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News: Media Watch

Venezuelan Social Movements Denounce Private Newspaper Allegations of Links to Paramilitary Groups

Mérida, 23rd March 2012 ( – A coalition of Venezuelan social movements have rejected reports in a private Venezuelan newspaper linking them to paramilitary groups as false. The movements have denounced the allegations as “an unprecedented offensive by the domestic counterrevolution, that forms part of the electoral and conspiratorial campaign of [Venezuelan presidential opposition candidate] Capriles Radonski”.

The Ulitmas Noticias Articles

Between Wednesday 14 and Sunday 18 February, private newspaper Ultimas Noticias (UN) published a series of articles claiming the existence of two paramilitary organisations operating in Apure State, near the Colombian border in the west of Venezuela.

The articles cite “documents obtained from the [Venezuelan] armed forces” and “military intelligence” as their source of information, which they allege shows evidence of 3.8 billion Bolivares ($884 million USD) being charged every year from businesses and individuals in the area to support a supposed “Bolivarian National Liberation Force” and “Bolivarian Patriotic Liberation Force”.

The articles also allege these armed groups have a political organisation named the Bolivarian National Liberation Party, and mention a series of social movements supportive of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s government “such as the Ezquiel Zamora National Campesino Front and the Popular Worker’s Power Movement,” as being linked to this party.

Alternative news website Aporrea reports that Ultimas Noticias also printed the names and surnames of individuals alleged to be members of this organisation in its Sunday edition.

Social Movement’s Reaction

On Monday 19 February a coalition of Venezuelan collectives and social movements organised a press conference in the central Plaza Bolivar in Caracas to denounce Ultimas Noticias’ reportage and allegations, among them the Bolivar and Zamora Revolutionary Current (CRBZ), the Dweller’s movement, the National Association of Alternative, Free and Community Media (ANMCLA), and the Gender and Sexual Diversity collective.

In an official statement the CRBZ attacked the veracity of the Ultimas Noticias´ articles as based on a “crude report” by past military figures trained in the United States School of the Americas who have since been prosecuted for human rights violations.

The reportage, according to the statement, further aims to cast “Chavismo as violent” and the Venezuelan president’s supporters as “armed hordes” in order to “criminalise the most combative and consistent sectors of the emancipatory historical block in construction”.

This is claimed to be part of opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski’s wider “electoral and conspiratorial campaign” against the Bolivarian revolution.

Representing the right wing opposition’s Democratic Unity Table (MUD), Radonski will stand against President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela’s upcoming presidential elections on 7 October.

“It’s not by chance that right at this political moment, when one of the most important social struggles in the history of the country will be fought [the presidential elections], these campaigns are launched with the intention of breaking revolutionary unity,” said CRBZ member and National Assembly deputy for Chavez’s socialist party Orlando Zambrano, who was one of those mentioned in the articles.

Ultimas Noticias belongs to the Capriles Chain of media outlets, which are owned by the family of Henrique Capriles Radonski on his father’s side, and also include Venezuelan newspapers and outlets El Mundo, Líder, Urbe, Urbe Bikini, Dominical, and Multicolor.

Zambrano further warned that such speculation by the private Venezuelan media puts activists’ lives at risk. He recalled the case in 2003 when opposition TV Globovision signalled rural activist Jorge Eliezer Nieves as being in a guerrilla movement. A week later he was assassinated.

As part of the day’s events, rural social movement activists also turned up at the Ultimas Noticias headquarters to demand the right to respond to the paper’s allegations by having their own statement published.

Ultimas Noticias  has since agreed to the demands and published the movements´ statement on their online edition that same day. The paper continued its coverage of the alleged existence of armed groups in a new article yesterday.

Published on Mar 24th 2012 at 9.03am