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Editorial The truth on Venezuela is being systematically silenced

JOURNALISTS are barred from the Lima Group’s press conferences on Venezuela just days after Twitter confirmed it had deleted thousands of social media users’ accounts in the country for attempting to “influence domestic audiences.”

An article from Cuban publication Granma outlining the mass mobilisation of supporters of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas and other cities cannot be shared on Facebook on its original platform — the communications giant claims it is spam.

Twitter claims its mass purge of accounts was for “engaging in a state-backed influence campaign,” though as the website venezuelanalysis.com points out it also admits: “We are unable to definitively tie the accounts located in Venezuela to information operations of a foreign government against another country.”

You could be forgiven for thinking that it is Twitter that is “engaging in a state-backed influence campaign” — one backed by the US state to silence voices critical of Donald Trump’s utterly illegal and unwarranted bid for regime change in the Latin American country, cheered on to its everlasting shame by our spineless Conservative government.

There is ample photographic, video and eyewitness evidence of the immense rallies in defence of Venezuela’s elected president that have taken place across the country in recent days — indeed, the BBC does not even deny this, its reporter in Caracas claiming limply that the pro-government demonstration was “suspiciously large.”

Given the large numbers on the streets demonstrating both for and against Maduro in Venezuela, there is no reason to view several thousand Twitter users whose posts indicate approval of the government as paid-up propagandists. But blaming shadowy influences whenever people don’t play the game expected of them is an old trick.

It has been dusted off in recent years by liberals with regard to the EU referendum and Trump’s election in the US — far easier to blame manipulation by “bots” or spooks for votes that don’t go your way than admit that there might be something rotten in the social order causing such upheavals.

Socialists might agree with liberals on an outcome being disastrous — Trump’s election would be one such case — but must look deeper for the causes. And the hysteria over “fake news” is unhelpful because it enables the powerful to further clamp down on alternative outlets.

Britain’s mass media, led by the BBC, is awash with “fake news” on Venezuela at the moment. Discussions on its economic problems ignore the impact of progressively harsher sanctions — illegal under international law — since 2015.

This year’s attack on its oil exports comes after last year’s on its gold-processing industry, previous freezes of government accounts and the seizure of state assets abroad by US firms such as ConocoPhillips. 

Allegations from the opposition that last year’s election was invalid are repeated ad nauseam while the clean bill of health given it by international observers goes unmentioned. Presenters do not question factually wrong assertions such as Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s that ballot papers were tampered with (the electronic voting system in Venezuela does not use them) or former home secretary Alan Johnson’s that Juan Guaido’s self-declaration as president was in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution (it isn’t).

If the internet and social media are full of unsubstantiated claims and unchecked facts, the same is sadly true of our broadcast and print media. Venezuela needs our solidarity in the face of a co-ordinated attack by a lynch mob of international bullies headed by the thug in the White House. 

Socialists who question that should look closer to home, at the appalling campaign of misinformation and slander directed for years at the leader of our Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn, and pause for thought before swallowing everything we see on our TV screens.

For if we succeed in electing a government prepared to challenge the capitalist order, what is now being directed at the people of Venezuela will certainly be directed at us.

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