PRESS MOCKS GOVERNMENT EXCUSES AND CONSPIRACY THEORIES
April 16, 2010
BLUF: Opposition press fatigue with government conspiracy theories and excuses for the county's energy troubles culminated in particularly harsh, standout satire that appeared to bypass the country's increasingly tight media restrictions.
OBSERVED: Predictably, opposition outlets criticized the government's arrest of eight Colombian nationals it accused of spying and collaborating to sabotage the country's electricity system. However, after Tal Cual cited government claims an iguana chewed through a power cable which caused a major blackout in Lecheria, Anzoategui state, the same outlet published a satirical article that generated heavy mockery in other outlets and throughout the opposition blogosphere. Satirist Laureano Marquez's article, pictured left in Tal Cual, said the US State Department, with Colombian and paramilitary assistance, developed a program of commandos to infiltrate Venezuela under cover as ecotourists. The commandos would "recruit" iguanas to bring back to Miami to be trained by the CIA and Cuban ex-patriots and returned to Venezuela to be distributed by Venezuelan political dissidents to national electricity generators.
ASSESSMENT: Marquez's piece stands out from typical opposition criticisms of the Venezuelan government that have appeared to moderate their rhetoric in the most recent reporting periods, probably out of fear of government reprisals. Commentators often present a litany of grievances in efforts to discredit the Chavez regime. However, Marquez's satirical grouping of several issues into one biting critique has apparently garnered more traction than most columns published in monitored opposition outlets. In addition to generating a flood of online commentary and being misrepresented in El Universal, the conspiracy was even briefly cited in the UK's Observer and also attributed to the government. This shift towards obvious satire, instead of outright accusations, may permit the press to more openly criticize such "absurd" allegations without running afoul of the country's increasingly tight media restrictions.