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The Role of Popular Communication in Bolivarian International Communication Strategy

May 31, 2015

Earlier this year Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro established the office of Vice Minister of International Communication within the Ministry of Popular Power for Foreign Relations. The new post was authorized by Presidential Decree 1596, which specified its responsibilities. I’ve translated all six here, but it’s number five in which I’m primarily interested:

1) Develop an international strategy in coordination with the Ministry of Popular Power for Communication and Information, to enable the diffusion of information about Government progress and action.

2) Create international news bulletins and audiovisual material, in coordination with the Ministry of Popular Power for Communication and Information, that reflects the achievements of Venezuela abroad.

3) Promote, in coordination with the Ministry of Popular Power for Communication and Information, a strategy to project the Venezuelan Nation abroad, neutralizing any matrix of opinion with defamatory aims intended to harm the image of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and its system of government.

4) Pursue, together with the Ministry of Popular Power for Communication and Information, international legal action when any international media outlet directs offenses or lies against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Revolutionary Government.

5) Create an International Network of alternative media, in coordination with the Ministry of Popular Power for Communication and Information, that will organize international alternative media outlets that support the Bolivarian Revolution, and by this means, create mechanisms to project necessary governmental matrices of opinion; in a manner coordinated with the various embassies.

6) Any other responsibilities assigned to it by Laws, Decrees, Regulations, Resolutions, and other Legal Acts pertaining to international communication.

Maduro appointed Mauricio Rodríguez to the post in late January. Rodríguez served as Vice Minister of Strategic Communication during William Lara’s term as Minister of Communication back in 2006-07. He served as both Minister of Communication and President of VTV from June to December of 2010. He was appointed as President of ViVe TV in 2014 and, as far as I know, continues to occupy that post. Last February he was appointed to the Board of Directors of VTV.

Maduro’s choice of Rodríguez in his current roles is perhaps telling. When I was in Venezuela in 2011, one longtime leader of the community and alternative media movement described Rodríguez’s term as Minister of Communication as “disastrous” (nefasto) because he did not truly believe in autonomous popular power for community media producers, with the result that resources were severely diminished. Meanwhile, to the best of my knowledge he is the first President of ViVe that was not among its founders and does not have a professional background in alternative audiovisual production.

Within the Bolivarian community and alternative media movement there are two general tendencies. Some believe popular media outlets should serve to consolidate the power of the state and others believe the Bolivarian government should serve to consolidate a radically democratic and largely autonomous system of popular communication. These are not mutually exclusive positions and most practitioners emphasize one or the other depending on the circumstances. Nonetheless, most reside more consistently on one side of the division.

I suspect that Rodríguez primarily sees popular communication as a strategic appendage of a state-led revolution. In my opinion, this is the wrong perspective. It will be interesting to see how he structures and utilizes an “international network of alternative media,” if he does at all.

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