Venezuelan student groups and opposition leaders who assembled before the doors of Venezuela’s state television network VTV Friday afternoon were met with armored tanks, dozens of soldiers, and snipers awaiting them on the network building’s rooftop.
The protesters are targeting VTV in protest of their 24/7 broadcasts of pro-socialist propaganda, which depict dictator Nicolás Maduro as a benevolent democratic leader and routinely refer to anti-socialist demonstrators as “fascists.”
Local news outlets began reporting Friday morning that locals near the VTV center in Caracas had seen an influx of Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) soldiers surrounding the building, driving armored tanks near it, and placing soldiers on the rooftops with long-distance firearms. Police and soldiers also blocked entry by vehicle into the entire street.
— Resistencia Altamira (@Altamira_SOS) June 2, 2017
— Reporte Ya (@ReporteYa) June 2, 2017
Student groups and opposition parties scheduled a march to walk through the block on which VTV’s headquarters are located in the Venezuelan capital on Friday to demand that the state-run network, which taxpayers keep functional, broadcast fair coverage regarding the protests.
“We demand VTV show the reality, that they have ethics and show solidarity with those killed,” Rafaela Requesens, president of the FCU-UCV Federation of University Centers, told reporters at the protest.
— EL TAMBOR (@ELTAMBORve) June 2, 2017
“We are coming with a very clear demand: broadcast the truth, we want students to have space within the network to speak,” Santiago Acosta, Requesens’ counterpart at the Andrés Bello Catholic University, said. The march, he added, was “to demand that the network tell Venezuelans the truth.”
“We tell Diosdado Cabello and the Zurda Conducta people: retract, you are saying things that aren’t true,” he concluded.
Diosdado Cabello is the socialist Minority Leader of the National Assembly, once the president of the national legislature before the opposition took it over. He remains one of the most powerful members of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and hosts a program on VTV titled Con el Mazo Dando (“Hitting with the Mallet“). The program’s webpage is currently promoting pro-Maduro, government-mandated rallies and the government Twitter hashtag #AquinosehablamaldeChavez (“We don’t speak ill of Chávez here”).
Zunda Conducta (“Leftizt Conduct”) is another prominent socialist opinion show on the network.
Among other programs VTV broadcasts are its flagship show, Sundays with Maduro, which often features the head of state dancing various musical genres; Cayendo y Corriendo (“Hit the Ground Running”), a show whose host has accused global media of a “war” against Maduro; and La Hojilla (“Cheat Sheet”), once called Hugo Chávez’s favorite television show.
“We want to advise journalists and workers who make decisions at state networks that they shouldn’t sink with Maduro,” Freddy Guevara, the acting head of the Popular Will political party, said Friday. The head of the party, Leopoldo López, is serving a 14-year prison sentence for organizing peaceful protests in 2014. He asserted that VTV’s image of Venezuela was “a nation of wonders” when, in reality, Maduro’s Venezuela is falling apart.
By Friday afternoon, images surfacing on social media seemed to indicate that few were too intimidated not to participate in the VTV protest. Videos instead surfaced of elder protesters shouting down soldiers, demanding they cease attacking peaceful assemblies. The man in the video below shouted, “Nicolás Maduro does not own anything here” and demanded the soldiers leave.
Abuelo se las canta a la GNB en cercanías de VTV.pic.twitter.com/61KlwYxBCv
— RCTV.net (@RCTVenlinea) June 2, 2017
This woman, who identifies herself on camera as Noris Figuera, appealed to the soldiers to defect. “You could be our children, most of us are older here,” she said. She noted that those assigned to suppress protests could not come from wealthy families “because the soldiers who are children of the rich are abroad, eating well. You all get a bonus for killing some kid.”
— Atlasflt™ (@b1f754d39a48472) June 2, 2017
— El Pitazo (@ElPitazoTV) June 2, 2017
— Ivan Marquez (@ivandata) June 2, 2017
Currently leading VTV’s online media headlines is an alleged assembly of what appears to be fewer than a dozen students who support the government:
— VTV CANAL 8 (@VTVcanal8) June 2, 2017
A broadcast of an interview titled: “Hugo Chávez never left and will never leave”:
— VTV CANAL 8 (@VTVcanal8) June 2, 2017
Other headlines are: “Operation Cambalache Replaces 500 Air Conditioners,” “Great New Neighborhood Tricolor Mission Repairs 432,630 Homes,” and “VTV Workers Continue Struggle for the Revolution Against Threats from the Fascist Right.”