[News] Venezuela - Student Protests, Corporate Media Inaccuracies Abound

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Nov 15 12:29:15 EST 2007


newsandaction at veninfo.org

VIO News & Action- November 15, 2007

Dear colleagues,

Considering the recent barrage of inaccurate news 
about Venezuela's constitutional reforms and the 
student protests that have accompanied them we 
felt it necessary to clear things up.  We hope 
the below analysis will be useful in explaining 
the current political climate in Venezuela to friends or to the press.

STUDENT PROTESTS IN VENEZUELA

Recent news articles have reported on a series of 
opposition student protests in Venezuela in 
response to constitutional reforms slated to be 
voted on in a national referendum December 
2.  Most of the news coverage has included 
misleading claims about the students' 
demonstrations and the government's response to 
them. Primarily the media has failed to report on 
the cooperation between the government and the 
students and the various accommodations that have been made for them.

[]
  The largest protests, with an estimated 
attendance of 6,000 university students (of the 
200,000 student in Caracas alone), have enjoyed 
the full protection of Venezuela's police forces. 
These protections comply with Article 68 of the 
1999 Constitution, which protects the rights of 
all Venezuelans to peaceably assemble. And unlike 
during past governments, when student 
demonstrations were regularly repressed by police 
forces, students, including leaders linked to 
opposition political parties like Primero 
Justicia and Bandera Roja, have recently been 
granted high-level meeting with government 
officials and institutions to discuss their concerns:

Earlier this month on November 1 a group of 
students met with the directors of the National 
Electoral Council and presented a petition to 
delay the national referendum to the directors of 
Venezuela's electoral authority, the National Electoral Council (CNE).

On November 7 a group of 10 student 
representatives met with officials from the 
National Tribunal of Justice, and presented a 
petition calling for the delay of a national 
referendum scheduled for December 2.

On November 12 Venezuela's Minister of Interior 
and Justice, Pedro Carreño, met 20 university 
presidents and restated the government's respect 
of university autonomy and the right of students to peaceably assemble.

BIASED MEDIA COVERAGE CONTINUES

Much of the media coverage given to the student 
protests has been distorted and 
one-sided.  Recently it has even begun to 
replicate the way in which the media drummed up 
support for the coup d'etat against President 
Chavez in 2002.  During that time false news 
claims circulated that Chavez supporters had shot 
and attacked innocent civilians during a 
protest.  Later, these allegations were proven false.

Strikingly similar today, is the way in which the 
media is trying to link violent acts during 
recent protests to the government and its 
supporters.  A 
<http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=fV299PVxehxye%2F%2BiSneH1oQQXcPPhEHe>Washington 
Post editorial published today and a New York 
Times article over the weekend serve as cases in 
point. In it the Post takes university officials' 
opinions as fact and identifies masked gunmen as 
"government-sponsored paramilitary 
groups".  Also, read the 
<http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=2hPH1aIVP0K53nSaMbSDBYQQXcPPhEHe>New 
York Times article .

In reality the following events occurred on 
November 7 as students returned to the campus of 
the Central University of Venezuela.  Following a 
march to the headquarters of the National 
Tribunal of Justice, a group of opposition 
students stormed the School of Social Work - 
whose students had been known to have earlier 
advocated in favor of the constitutional reforms 
- and set the school building on fire. Police 
forces were alerted, but, in keeping with 
Venezuela's "Law of Universities", could not 
enter the campus for lack of approval by the 
University president. For this reason, campus 
employees responded and tried to prevent violent 
attacks against the Social Work students. This is 
when masked individuals equipped with guns 
appeared on motorcycles. Shortly after, 
opposition student leaders claimed on live 
television that they were being attacked by 
people aligned with the government (the masked 
motorcycle group). No evidence was ever offered 
to back up these claims and recent videos from 
bystanders and local media outlets have shown the 
violent acts perpetuated by opposition students on the School of Social Work.

International press agencies, except Reuters, 
later recognized that no evidence existed to link 
the individuals on the motorcycles to the government.

Another incident turned violent by members of the 
student opposition occurred after a meeting with 
the directors of the National Electoral Council 
on November 1.  A group of student demonstrators 
attempted to chain themselves to the building 
while another charged through a police line. Six 
police officers were injured and one student 
demonstrator was found with possession of 20 
liters of gasoline. After the incident, the 
president of the National Electoral Council, 
Tibisay Lucena stated: "We were surprised at our 
good faith effort when, at the conclusion of this 
meeting, a group of them tried, aggressively, to 
chain themselves to the stairs of the 
headquarters of National Electoral Council, thus 
violating the cordial and peaceful spirit that 
was present during the meeting. These acts 
constitute a meaningless and unjustifiable aggression to
what has been a democratic practice of the electoral council."

Meanwhile, yesterday students and university 
presidents from all over the nation, including 
those from the Central University of Venezuela, 
filed a document with the Supreme Court in 
support of the constitutional reform 
process.  Read the 
<http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=1u7FQ5KfvodUwasQAD%2FbDpDahGlvaC9S>Venezuelan 
news story .

WHAT YOU CAN DO:
SEND A LETTER TO THE WASHINGTON POST or THE NEW 
YORK TIMES and make your voice heard!

Send your letter of no more than 200 words to: letters at washpost.com
Be sure to include your name, telephone number, and address.

or

Send your letter of no more than 150 words to: letters at nytimes.com
Be sure to include your name, telephone number, and address.



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