy Rivero Despaigne.

5:37 AM  
Blogger jsb said...

Officers with the "social scourge" (Lacra Social) of the Ministry of Interior, arrested Yanisleydis Borges Lara, 19, and her friend, Gretter Hernandez, 16, for the "crime" of walking along the outside of the Spanish firm Sol-Melia's "Havana Libre" hotel.

The hotel, like all facilities in the tourism sector, are reserved exclusively for the enjoyment of foreigners and members of the power elite. Both youths were detained while under investigation, and today were to be prosecuted in court on charges of "social dangerousness," which under the penal code carries a sentence of 1 to 4 years in prison.

I'm surprised you still support this tourism apartheid and detentions based on social dangerousness.

5:43 AM  
Blogger jsb said...

As to peaceful protests at UCV, it's clear that opposition students wired fired upon from the building, causing the reaction of the opposition to throw stuff at them.

Almost every instance of gun violence in Venezuela today (in political contexts) can be documented as Chavistas firing on opposition. Just about every...single...time.

5:44 AM  
Blogger jsb said...

From the Directorio Democrático Cubano comes word that four youths, among them three members of the Cuban Movement of Youths for Democracy (MCJD) were arrested by state political police last night, November 29th. The activists were taken to the National Revolutionary Police Station "Sanja y Dragones" after having joined a sit-in demonstration that had been going on for more than a week outside the "Aguilera" National Revolutionary Police Station in central Havana. Protesters had gathered there to press for the release of jailed dissident Juan Bermudez Toranzo.

Those arrested had earlier taken part in a press conference where 5,000 signatures supporting the "University Students Without Borders" project had been submitted before the public. The project advocates university autonomy through free expression and freedom of association at Cuban universities.

3:15 PM  
Blogger jsb said...

The regime you support sure has been busy lately in Havana harrassing innocent folk. Not sure why you still support Rauel and Fidel, but I guess you have to stay consistent.

"Most of the arrests have been in Havana, but Cuban Democratic Directorate is reporting that thugs from State Security attacked and detained a group of about 20 people, including women and children, as they left a church in Santa Clara, where they had been fasting and praying for the release of dissidents arrested earlier."

7:19 AM  
Blogger jsb said...

November 21: All arrested with Bermúdez Toranzo
Juan Bermúdez Toranzo- still in custody at last report.
Georbis Ferrer Plana
José Luis Rodríguez Chávez
William Cepero García
Omar Osmany Varván del Pino

November 27:
Manuel Pérez Soria- former political prisoner after hunger strike to protest gov't's failure to provide identity
papers; arrested for lack of documentation; still in custody at last report.
Vladimir Alejo Miranda- interrogated, threatened for 6 or 8 hours and released.

November 29: All three student leaders were part of the University student petition press conference.
Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina- still in custody at last report.
Eliécer Consuegra Rivas - deported to provinces Dec 4.
Gerardo Sánchez Ortega- deported to the provinces Dec.4.

November 30:All arrested outside the Lawton police station where they were peacefully protesting the arrest of Juan Bermúdez Toranzo.
Yusniel Basterechea Quintana
Miguel López Santos- held 24 hours and released at Km 17 on the national highway.
Arisnay Rodríguez Cruz
Juan Alberto de la Nuez Ramírez- held 24 hours and fined.
Yunier Piedraita Santa Cruz -held 24 hours and fined.
Alejandro Gabriel Martínez- held 24 hours and fined.
Yuris Barreras Sánchez- held 24 hours.
Carlos Michael Morales- held 24 hours and fined.
Raúl Pérez Gavilá- held 24 hours and fined.
Rogelio Hernández Mill
Aramis Sainz Sánchez
Tania Maceda Guerra- released at Km 17 on the national highway.
Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva- released at Km 17 on the national highway.
Jesús Cordero Suárez.

December 3: in Guantanamo
Juan Carlos Hernández Hernández
Salvador Benavides

December 4: Political Police broke down the doors of a church and using tear gas arrested 20(?) dissidents who were praying for the release of political prisoners after a march of 18 blocks

December 5: At the train station where they were accompanying Gerardo Sánchez Ortega.
Juan Carlos Hernández Hernández
Yorleinis Duvergel
Unnamed others

4:58 AM  
Blogger jsb said...

Cuban State Security attacked and arrested several dissidents, as they marched to a Catholic Church in Santiago de Cuba.

"They barged in spraying gas in the faces of people from those spray cans, and went about dishing out blows and shouting," said Jose Conrad the priest of Santa Teresita church.

"The repressors, headed by a lieutenant colonel and other state security officers, desecrated the church of Santa Teresita after kicking one of its doors open and savagely assaulting the peaceful dissidents," said Elizardo Sanchez, president of the Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission.

5:00 AM  

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