Venezuela: newly elected opposition mayors attack community radios

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Guayaquil, Ecuador, November 25, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan community radios have denounced violent attacks on their facilities, allegedly carried out by recently elected opposition mayors.

The attacks took place in municipalities in the states of Mérida, Barinas and Aragua, where right-wing opposition candidates won local elections in Sunday’s “mega-elections”. Videos posted on social media show damage to station buildings, which sparked outrage from alternative media, grassroots organizations and government authorities.

On Wednesday, community members in the town of La Azulita located in the municipality of Andrés Bello in Mérida accused the mayor-elect María Villasmil, of the moderate opposition bloc Democratic Alliance, of arbitrarily trying to shut down the Radio La Azulita 107.3 FM stations.

In a video Broadcast on Twitter, the radio operators and neighbors are seen preventing Villasmil and a group of people from taking over the station. “We have autonomous judicial status,” one woman explained, while others confronted the newly elected officer for attempting to intimidate and target a community-run space.

Elvis Dávila, of the Molinillo Azul Community Foundation, said that even after showing the radio’s legal documentation, Villasmil tried to turn off the transmitter. “We do not belong to the town hall and we have been operating as a foundation for ten years”, noted the local chief.

A similar episode took place in the state of Barinas. The target was the community station Radio Explosive 88.7 FM, in the town of Santa Bárbara, municipality of Zamora. According to a statement from the radio employees, a group of 70 people led by elected mayor Nelson García Mora of the opposition political party Compromiso País (COMPA) forced them to stop the broadcast.

“They broke down the door and cut the power lines. We are currently out of service while awaiting the authorities’ response ”, we read in the text published on social networks. Community radio workers accuse García Mora of seeking to protect his private station Monumental 94.1.

The attack also targeted the home of community radio director Luis Becerra. “If this is how an opposition government begins, with this violent attitude, what should we expect in the future? We are a legal station, with proper papers, ”he said in a video.

Following the violent disturbances, spokespersons for Rêves de Bolívar and Zamora commune in Barinas released a video expressing their solidarity with the workers of Radio Explosiva. “The elected mayor has not yet received his accreditation from the National Electoral Council (CNE) and is already abusing his power. noted one of the communards.

A third incident involved Radio Positiva 92.7 FM in the town of Palo Negro, municipality of Libertador in the State of Aragua. The local outlet was kicked out of the air after its building was seized, allegedly on the orders of mayor-elect Gonzalo Díaz of the opposition Pencil Alliance. The headquarters of the station was rented and granted to the community by outgoing mayor Regulo La Cruz of the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV).

In response, Venezuelan Minister of Communications Freddy Ñáñez sentenced the “fascist attacks”. The government official expressed solidarity with community media, promising to protect the integrity of local journalists and freedom of expression.

“Why is it that when the right comes to power, the first thing it does is persecute community radios and alternative media? Asked añez on social media.

Venezuela’s attorney general’s office also lambasted attacks on community radio stations by “violent mobs” and launched a investigation.

“The attackers caused great damage to these stations, cutting cables, destroying property and physically threatening the owners of the radios in front of minors,” said Attorney General Tarek William Saab. wrote on Twitter.

A number of alternative media organizations have also rejected the intimidation attempts and called for justice. “This is how fascism works, attacking spaces run by the people because we speak the truth and we defend the revolution. This is how the right behaves when it reaches power ”, we read communicated.

Venezuela has more than 300 community radio stations, which are autonomous figures created and managed by popular organizations. The majority are located in small towns in rural areas and barrios in urban centers. These media have multiplied under the government of Hugo Chávez as spaces of popular protagonism that would counter the weight of the private and public media.

These small-scale stations also offer a range of educational, musical, sports, informational and political programs that reflect the culture of the communities and address its issues. Currently, community radios depend on the national telecommunications regulator CONATEL and are protected by the law on popular communication.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz de Caracas.



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