Media Group Goes on Hunger Strike after Its Accounts Are Frozen during Criminal Investigation

The media group 6to Poder, which includes economic daily El Comercio, 6to Poder Radio, Nova TV, and poll company 6to Poder Datos, has announced that it will be shutting down, after its accounts were frozen while its president, Leocenis Garica, is investigated for tax evasion, tax fraud, and money laundering.

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6to Poder workers claiming to be on hunger strike (6to Poder)
6to Poder workers claiming to be on hunger strike (6to Poder)
By Tamara Pearson
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Mérida, 6th August 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The media group 6to Poder, which includes economic daily El Comercio, 6to Poder Radio, Nova TV, and poll company 6to Poder Datos, has announced that it will be shutting down, after its accounts were frozen while its president, Leocenis Garica, is investigated for tax evasion, tax fraud, and money laundering.

Legislator Julio Chavez last month requested that Garcia be investigated after presenting documents that allegedly prove that he has a Swiss bank account with over US$3 million in it. The Public Prosecutors office then temporarily froze Garcia’s bank accounts, together with those of 6to Poder. The measure is permitted under article 204 of the Penal Process Code, which states that bank accounts may be frozen during an investigation “when there are reasonable grounds to deduce that they are related to the crime being investigated”.

The media group is now blaming the national government for “bankrupting” it.

6to Poder director Alberto Rodriguez said yesterday it was a “black chapter in the history of freedom of the press and information in Venezuela” as he announced the “ceasing of all operations of...6to Poder owing to the very complex economic situation of the group”.

According to Rodriguez, the group employs over 100 workers.

Today eight of those workers declared themselves on “indefinite” hunger strike outside the Organisation of American States’ (OAS) Caracas office. The “hunger strike” follows a similar such strike of opposition teachers and students at the University of the Andes. The small group demanded pay raises for teachers, which receive some of the highest wages in the country. Likewise, another small group of opposition supporters in Caracas in February claimed to be on hunger strike, demanding that then President Hugo Chavez resume his functions. Chavez died on 5 March from cancer.

“Today we come to the OAS to communicate to the country that we declare ourselves on indefinite hunger strike for this arbitrary closing that the national government has affected against the Grupo 6to Poder,” Rodriguez told press.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles expressed “solidarity” with 6to Poder today, while El Comercio director, Pedro Leal, spoke on Capriles’ weekly television program.

According to an article published by 6to Poder yesterday, “analysts” say that the “emotion built up by Capriles has faded”.

“Three and a half months after [the presidential elections]...the opposition seems to have gone cold while the government of president Nicolas Maduro has shown signs of stabilisation. But is time in their favour? Did the opposition lose its chance to strengthen?” the article asked.

The article argued that “restricted resources” are to blame for the change in the “intensity of explosion and mobilisation” of the opposition, and stated that in the December mayoral elections the opposition “could consolidate itself as the majority”.

In August 2011 women marched to the District Attorney’s office in Caracas to demand action against 6to Poder for having engaged in “symbolic violence against women”. The paper had published a piece entitled “Chavez’s Women in Power” which featured doctored images of female members of government wearing sexually provocative outfits. The opposition coalition, the MUD called the women’s march and demands an “attack on freedom of expression”.

Earlier that year Garcia admitted to being friends with Wilmer Brizuela, head of a prison gang which was engaged in a stand-off with authorities at the El Rodeo prison complex at the time. “Yes, I’m a friend of Wilmer Brizuela, mafia leader of Bolivar, what’s the problem?” wrote García on his twitter account.