Friday, January 29, 2010

"Terrorist" Twitter Threatens Hugo Chavez's Stranglehold on Media

By Joseph Abrams
FOXNews.com
Reuters

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is tightening his grip on the country's media. The greatest threat to Hugo Chavez's future just might be the World Wide Web.

Fierce and growing protests over media freedom have left at least two students dead in Venezuela, and graphic images depicting violent tactics employed by the police there have started to flood the Internet.

Police armed with tear gas and rubber bullets have left students bloodied and battered in Caracas and other cities during a week of protests over President Hugo Chavez's tightening gag on the opposition press.

On Sunday, Chavez ordered five cable stations shut down for refusing to broadcast his frequent speeches, setting off nationwide demonstrations in a country already wracked by water shortages, electricity rationing, alarming crime rates and the plummeting value of its currency, the Bolivar.

Student protesters have organized their efforts by planning their demonstrations on Twitter, which is serving as both a public message-board for activists and a storing house for images of the worst of the violence.

Follow news of the protests on Twitter.
#Venezuela #Estudiantes #FreeVenezuela

Elsewhere online, more than 80,000 people have joined a Facebook group, "Chavez estas PONCHAO!" taunting the increasingly unpopular president with a slang term meaning "Chavez, you struck out."

Chavez has fought back by declaring that "using Twitter, the Internet (and) text messaging" to criticize or oppose his increasingly authoritarian regime "is terrorism," a comment that recalls the looming threats of his allies in Iran, whose bloody crackdown on physical and electronic dissent may be blazing a trail for the Latin strongman.

Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda told El Nuevo Herald that the government has launched an army of Twitter users to bring down online networks and try to infiltrate student groups.

"They are scared by Twitter,'' he told the paper, noting that Chavez fears that the social networking system will allow students to follow the model of Iran and spread their protests by coordinating them online.

As the opposition seethes, Chavez has threatened a "radical" response to student activity, promising to "deepen the revolution" and "impose authority" wherever flashpoints occur.

"There are some attempting to set fire to the country," Chavez said in a televised address on Thursday. "What are they seeking? Death."

University students began their protests on Sunday after government pressure led cable TV services to drop Radio Caracas Television (RCTV), which has long been critical of Chavez's socialist policies.

"We are not going to allow continued shutdowns of media outlets that tell the truth, and we are not going to allow ineptitude and inefficiency to continue," said Nizar El Sakih, a student leader.

Chavez's attempt to silence RCTV set off similar protests in 2007, when it was barred from network broadcasts and put on cable. But that has not deterred viewers, said Michael Shifter, a Latin America analyst at the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue.

"If he kicks (RCTV) off the regular station and puts them on cable (Venezuelans) are going to watch cable.... If he kicks them off cable they'll find another medium," he said, adding that Chavez has underestimated the thirst for information in his country.

Internet analysts say Twitter, which blossomed before the protests but has exploded since they began, could change the face of politics in Venezuela, where hotly contested elections are approaching in September.

Using Twitter as an example, tech consultant Doug Hanchard wrote on Jan. 12: "The Internet might be what changes ... the political landscape in Venezuela.

"Make no mistake," wrote Hanchard, an adviser who covers the intersection of information technology and government, " Latin American cyberspace will be a busy place this year.

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Twitter photo venezuelan protest

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hugo Chavez calls using twitter "terrorism"


Hugo Chavez calls using Twitter “terrorism”
January 27, 2010


For a man intent into taking Venezuelan into the Dark Ages, it was a remarkable admission that modernity can be a threat to Hugo Chavez and his fake revolution. As students used the Internet and its tools like Twitter as wel as other modern tools like SMS messaging to mobilize and communicate strategy instantly, Hugo Chavez made his second attack on the Internet in a single week, calling the rumors and use of this technology “terrorism”:

A week ago Chavez had said that his supporters had to watch out for the Internet and tonight he came on TV wearing a suit, rather than his usual red garb and began reading messages (which were too long to be from Twitter), calling it terrorism (right at the end, minute 3:50 or so)

Can Chavez really expect that his trusted friend and confidant resigns as Vice-President and Minister of Defense for “personal reasons” (and his wife as Minister of the Environment) and there will be no rumors?

Chavez repeated again his wish, which the opposition has paid absolutely no attention to, that to get rid of him his opponents had to call for a recall referendum, a tool that would not only be distracting, but quite difficult to achieve as the recall votes would have to exceed the number of votes he got in his Presidential reelection in 2006. (Chavez has made such a call four times in the last three weeks and seems frustrated by the lack of even a response) This would be difficult given the resources of the Government as well as the difficulty of mobilizing the voters at this time. The opposition wants to concentrate in the legislative elections in September, letting Chavez ride the harvest of his own incompetence until 2012 when his term expires.

The truth is that it is the Government has the weapons in this fight and is the one that has sponsored the violence against the students, who in turn have managed to use peaceful means to stop the violence like today at Government’s TV station VTV. But it was the Tupamaros who caused most of the violence in Merida, aided by the local law enforcement agencies. And it was Chavez who was seen mingling with Lina Ron in his Saturday rally, a woman that has led armed attacks on marches and was imprisoned in January 2009 for leading a violent attack against Globovision. Chavez can’t attack the opposition on the protests as the students have led the protests and do not respond to the political leaders of the opposition parties.

In the end it is ironic how Chavez evokes the fundamentalism of his Iranians buddies, who have also referred to the Internet and Twitter as terrorists, which is mocked in this hilarious cartoon below:


But in the end, besides feeling the threat from a weapon Chavez does not control or understand totally, maybe his key problem is that he could never make adequate use of it. For a man accustomed to uninterrupted speeches of six to eight hours, it must be simply impossible to even consider the possibility of communicating anything in 140 characters.

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