Venezuelan Private Media Try to Cover Up Attacks on Government Health Clinics

After government officials denounced attacks on various government health clinics by rightwing protesters last week, Venezuelan private media launched a campaign to cover up those attacks and deny that they had occurred. 


Maracaibo, April 21st, 2013 ( – After government officials denounced attacks on various government health clinics by rightwing protesters last week, Venezuelan private media launched a campaign to cover up those attacks and deny that they had occurred.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro denounced via Twitter last Tuesday that several government health clinics and hopsitals (CDI) had been attacked by rightwing groups during the opposition protests of the elections. Maduro ordered that those responsible be detained by security forces.

The attacks were allegedly provoked by a tweet from opposition pundit Nelson Bocaranda who claimed that electoral materials were being hidden by the Cuban doctors in the CDI clinics.

On Wednesday, Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas held a press conference to announce that various people had been killed during the attacks, and placed the blame on Henrique Capriles.

“Now Mr. Capriles is saying once again ‘It wasn’t me’, and he takes back his calls for violence. Now he tells us that those who use violence are not a part of his political project. He tries to disassociate himself from the effects of his comments. But who should pay for these lost lives now?” he said.

Two of the individuals killed during an attack in a Caracas neighborhood were José Luis Ponce and Rosiris Reyes Rangel, both residents of a the neighborhood which attempted to thwart an attack on the local CDI, and were shot dead by opposition groups.

Government officials attended the funeral of José Luis Ponce, and state channel VTV interviewed family members and neighbors about the circumstance surrounding the deaths, which they all said occurred at the hands of rightwing groups.

In the following days, however, Venezuelan private media outlets assured that the attacks never occurred, and that the government was making them up.

Several media outlets visited the CDI’s that the government claimed had been attacked, and assured that there were no signs of any such attack.

One of Zulia’s main newspapers, La Verdad, published an article on Wednesday entitled “There was no damage to CDI’s in Zulia”.

The article states that there was no visible damage to the building. However, upon interviewing staff members the article reveals that opposition groups did approach the buildings, but were thwarted by members of local communal councils.

“Opposition groups came up to the stairs of the entrance, but we were here with the people of the communal council and we prevented them from coming in or doing any damage,” said CDI staff member Jackson Medina to La Verdad.

On Thursday, Caracas newspaper El Universal published an article entitled “Nurses from the CDI in Piedra Azul deny attacks”, in which a nurse who was interviewed claimed to not have seen anything.

The newspaper visited the neighborhood in which Ponce and Rangel had been killed, and reported that there were no damages to the local CDI.

“There are no signs of damage. The windows and walls are all in tact,” reported the newspaper.

However, upon interviewing local residents, El Universal found that witnesses claimed that the CDI had indeed been attacked on Tuesday night, when opposition groups attempted to forcefully enter the clinic and threw flaming objects at the center.

El Universal also confirmed that in a nearby apartment building residents were having a funeral ceremony for one of the people who died in the attack, but El Universal still maintained that the attack never happened.

In the central state of Carabobo, a local newspaper reported that “The CDI in Carabobo Suffered Only Minor Damage”.

However, buried in the middle of the article it is revealed that “the cars of the patients in the clinic were destroyed,” and that on Monday night “people tried to burn the CDI” but “residents of the area prevented it”.

The Capriles campaign and various online media repeated the denials, claiming that nothing had happened.

“No CDI’s were attacked. Only sick minds would do something like that!” Capriles said via Twitter on Thursday.

Government Denounces Media Campaign

Various government officials responded to the media campaign with more photos of the vandalism that took place, and interviews with family members.

Venezuelan Public Defender Gabriela Ramírez held a press conference on Saturday to respond to media reports, and criticized local Venezuelan NGO Provea for issuing a report denying any attacks took place.

“According to this NGO, if it doesn’t show up in the media, then it never happened,” said Ramírez, criticizing Provea’s methodology of only reviewing local press reports.

“There are things that the media show and things they do not show, many times because it is not in their interests to show them. They want to cover up the violence that is occurring,” she said.

The public defender went on to show a series of photos and witness testimony confirming that attacks on many health clinics did indeed occur.

Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas also issued a statement on Saturday denouncing the media campaign.

“We want to denounce a strategy that is in motion by the private media to cover up the grave crimes being committed against the Venezuelan people by fanatical groups who are motivated by the irresponsible actions of the anti-Chavez candidate,” said the statement.

Photos and videos of the various acts of violence in which 8 people were killed last week were published here and here by state media outlets on Saturday.

It should be noted that many of the health clinics also serve as homes to Cuban doctors who provide free medical care to the surrounding neighborhoods.