Over 53 social collectives from the Caracas neighbourhood, 23 de Enero (23 January) have protested against what they describe as a corporate media attempt to generate violence in the area, after media outlets such as Ultimas Noticias and Globovision reported that there was a “war” between revolutionary groups in the working class neighbourhood.
Representatives from the various collectives protested outside the Globovision corporation’s headquarters on Saturday evening, charging the station with falsifying reports surrounding the murders of two young men in the area, which the station claims were linked to the alleged “war”. Despite the reports from the two news corporations, neighbourhood spokespeople maintained that neither a reporter from Globovision or Ultimas Noticias had set foot in the area.
“We want to clarify that there is no internal war between collectives in the 23 de Enero or in Greater Caracas… We denounce Globovision and Ultimas Noticias for acting as the launching pads for this media terrorism… whose main goal is the destabilisation of the country,” they said.
The 23 de Enero barrio is famed in Venezuela for its revolutionary organised groups, which played a central role in bringing down the Perez Jimenez dictatorship with sectors of the military in 1958. Certain collectives in the area such as La Piedrita are also armed and implement their own law enforcement through organised patrols of the neighbourhood.
La Piedrita collective recently became embroiled in controversy when some of its members uploaded a picture of children with rifles onto the organization’s Facebook page earlier this year. Both the private media and the government strongly criticized the photo, although the group maintains that it was a picture taken of a children’s theatre act about Venezuela’s guerrilla struggles in the 1960s. The collective has vehemently condemned Venezuela’s corporate media for “manipulating” the issue of the now-famous photograph.
On Saturday night, protesters gathered outside Globovision headquarters said that the 53 collectives were united under the title of the Revolutionary Secretary of Venezuela, and denied the existence of any infighting in the area. Reading a statement to Globovision journalists, a group of neighbourhood spokespeople said they stood in solidarity with La Piedrita and accused the two media groups of waging a campaign against the collective in an attempt to “criminalise” organised revolutionary groups.
“End the private media manipulation and destabilisation now! For now and always, long live the revolution, long live Chavez and long live the collectives,” ended the group’s statement.
Other groups from the area such as the neighbourhood’s Cultural House also added their voices to the protest, condemning the practices of Globovision and Ultimas Noticias and describing them as the media arm of the “Venezuelan fascist right”, with the latter belonging to opposition candidate Capriles Radonski’s family media chain.
“We publically condemn Globovision and Ultimas Noticias for their harassment campaign against our brother collective, La Piedtrita,” declared the cultural organisation.
The protest comes as Globovision is locked in a legal battle with Venezuela’s Supreme Court Justice, which upheld a fine brought against the station by the National Telecommunications Council (CONATEL) last October. The regulatory body brought the fine against the corporation in the wake of last year’s hostage situation in El Rodeo penitentiary centre, in which Globovision is said to have tried to manipulate the events to generate fear and unease amongst its viewers. Over a period of 48 hours, the media outlet repeatedly showed images of the prisoners’ distressed mothers, refused to air any official government statements and encouraged families to protest outside of the prison.
The corporation has also been accused of trying to encourage prisoners to engage in violent protest against the government, with Mario Silva, a political talk show host, stating that numerous cameras belonging to the media outlet were also found inside of several prisons. Globovision has described the US$ 2.16 million (Bs 9.3 million) fine as “unpayable,” and has cited it as evidence of a government directed campaign against “freedom of speech”. The fine represents 7.5% of the corporation’s income for 2010.
According to official communications, Venezuela’s criminal investigation body, the CICPC, is currently launching an investigation into the deaths of the two murdered men in the 23 de Enero zone, which allegedly took place in the early hours of Saturday morning. According to witnesses, the two youths aged 23 and 19, were killed by a group of approximately ten men, who arrived at the scene carrying heavy weaponry.
“This was not a confrontation,” said David Romero from la Piedrita, “quite simply it was murder.”
In their statements, members of the collectives warned that there are “armed paramilitary groups funded by Venezuela’s ultra rightwing” operating in the area and targeting members of popular organisations aligned with the government.