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When El Universal was purchased by an undisclosed group of Spanish investors earlier this month, rumours began to fly that the investors had connections to the Venezuelan government. The investors, the word went, had purchased the newspaper as a way to begin to silence one of Venezuela’s largest opposition voices.

The rumours were unsubstantiated until today, when El Universal formally announced that it was beginning to censor its editorial section.

According to an article posted by the newspaper today, opinion pieces deemed to contain “violations” of the newspaper’s code of ethics will not be published. As a result, “the Opinion section is being revised“.

The code of ethics is not new. However, it is clear that the new owners of the newspaper are enforcing the code in a manner to which the columnists – “many of whom have been writing for this newspaper for many years” – are not accustomed to. Through its enforcement of the code, the article claims, El Universal is trying to “rescue the necessary balance” needed to run the kind of newspaper the new owners want to have.

Minister of Tourism, El Universal Director Have Twitter Fight

The El Universal saga took a strange twist that past weekend when the Minister of Tourism, Andres Izarra, and the director of El Universal, Elides Rojas, had a fight on Twitter.

At some point on August 3, Izarra called for Rojas to resign. He also insulted Rojas on Twitter, saying:

First Tweet: They say he [Rojas] only moves for money.
Second Tweet: They say that @ejrl [Rojas] is a real bootlicker. He wags his tail for whoever his new owner is.

Rojas responded quickly and fiercely:

@IzarraDeVerdad: The corrupt chavistas, if they’re the owners of El Universal, can answer your call and simply fire me

First Tweet: @IzarraDeVerdad: I’m not going to resign because someone asks me to. Much less so if it’s a corrupt clan asking. Ask the owners to fire me
Second Tweet: @IzarraDeVerdad: / If chavistas bought El Universal it’s even easier for you. Talk to your buddies and fire me

Gas Prices are Poised to Rise

When Maduro announced last week that the government was thinking about holding a debate to examine the merits of raising gas prices in the country, the possibility of any such increase seemed almost remote. Today, the increase appears to be a certainty.

The Minister of Oil and Mining (also, president of PDVSA and vice-president of the economy), Rafael Ramirez, insisted that the government was still keen on holding a “popular debate” to find out how much – not if – gas prices should increase. Ramirez said:

We won’t place the price at international levels because that’s not the idea, but it will be a reasonable price.
(…)
We have to have a debate about the increase. It’s cheaper to fill up a gas tank than to buy a cigarette.

Ramirez also said that PDVSA, the country’s state-owned oil producer, costs the Venezuelan government approximately $12.5 million per year in subsidies. He also explained that Venezuela has seen an accelerated rate of oil consumption over the last several years, almost doubling its daily barrel consumption from 400 million in 2002 to almost 730 million today. Ramirez said:

We are the country with the highest oil consumption per capita, and we have the cheapest prices on the planet.

It costs PDVSA 28 more times to produce gasoline than the price at which it is sold. For diesel, the difference is 50-fold.

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