Venezuela may be offering Snowden asylum, but "it can’t handle the truth"

Nelson Bocaranda.

A Washington Post editorial out today details one of the more bizarre attacks by Venezuela against reporters and truth-exposers within its own borders: the trumped-up charges against one of Venezuela's best-known journalists, Nelson Bocaranda.

He's a newspaper columnist and radio presenter, followed by about 1.5 million on Twitter. In mid-2011, he broke the news that President Hugo Chávez had cancer, which the state had kept secret from the public. A few days later, the state was forced to fess up: a “baseball-sized” tumor had just been removed from the president's abdomen.

Based on a tweet in April 2013 by Bocaranda about voting irregularities in one Venezuelan city, the post-Chávez government says he's “the intellectual author” of alleged crimes that amount to domestic terrorism. Should he be found guilty, the consequences under Venezuelan law are grave.


Eight months later Mr. Bocaranda reported that Mr. Chávez’s cancer had returned — another vital piece of information the government had suppressed. Senior officials first denounced the journalist as a “scoundrel” and a “sick soul” before belatedly admitting that he was right. Until the president’s death this March, Mr. Bocaranda repeatedly reported the truth of his declining health even as Mr. Chávez and his government lied about it.

The regime and its intelligence services are determined to punish the journalist for his reporting. In April, a government-orchestrated propaganda campaign claimed that Mr. Bocaranda incited opposition supporters to violence following a disputed election to choose Mr. Chávez’s successor. Now he has been summoned for questioning by a state prosecutor, who says her “presumption” is that he is “the intellectual author” of alleged violent attacks on state offices.

The charges are patently absurd. The evidence against Mr. Bocaranda consists of a single tweet he sent out, reporting ballot-box irregularities in the city of Maracaibo. Government claims of subsequent attacks on government offices were refuted by local media and a human rights group, which toured the locations and found no damage. But the Venezuelan regime has not hesitated to jail political enemies on trumped-up charges.

Read the entire editorial.

And, a related Boing Boing feature by Isabel Lara: "Snowden and Venezuela: My bizarre experience in the surveillance state." In 2009, a private call she placed from the US to her mother in Venezuela was broadcast on Venezuelan state TV. Secretly taped calls are routinely used there to disgrace political enemies—or worse. To many locals, there's great irony in the fact that this same state is now offering Snowden asylum.

(HT: @marujatarre)