El Nacional reports that a judge has barred 22 of the country’s private media heads from leaving the country as part of a defamation lawsuit filed by PSUV vice-president Diosdado Cabello. Some of the affected include the heads of El Nacional, La Patilla, and TalCual, some of the country’s most famous and important opposition media platforms.
The judge also ordered that the 22 individuals must present themselves before a judge once a week.
The order stems from a story published by Spain’s ABC earlier this year. ABC claims to have spoken to Leamsy Salazar (a former bodyguard to Hugo Chavez and Diosdado Cabello), who said that Cabello was the head of a drug cartel operating at the highest levels of the Venezuelan military. The story was widely repeated by Venezuelan media.
Shortly after the story was published and subsequently repeated in Venezuelan media, Cabello launched a lawsuit against anyone involved in its reporting, including Venezuelan media outlets.
The full list of the affected individuals can be found here.
Minister of Defence: Army Must Face “Whatever Hurts the Homeland”
Whatever damages the homeland, the nation, and the people must be faced with a lot of focus and steadiness. We will do this under national unity — none other than the union civico-militar.
The comments come in the wake of what appears to be a push by the Ministry of Defence to give the military a role in protest suppression. Earlier this year, Lopez signed a resolution allowing soldiers to suppress protests with lethal force.
Lopez also said that the so-called “economic war” for which the government blames virtually all of Venezuela’s problems “is not rhetoric, but a reality”.
3 Killed, 200 Arrested in Massive Maracay Raid
2,000 officers from a number of different security agencies raided the San Vicente de Maracay neighbourhood in the Araguan capital today, killing 3 and arresting 200 others. The raid targeted gangs that are believe to operate from the area.
The Maracay area has seen some high-profile gang violence incidents over the last few weeks. Last week, six suspected gang members died when a grenade they were carrying exploded. The day before that, a notorious gang leader known as El Kluiberth killed himself after being cornered by police.
Below, some scenes from the raid and its aftermath:
I’ve recently begun reading a book by Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way called Competitive Authoritarianism: Hybrid Regimes After the Cold War. In the book, the authors argue that in the continuum between democracy and tyranny there exists a kind of government they call “competitive authoritarianism”, which they define as:
… civilian regimes in which formal democratic institutions exist and are widely viewed as the primary means of gaining power, but in which incumbents’ abuse of the state places them at a significant advantage vis-a-vis their opponents. (P. 5)
While the list of 35 countries the authors examined does not include Venezuela, the parallels between their findings and the situation in Venezuela are undeniable, specially on a day like today.
Levitsky and Way argue that one of the ways in which a competitive authoritarian government gives itself an advantage over opposition parties is by violating civil liberties such as the right to free speech and press. As they explain:
… assault on civil liberties take more subtle forms, including ‘legal repression’, or the discretionary use of legal instruments – such as tax, libel, or defamation laws – to punish opponents. Although such repression may involve the technically correct application of the law, its use is selective and partisan rather than universal. (P. 9)
Today’s action against the country’s private media heads is a clear example of a competitive authoritarian government abusing civil liberties to intimidate and silence opponents.
Anyone who argues that Venezuela is a democracy simply because Maduro won the popular vote is sticking their head in the sand. It is abundantly clear that far from being democratic, the PSUV is a competitive authoritarian regime, one which uses state power and the law to stifle opposition and ensure its survival over the welfare of its citizens.
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