Guayaquil, Ecuador, November 25, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan community radio stations denounced violent attacks against their facilities, reportedly led by recently elected opposition mayors.
The assaults happened in municipalities in Mérida, Barinas and Aragua states, where right-wing opposition candidates won the local races in Sunday’s “mega-elections.” Videos posted on social media show damages to the stations’ buildings, which prompted outrage from alternative outlets, popular organizations and government authorities.
On Wednesday, community members from La Azulita town located in Mérida’s Andrés Bello municipality accused elected mayor María Villasmil, from the moderate opposition bloc Democratic Alliance, of arbitrarily trying to close the Radio La Azulita 107.3 FM station.
In a video spread on Twitter, the radio’s operators and neighbors are seen stopping Villasmil and a group of people from taking over the station. “We have an autonomous judicial status,” a woman explained, while others confronted the newly elected officer for the intimidation attempt and targeting a community-run space.
Elvis Dávila, from the Molinillo Azul Community Foundation, stated that even after showing the radio’s legal documentation, Villasmil tried to turn off the transmitter. “We do not belong to the mayor’s office and we have been running as a foundation for ten years,” said the local leader.
A similar episode took place in Barinas state. The target was the community station Radio Explosiva 88.7 FM, in the city of Santa Bárbara, Zamora municipality. According to a statement from the radio’s workers, a group of 70 people led by the elected mayor Nelson García Mora, from the opposition Compromiso País (COMPA) political party, forced them to shut down broadcasting.
“They kicked the door and cut the power lines. We are currently off the air waiting for the authorities’ response,” reads the text published on social media. The community radio workers accuse García Mora of looking to protect his private station Monumental 94.1.
The attack also targeted the home of the community radio’s director Luis Becerra. “If this is how an opposition government begins, with this violent attitude, what are we supposed to expect in the future? We are a legal station, with paperwork in order,” he said in a video.
Following the violent disruption, spokespeople from the Dreams of Bolívar and Zamora Commune, in Barinas, published a video to express their solidarity with the Radio Explosiva workers. “The elected mayor is yet to receive his accreditation from the National Electoral Council (CNE) and is already abusing his power,” said one of the communards.
A third incident involved Radio Positiva 92.7 FM in Palo Negro city, Libertador municipality in Aragua state. The local outlet was forced out of the air after having its building seized allegedly on orders from the elected mayor Gonzalo Díaz from the opposition Pencil Alliance. The station’s headquarters were rented and granted to the community by the outgoing mayor Regulo La Cruz, from the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV).
In response, Venezuelan Communications Minister Freddy Ñáñez condemned the “fascist attacks.” The government official expressed solidarity with the community outlets, promising to protect the integrity of local journalists and freedom of speech.
“Why is it that when the right comes to power, the first thing it does is persecute community radio stations and alternative media?,” asked Ñañez on social media.
The Venezuelan Attorney General’s Office likewise blasted the assaults against the community radio stations by “violent mobs” and launched an investigation.
“The attackers caused great damages to these stations, cutting cables, destroying property and physically threatening the radios’ owners in front of minors,” Attorney General Tarek William Saab wrote on Twitter.
A number of alternative media organizations also rejected the intimidation attempts and demanded justice. “This is how fascism operates, attacking spaces run by the people because we tell the truth and we defend the revolution. This is how the right behaves when it reaches power,” reads a communique.
Venezuela has over 300 community radio stations, which are autonomous figures created and run by popular organizations. The majority are located in small towns in rural areas and barrios in urban centers. These outlets rose in numbers during Hugo Chávez’s government as spaces for popular protagonism that would counter the weight of private and state-run media.
These small-scale stations likewise offer a range of educational, musical, sports, informative and political programs that reflect the communities’ culture and address its issues. Currently, community radio stations answer to the state telecommunications regulator CONATEL and are protected by the Popular Communication Law.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Caracas.