Rough going in Venezuela: opposition leader killed; media group suspends activities
Venezuela is becoming a rough environment for those dissenting with the Bolivarian revolution: in the last few hours a leading Venezuelan opposition was killed and on Monday media group announced the suspension of activities following the freezing of bank accounts and arrest of the owner and publisher.
Pablo Uzcategui, a much respected Venezuelan opposition leader was killed on Tuesday by a gunman riding on the back of a motorcycle. The incident took place in the in the home state of the late President Hugo Chavez.
A colleague says Paulo Uzcategui was shot twice at night as he drove through the Barinas state capital with his son. National Assembly lawmaker Carlos Berrizbeitia says the killing of Uzcategui was not a robbery.
He claims Uzcategui's wife was driving behind her husband with the couple's two daughters and witnessed the killing.
Uzcategui led the Proyecto Venezuela party in Barinas. Berrizbeitia says he is not aware of Uzcategui receiving any death threats.
Venezuela is also one of the most violent countries in the world with the highest homicide rates, at about 55 killings per 100,000 people. However political murders are relatively uncommon, however.
The other piece of news refers to the Venezuelan media group 6to Poder that on Monday announced it was suspending all activities due to financial problems caused by the freezing of its bank accounts after the arrest several days ago of owner and publisher Leocenis Garcia.
Today, a dark chapter in the history of freedom of the press and of information is being written in Venezuela. With much regret, I have to report ... the cessation of all operations of the 6to Poder group, director Alberto Rodriguez told a press conference.
Rodriguez accused the Venezuelan government of bankrupting the group in a formal way by freezing its bank accounts and that of Garcia, after he was arrested on July 30 and accused of money laundering a few days later.
”Today, we do not have the ability to be able to meet the payroll ... It's impossible for us to print the newspaper, impossible to pay the (electricity) and water, Rodriguez said.
He went on to say that there are more than 100 workers who are now without jobs due to the closure of the group.
The cessation of the group's operations shows that the situation of press freedom in Venezuela is critical, Rodriguez said.
The group consists of the weekly 6to Poder, business daily El Comercio, the 6to Poder Web page, the magazine Usex, the survey firm 6to Poder Datos and 6to Poder radio.
Prosecutors ordered the freezing of the group's and Garcia's bank accounts after not being able to justify the large amounts of money handled in their accounts.
Garcia has had a number of run-ins with the government in recent years.
Two years ago, he was arrested on the order of late President Hugo Chavez and accused of public incitement of hate” after the publication of a controversial photomontage in 6to Poder showing the faces of senior officials and judges on the bodies of showgirls.