Last night, Televen – a Venezuelan television network – abruptly cancelled Luis Chataing’s show, “ChataingTV”. Chataing had become an outspoken critic of the Maduro government in recent months, and had used his television show to voice his opinions. It is widely believed that his show was cancelled because of his willingness to criticize and ridicule the government and its officials on air.
Chataing unceremoniously announced his show’s cancellation last night through Twitter, saying, “Thankful [to] coworkers and our audience. Pressure forces @TelevenTV to remove #ChataingTV from their air”:
On a radio interview this morning, Chataing explained that his show started to feel pressure about five months ago, and said:
I can imagine where that pressure came from. They’re trying to silence a voice for thinking differently.
My worry goes far beyond what’s happening to me. I worry about everyone who is listening (…) I think that we could reach a point at which reconstruction might be even more complicated.
Chataing also spoke before a large crowd at the Plaza Alfredo Sadel in Caracas today, and said:
I want you to know that you’re not alone, and that you make me feel like we are not alone. I will not allow myself to be silenced.
Vanessa Davies, a PSUV official, spoke in solidarity with Chataing, saying:
I want to make my solidarity with the announcer and entertainer, Luis Chataing, for what happened yesterday at Televen. His program was taken off the air.
We can have different points of view, but we [the PSUV] defend the ability for each person to be able to watch whatever they want and have their own opinions. Now there is one less space for that, to dissent in a humorous fashion. It’s regrettable, because I watched that show. It might be surprising that I watched it, and it had things that I didn’t like, things that made me laugh, and things that didn’t.
Davies’ level-headed and poignant statements on the matter contrast those of Maduro, who also spoke on Chataing’s dismissal from Televen. In typical tone and fashion, Maduro sidestepped the issue of whether or not his government had been responsible for removing Chataing from the air, belittling the situation, making himself seem the victim, and making baseless remarks. Maduro addresses the issue at a public event today, saying:
There was a problem with an right-wing television entertainer, and now it’s my fault that this man was fired from such and such television network. All I’m doing is working, sir!
I’ll find out what happened today, I’ll find out the gossip, about the fight that happened. They almost had a fist fight.
Maduro also seemed to specifically address Davies’ comments, saying:
There are naive people from the Chavista camp who go out and express solidarity with him because Maduro, the repressive dictator, took away his show. What do I have to do with your show, sir? How much more with the gossip, intrigue, and ill-will?
Maduro also mocked Chataing, suggesting that if wanted to do a show for the FANB TV (National Bolivarian Armed Forces TV), he could “call with the directors of FANB TV… and we will give him a show”.
(New) Mayor of San Cristobal in the Crosshairs
As was the case with the previous mayor of San Cristobal, Daniel Ceballos, a group of citizens in the state of Tachira filed a writ of amparo against current mayor Patricia de Ceballos, claiming that the mayor is promoting violence in the city. Patricia’s husband faced identical charges, which led to his removal from office and Patricia’s election into the same.
A writ of amparo, roughly speaking, is a legal motion that can be filed in certain jurisdictions as a way to protect one’s constitutional rights. In this case, it is likely that the citizens filed the motion against the mayor because they feel she has actively encouraged – or failed to stop – activities that have led to a violation of their constitutional rights, stemming from the protests that have rocked San Cristobal since early February of this year.
Finally, some pictures of demonstrations that took place today in Venezuela.
From Valencia, where students from the Universidad de Carabobo marched demanding university autonomy:
The sign below reads, “Respect the UC [Universidad de Carabobo] NO to VIOLATIONS of university autonomy”:
And from Tachira, where a motorcycle – presumably belonging to security forces – burned:
Maduro can be irritating and poisonous when he wants to be. His comments regarding Chataing’s removal from the Televen line-up were as disingenuous as they were deliberately inflammatory. His scathing mockery of the conditions leading to Chataing’s dismissal, his role in the affair, and his suggestion that Chataing could work for a state-owned television network show the side of Maduro that makes him such an unappealing leader to opposition supporters.
The Chataing affair also highlights an extremely important fact that is often overlooked by casual observers of the situation in Venezuela. I have heard it said often that most television and radio stations in Venezuela are privately owned, which means that they’re critical of the government (right?). One vital fact that is often overlooked when surveying the Venezuelan media landscape is that whether or not a network is privately owned has little to do with what stance it can take vis-a-vis the government.
Televen is a privately owned network. It survives in a Venezuela in which other privately owned television networks critical of the government – namely RCTV and Globovision – have been removed from their air entirely or threatened into submission. Televen lives in the ruins of a media landscape that is scarred by threats from the government to “do as I say, or else”. Televen knows what happens to networks that refuse to remove content the government does not agree with. And in this case, Televen chose to save itself rather than defend the right to express one’s opinions, no matter how critical of the government they may be.