Shown repeatedly on media outlets the day of its release, the ad circumvented regulations set forth by the National Electoral Council (CNE). Pulled from the airways because of its violent content, the ad was later used by opposition spokesmen to claim “censorship” by CNE authorities.
The controversial ad titled, “Safety Has a Way Forward” was sponsored by right-wing party Voluntad Popular (Popular Will), a frequent recipient of US government funding. In the TV spot, a young, Afro-Venezuelan college student wearing what appears to be a public school uniform walks to the slum-based home of his single, working class mother. After a warm, celebratory embrace in which both are clearly pleased with his successful graduation, the young man steps outside and is gunned down by unknown assailants. His mother, watching from a kitchen window, screams a horriﬁc “nooooo!” before dropping her morning cup of steaming coffee to the ground.
The spot ends as the woman hugs her lifeless son in the middle of the street, while dueling gangs ﬁre at each another. A message appears promising “safety” if opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski wins the 2012 presidential election.
Running unrestricted, and repeatedly on the day of its release, the ad reached millions of voters. Dozens of privately-owned media outlets, the same that often denounce public media “bias” in favor of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, jumped on the opportunity to run the ad before election authorities could intervene.
The following day, CNE ofﬁcials ordered the “immediate suspension” of the ad, stating it “purposefully affected the Venezuelan people’s mental health” just weeks before the October 7th presidential election.
According to CNE President Tibisay Lucena, who announced the suspension, the opposition spot “is under investigation for what is clearly a violation of our Electoral Law”.
Lucena explained that the “suspension” allows the ad’s producers “the opportunity to submit their arguments defending the content”, but that, in the meantime, “it will not be allowed to run on national airwaves”.
According to Popular Will founder Leopoldo Lopez, currently the National Coordinator of the opposition presidential candidate’s campaign, his party made the ad “so as to portray a reality we want to change”.
“The CNE uses Venezuelans’ mental health as an excuse”, Lopez afﬁrmed, “since the precise aim of this ad was to give greater value to human life”.
Calling the CNE decision “censorship”, Lopez suggested opposition forces need not follow “one-sided” rules that “are only respected on paper”.
In response to the now suspended opposition ad, pro Chavez forces called on all parties to “respect the rules of the game” as election day approaches. According to Jorge Rodriguez, Chavez’s National Campaign Coordinator, “the ad was pure necrophilia, aired at an hour of the day in which children are watching without parental supervision, violating our nation’s laws”.
Promising to “stay alert” as the elections nears, Rodriguez afﬁrmed that pro-Chavez forces “must insist on a political and electoral battle that is limited by a respect for legality, a respect for humanity, and a respect for life”.
“The opposition”, he insisted, “are experts in terrorism, sadness and in death. The ad itself is an act of violence against life”.
Just weeks before Venezuela celebrates its October 7th presidential election, the country’s grassroots Bolivarian Circles called for pro-Chavez forces to be “on alert” as the opposition begins to implement what they called “pending plans for destabilization”. According to Jose Pereira, National Secretary of the Bolivarian Circles, “there are actions underway that seek to divert the peaceful (electoral) process”.
“The efforts of the Bolivarian Circles”, he said, “have found that cash-ﬁlled briefcases are being used to ﬁnance the generation of confusion…organizing armed groups tasked with the implementation of violence”.
“The opposition”, he added, “plan to call on voters to not recognize the election results”, later using “armed paramilitary forces” to destabilize the country.
The Bolivarian Circles, one of the ﬁrst community-based movements to organize in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution, played an important role in reversing the 2002 coup that brieﬂy removed President Chavez from ofﬁce.