Last night, two Colombian television stations–Caracol TV and RCN–were forced off the air in Venezuela by orders of the Maduro regime. The order came to Venezuela’s cable providers through CONATEL, the national telecommunications regulators, in the mid-afternoon.
The stations join NTN24, which was taken off the air by the regime in 2014, as the latest Colombian television stations to be banned from broadcasting in Venezuela.
Venezuelans tuned in to Caracol TV and RCN were greeted with black screens and static as the clocks turned to midnight overnight, signalling another sad step towards the further isolation of the country from its neighbours.
The censoring of the two channels follows the high-profile saga of former attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz, who escaped Venezuela via Aruba and arrived in Colombia last week. Unlike the tightly-controlled Venezuelan media, Colombian channels like Caracol TV and RCN were able to dedicate considerable time and depth to the Ortega Diaz case and her accusations that the Maduro regime is heavily involved in corrupt activities.
Unable to put pressure on the channels’ editorial line, the Maduro regime resorted to the only available tool for censoring foreign news outlets and banned their transition in the country.
The two channels are not the first to be banned from broadcasting in Venezuela this year. Back in February, the Maduro regime banned CNN En Español from broadcasting in Venezuela. At the time, CONATEL qualified the network’s negative coverage of the Maduro regime as “war propaganda”.
The removal of the two Colombian networks from the airwaves means that Venezuelans have even fewer options today to hear and see coverage about events in their own country that does not come directly from the Maduro regime.
Caracol Official Points to Ortega Diaz Coverage as Final Straw
Juan Roberto Vargas, the newsroom director at Caracol TV, said that the network’s coverage of Luisa Ortega Diaz’s flight from Venezuela and accusations against regime officials over the last week were “the cherry on top of the cake” that convinced Maduro to order the end of the network in Venezuela.
Speaking to RNC Radio, Vargas said:
It’s likely that last Friday Maduro saw Noticias Caracol‘s [Caracol News] coverage of this woman [leaving Venezuela] on her way to Brazil, and that he saw that as a provocation. We’ve even heard that they [the Maduro regime] believed that we knew beforehand that Luisa Ortega was going to leave her country, which is absurd.
Vargas also suggested that Maduro had initially attempted to remove the network from the air two years ago at the height of the Venezuela-Colombia migrant crisis, but that the decision had been delayed for some reason.
Reaction to Channel Ban Pours In
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos reacted to news of Maduro’s move to censor the two channels in Venezuela by saying:
It’s another demonstration of a regime that doesn’t like freedoms, a regime that is restricting the freedoms of citizens and that’s why we’ve said this regime has moved away from the democratic system and is acting more and more like a dictatorship.
The Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Prensa de Venezuela [Venezuelan National Syndicate for Press Workers] (SNTP) reacted to the news through a series of tweets in which it characterized the measure as “evidence of the government’s dictatorial character” and a violation of the rights to information and expression.
Luisa Almagro, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, also reacted on Twitter by saying:
The dictatorship fears the truth and abuses the media. The removal of Caracol TV and RCN from the airwaves is more more step in the systemic violation of the freedom of the press.
Constituent Assembly Agrees to Put New Constitution Up For Vote
The Constituent Assembly agreed on a resolution today to put the new national constitution–the writing of which the assembly is currently tasked with–up to a referendum vote. The measure means that whenever the Constituent Assembly finishes drafting a new constitution, whether or not the country adopts it as its new legal compass will be decided through an election.
In order to actually write the new document, the Assembly also agreed to create 21 committees to undertake the task.
It is not yet clear when the Constituent Assembly will present a final draft of the constitution, but it is likely that the process will take years.
Preparations Underway for Military Drill
The National Bolivarian Armed Forces began to mobilize today throughout the country in preparation for military drill scheduled for this weekend. Maduro announced the drill earlier this month in response to comments by United States President Donald Trump regarding the possibility of a military intervention in Venezuela.
Last week, Maduro described the drill in the following way:
A civil-military exercise of the integral armed defense of the Venezuelan fatherland that will take place throughout the country.
El Universal reported that Miranda state alone will host 10,000 troops for the weekend’s drill, and that the regime is expecting 100,000 people–both civilians and military staff–to participate in the event.
Twitter users shared images of military equipment spotted mostly around the area of Maracaibo, in Zulia state throughout the day.
The image below shows what appears to be a mobile variant of the S-125 Neva/Pechora surface-to-air missile system:
The images below appear to show more surface-to-air missile systems, along with what could be an AMX-30 battle tank:
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