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Venezuela: A dead soldier on morning TV

By Daniel Duquenal

Wednesday 5, May 2004 - Watching the early morning talk shows was quite fascinating this morning. Since I subscribe to Direct TV ® I will just follow the dial order, as I surfed between 7 and 8 AM


The Cisneros TV broadcast chain with the fearsome Napoleon Bravo was not talking about the death of Angel Ciro Pedreanez. Instead it had a program about insecurity in one of the Caracas hot zones, 23 de Enero, allegedly pro Chavez. Well, it seems that there is no monolithic support for the glorious revolution there… But that is OK. Napoleon Bravo, exquisite connoisseur of the Venezuelan mood, will probably have his own special in a few days, to make sure that the dust does not settle on the case.


The other big private network did have its broadcast consecrated to the dead soldier. A series of interviews with people on the set, and live from Maracaibo, established quickly the morass of versions that are surrounding this terrible affair.


The network that aspires at competing against the previous 2, and whose target are the middle and upper middle class, had as luck had it scheduled a debate between two opponents and two Chavez Assembly representatives, Calixto Ortega and Tarek Saab. The topic was the relation between the US and Venezuela. But eventually the debate shifted to the dead soldier and the presence of Mr. Ortega did not help as he is a representative from Zulia. Well, it almost degenerated into a fist fight as one of the opponents whose name escapes me right now reminded to Calixto that the shooters of Puente Llaguno not only were free but had been awarded a medal. This of course while Calixto was asking people to calm down, that a fair investigation was going to take place. He seems that he is the only one thinking in such a way.


The state channel studiously discussed other issues, rather trivial considering the moment. One assemblyman was duly propped up to denounce the “megafraud”. One trade union representative was manipulated into trying to have him say that SIDOR, the huge steel concern now on strike should be renationalized. This was the most surprising as they are the ones that got yesterday’s scoop when the head doctor of the dead soldier declared exclusively to VTV.


There the star was Patricia Poleo, the investigative journalist that has been doggedly on that case. Ms. Poleo is a rather controversial journalist that more than once has put her foot in her mouth. However when she hits jackpot, they tend to be huge, as was the infamous case of Montesinos hidden in Venezuela after fleeing from Peru. This morning she detailed the reasons as to why there might be foul play in the death of the soldier. She stopped short from stating that he was murdered (which did not stop her from saying that overdose of insulin could have easily been put in the drip that the soldier was receiving).

But Ms. Poleo was rather convincing in establishing that there was a motive to silence the soldier. The rumors, since he emerged from coma, where contradicting the official version of the events. But the lawyer stupidly was doing some power play announcing that he had a tape but refusing to release it and playing his 15 minutes of fame instead of hurrying prosecutors to the hospital bed to take down the declaration of the injured soldier. Thus the “interested” parties that might “have something to hide” were warned and “might” have acted. Add to this that one of the MD attending the case has less than a sterling service sheet and all sorts of conspiracy theories are possible.

Interesting the Cuban connection reappeared, as the rumor is that some of the detained soldier were punished because they refused to take order form Cuban “advisors”. She also added that the other soldiers that were not as injured have disappeared, moved elsewhere, including their relatives and she is trying to track them down.

What to think?

I really do not know. All has been handled clumsily by all parts and if someone were trying to cover up something, that is the way they would have acted. Still, I am reluctant to assume that Angel Ciro Pedreáñez has been murdered. But considering that a real and fair investigation will never happen (something that all but Calixto Ortega agree on), there is little chance that we will know for sure whatever happened. What I can tell you is that in the San Felipe streets, too many folks think that the soldier has been killed. Vox populi, vox Dei? This is where we are now in Venezuela.

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