Venezuelans like to think that our country is like no other, that our issues are different than those in other countries. Chavismo is such a different beast, the quirks of our oil economy so idiosyncratic, we tend to believe that understanding Venezuela requires a distinct framework.
I came to Bonn expecting to find that, in spite of the differences, our issues are the same as those in struggling democracies all over the world.
I was surprised to find out that our first instinct is correct. Our issues are quite different from those in other places.
The main theme in the first day was the tension between traditional and new media. The consensus seems to be that big media feels they have lost the trust of the public, and social media is building on that failure. For example, the head of Thailand’s largest media group said that, when the military began censoring their newspapers, people on social media were happy, saying that “they deserved it.” The theme seems to be that traditional media is in cahoots with the economic elites.
I kept thinking about our media, our besieged newspapers, our hounded TV journalists. I thought about Teodoro Petkoff and Luis Chataing, and the hundreds of journalists that have left Venezuela because they could not do their job. I find this “conflict” between traditional and new media to be non-existent in our country, since most of us are on the same side.
In the case of Venezuela, there are two groups: social and traditional media fighting for democracy, and traditional media elites in cahoots with (if not outright owned by) our government. The dividing lines in our country are different.
So while there are parallels between, say, the plight of Russian bloggers and what is happening with media in Venezuela, it is still a stretch to conclude the situations are the same. The more I hear about different realities, the more I conclude our idiosyncrasies are alive and well.