On Monday of this week, November 30, I received a phone call from a CNN en Español producer asking me to write a column on the upcoming legislative elections in Venezuela, scheduled for this Sunday, December 6. Pleasantly surprised at the opportunity to publish in a media outlet widely known for its biased anti-government coverage of Venezuela, I accepted the offer.
Over the next day and a half, between work and personal responsibilities, I found barely enough to write the article. In fact, I first wrote one piece that was heavy on the politics, and subsequently decided it wasn’t appropriate, or effective, for the CNN audience. The most critical issue to discuss with an audience already biased against the government in Venezuela was not why government policies or good or bad, or who will win at the ballot box, but rather the integrity of Venezuela’s voting system.
The article was only a page and a half, under 800 words. The majority was dedicated to outlining the process of voting in Venezuela, which I have gone through numerous times as a Venezuelan citizen. I opened the article citing Jimmy Carter’s famous phrase on the Venezuelan electoral system, which he referred to in 2012 as “the best in the world”, after observing over 90 elections worldwide.
Towards the end of the article, I made a brief mention of poverty reduction under the administration of President Hugo Chavez, and also referred to errors pollsters have made in Venezuela over the years during tense elections. After sending in the article, a few hours later CNN asked me for sources on poverty reduction under Chavez, and cites for the polls. I easily obliged with their request and provided credible, accessible citations.
They sent me back an edited version, this time with an added sentence after Carter’s statement on the Venezuelan electoral process, stating that the Carter Center had abandoned Venezuela in 2015 and was no longer observing their elections. The statement seemed to disqualify Carter’s 2012 applause of Venezuela’s elections, basically implying that while Carter may have said that then, now was a different story and the Carter Center wanted nothing to do with it. I told CNN there was no way I would include a statement discrediting Carter’s 2012 affirmation of the Venezuelan electoral process as the best in the world. If they wanted context, I could write that the Carter Center no longer operates in Venezuela because the system there is flawless and no longer needs external observation. I didn’t hear back from them for over 24 hours.
I sent a message asking when the article would be published and stating I would need to review the final edits and authorize before publishing, and the CNN producer responded affirmatively, saying the piece should be up by Thursday (it was Wednesday night). After hearing nothing from them through most of Thursday, I asked the producer what was going on. Her response was, “the editor says the article must make clear that the Carter Center no longer operates in Venezuela, or that statement cannot be included. It’s a requirement to publish”. I wrote back that was not acceptable. I would not allow CNN to impose a sentence on my article as a condition of publishing, especially one that had no relevance to the original statement made by Jimmy Carter. Late Thursday, they sent me a message stating that “internal consultations at the highest level were underway regarding publishing my article”. Hours later, I received another message stating that “all editors were consulted and the decision was not to publish the column”.
What CNN did was outright censorship. They refused to publish my article because it presented documented and well sourced information favorable to the integrity of the electoral process, and the possibility of a government victory. Why doesn’t CNN want its readers to know that Jimmy Carter, one of the most respected US leaders of all times, believes Venezuela has the best voting system in the world? Because CNN, along with other US and international media, such as The Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, are preparing to support opposition claims of fraud in Venezuela in the probable event of a government win.
Already, leading voices from the Venezuelan opposition, including Lilian Tintori, Leopoldo Lopez’s wife, have stated that “either the opposition wins or it’s fraud”. The Washington Post echoed these claims in a piece on Monday, claiming “anything other than an opposition win is likely to produce charges of fraud” and the Financial Times mentions a “perception that the government has stolen the election” if the opposition loses. Even The Guardian is aiding and abetting the international stage to discredit the elections in the event of a favorable pro-government result, writing today, “Barring some very large election fraud, the opposition will win by a wide margin. The ruling party majority is almost certain to get wiped out.”
Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has claimed the Venezuelan government is attempting to “rig” the elections in its favor. Of course the US State Department has issued several warnings against Venezuela, hypocritically criticizing the lack of formal elections observers (which the US does not allow for its own elections) and calling on the government to cease intimidation and political violence after an opposition politician was killed on stage during a political rally last week. What the US and other international media didn’t report is that 3 suspects in the killing were already detained and confessed to killing Luis Manuel Diaz as part of a gang dispute. Credible evidence surfaced linking the victim to organized crime, confirming his murder was not politically motivated. No connection between the government or government supporters and the murder has been evidenced, despite unsubstantiated claims in US media.
As I state in my original article, censored by CNN, (now published on RT) Venezuela may have its problems, but the credibility of its electoral process is not one of them. The same electoral system used in this Sunday’s elections, also was used to elect the more than one third of the legislature the opposition current holds, along with the opposition governors and mayors in the country’s most populated states and cities. Why is it fraud then when only one side loses? The answer is simple: it’s not fraud, it’s called being a sore loser. In democracy, the results are respected, no matter who wins, and no matter who loses.