Final Essay

Beatriz Otero

George Pearson

IDS 3309

April 23, 2019

Venezuela’s crisis has brought the country to the forefront of international headlines. Political forces, in support or in opposition, have struggled to control the narrative of what is going on in the nation. Nicolas Maduro, official Venezuela president, leans on traditional media like television and radio to reach his followers. On the other hand, Guaido relies in Social Media to challenge the government as well as to gain supporters. 

Restrictions, favoritism and intimidation have long been determining factors in the traditional media landscape, and Venezuelans by and large now turn to social media to get a sense of what is truly happening in their embattled country. (Puglie, Frederic. “Social Media, Comedy Replace News as Maduro’s Grip on Media Blacks out Turmoil in Venezuela.” The Washington Times, The Washington Times, 4 Mar. 2019, www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/mar/4/nicolas-maduro-media-control-censors-news-venezuel/).

On February 2019, a truck that was part of a humanitarian aid convoy attempted to cross the border between Colombia and Venezuela. The truck was burned. Despite press coverage, the news took a different direction at the time it was aired to the Venezuelan Public. Using a photograph that was taken of volunteers trying to extinguish the flames on the humanitarian aid truck, state run media outlets reported that people were spraying gasoline instead of water. “They manipulate using a photo I took,” Ms. Salcedo Flores told The Washington Times. “I feel very powerless that the Venezuelan authorities want to squash the truth with all their might.” (Puglie, Frederic. “Social Media, Comedy Replace News as Maduro’s Grip on Media Blacks out Turmoil in Venezuela.” The Washington Times, The Washington Times, 4 Mar. 2019, www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/mar/4/nicolas-maduro-media-control-censors-news-venezuel/).

Madelin Garcias, a Venezuelan reporter for the governmental television network Telesur, concluded with an analysis that the truck was carrying arms for opposition instigators. This channel is what Maduro sees as an alternative to international news channels. It also gets funding from leftist governments in Cuba, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Bolivia. 

Manipulating what is really happening in Venezuela, has become Maduro’s most powerful weapon. Maduro relies a great deal on pathos to invoke sympathy. With this, he spreads misleading information to avoid using logic or trustworthy facts. This has been his primary way to manipulate and engage people. Aristoteles stated, “To understand the emotions- that is, to name and describe them, to know their causes and the way in which they are excited.” (Communicate with Confidence: How to Say It Right the First Time and Every Time” Originally published: July 1, 1994 Author:Dianna Booher). Maduro’s ability to tap into Venezuelans and the rest of the world has evoke feelings and connectedness to get the motivation to act onto what he and his government needs to remain in power.  

 Socio-political polarization permeates in Venezuela media, and while Maduro and his followers keep their efforts to hide the reality of Venezuela, Juan Guaido fights for letting the world know the reality of his country. The opposition uses mainly Social Media as the medium to challenge the government. Therefore, when Guaido declared himself the interim president of Venezuela, the response from Maduro’s government was to shut down the internet in the country. (“Why Venezuela’s Internet Shuts down Every Time Juan Guaido Speaks | CBC Radio.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 30 Mar. 2019, www.cbc.ca/radio/day6/why-venezuela-s-internet-shuts-down-every-time-juan-guaido-speaks-1.5074909).In an attempt to stifle those who oppose his government, he disconnected access to Google, Instagram, Twitter, Wikipedia, etc. His purpose was to censor the voice of Venezuelans and silence critics around the globe. 

 The country’s ruling elite has relied extensively on private media to organize its efforts to overthrow Maduro. Given that various policies of the Maduro’s government restrict the free circulation of information in traditional media, Social Media has become the number one alternative for news consumption nowadays among Venezuelans. 

According to a study conducted by the human rights advocacy organization Espacio Publico, traditional media in Venezuela have faced censorship and retaliation after publishing news that can be interpreted as being critical for the government. Carlos Correa, the director of the organization, said: “Some news no longer fits in the conventional networks of information (…) The news of looting at local food vendors gains more coverage in networks like Twitter and Facebook; in traditional media, such news is unimaginable,. (“Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights.” Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, venezuelablog.org./).

In addition, Social Media plays a prominent role in drawing large crowds, given that the government controls almost all of the traditional broadcast and print media. Guaido is said to have used Instagram to mobilize support for one of biggest rallies that took place on January in Caracas. (McKay, Hollie. “From Secret Meetings to Social Media to Military Rumblings: How Venezuelan Protests Came to Life.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 24 Jan. 2019, www.foxnews.com/world/from-secret-meetings-to-social-media-to-military-rebellion-how-the-venezuelan-protests-are-brought-to-life).

However, Maduro loyalist are active in this platforms as well. Internet is also considered a battlefield of interest by the government. Maduro and his people have used spy software to surveil the opposition. (Threats, Lies and Censorship: Media in Venezuela. International Media Support, Open Society Foundations and Article 19. 2016, Threats, Lies and Censorship: Media in Venezuelawww.mediasupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Venezuela-report_4-ENG-final3.pdf).

 Television, which is by far the most important media platform on a national level is owned by the government. Channels are dedicated to news programs, political debates and opinions that reaches 95 percent of Venezuelans households. Since 2012, several publications have been made from the government showing emails, calls and private conversations that were recorded in the house of opposition leaders. Even though the privacy of the communications is listed in the constitution, this is considered by the government as a “patriotic hacking”. (Puyosa, Iria. “Political Control on the Internet in the Context of a Hybrid Regime. Venezuela 2007-2015.” Teknokultura, 2015, www.mediasupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Venezuela-report_4-ENG-final3.pdf).

 Newspapers are also controlled by Maduro. He govern the company that provides the press organizations with all basic material for the graphic industry. That being said, the state provides material to state-run newspapers, while private papers have been constrained to limit their circulation. 

Works Cited

Puglie, Frederic. “Social Media, Comedy Replace News as Maduro’s Grip on Media Blacks out Turmoil in Venezuela.”The Washington Times, The Washington Times, 4 Mar. 2019, www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/mar/4/nicolas-maduro-media-control-censors-news-venezuel/

Puglie, Frederic. “Social Media, Comedy Replace News as Maduro’s Grip on Media Blacks out Turmoil in Venezuela.” The Washington Times, The Washington Times, 4 Mar. 2019, www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/mar/4/nicolas-maduro-media-control-censors-news-venezuel/

Communicate with Confidence: How to Say It Right the First Time and Every Time” Originally published: July 1, 1994 Author:Dianna Booher

“Why Venezuela’s Internet Shuts down Every Time Juan Guaido Speaks | CBC Radio.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 30 Mar. 2019, www.cbc.ca/radio/day6/why-venezuela-s-internet-shuts-down-every-time-juan-guaido-speaks-1.5074909

“Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights.” Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights, venezuelablog.org./

McKay, Hollie. “From Secret Meetings to Social Media to Military Rumblings: How Venezuelan Protests Came to Life.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 24 Jan. 2019, www.foxnews.com/world/from-secret-meetings-to-social-media-to-military-rebellion-how-the-venezuelan-protests-are-brought-to-life

Threats, Lies and Censorship: Media in Venezuela. International Media Support, Open Society Foundations and Article 19. 2016, Threats, Lies and Censorship: Media in Venezuelawww.mediasupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Venezuela-report_4-ENG-final3.pdf

Puyosa, Iria. “Political Control on the Internet in the Context of a Hybrid Regime. Venezuela 2007-2015.” Teknokultura, 2015, www.mediasupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Venezuela-report_4-ENG-final3.pdf

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