Miami (February 7, 2022) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) condemned the consummation of the robbery by the Venezuelan judiciary of the newspaper El Nacional, which has become part of Diosdado Cabello's estate.
After a questionable operation, on January 27, Judge Lisbeth del Carmen Amoroso Hidrobo, of the 3rd Civil, Commercial, Traffic and Banking Court of First Instance of the Metropolitan Area of Caracas, awarded directly to Cabello, first vice president of the ruling party, the headquarters, and land of El Nacional. The measure was executed irregularly since the "day, hour and minimum amount for the interested parties to make their offers" was not publicly informed, violating the procedural rules required by law. The judicial representative of El Nacional was not notified either.
Jorge Canahuati, president of the IAPA, condemned "the consummation of the robbery of the century to independent journalism, something that can only happen in a dictatorship." The CEO of Grupo Opsa, of Honduras, added, "The dictatorship has used all its weapons to close media and muzzle the press during these 20 years, but this political-judicial strategy is perhaps the most creative."
On April 16, 2021, the Supreme Court of Justice condemned El Nacional for defamation and ordered it to pay Cabello a compensation of US$13.2 million. Cabello had sued the newspaper and its editor, Miguel Henrique Otero, for publishing a report by the Spanish newspaper ABC in which he was linked to drug trafficking. On May 14, 2021, a judge ordered the newspaper's facilities and assets to be seized.
Carlos Jornet, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, reiterated, "Once again, we observe the lack of independence of a justice system subordinated to political power. In an abusive and illegal manner, the justice satisfies the pretension of a politician who had been fervently threatening to make the newspaper disappear."
Canahuati and Jornet, the editor of the Argentine newspaper La Voz del Interior, agreed that the delivery of the newspaper to Cabello is "the culmination of a political revenge." But, they added, "This serious outrage by the government against El Nacional and other 100 independent media that have already disappeared will stain the history of Venezuela."
El Nacional has been published online for years due to restrictions imposed by the government; among them, the lack of access to the import of newsprint and other products.
IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.