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Globovisión Owner Indicted for Bribery

November 21, 2018

Nasty news regarding Venezuela today.

Alejandro Andrade, a longtime associate of Chávez who rose from bodyguard to Treasurer of the Republic (2007 – 2010), admitted to accepting $1 billion dollars in bribes during his term in the latter position. At least some of that money, it seems, was laundered by the Venezuelan owner of Dominican Republic-based Banco Peravia.

Also heavily involved was Raul Gorrin, one of the owners of television station Globovisión since May 2013, who allegedly paid bribes to Andrade in order to obtain profitable currency exchange contracts. According to a newly unsealed indictment, Gorrin paid over $150 million in bribes between 2008, when he bought insurance firm Seguros La Vitalicia, and 2017.

Globovisión sign on building with satellite dish

Globovisión was a fiercely anti-Bolivarian television network prior to 2013, having played a leading role in the failed 2002 coup attempt against Chávez and later facing a long series of lawsuits and sanctions from the government. The stations previous majority owner, Guillermo Zuloaga, fled to Miami in 2010 after a court issued a warrant for his arrest for usury and conspiracy in connection to his car dealership enterprise.

Globovisión defended itself on free speech grounds that were sometimes questionable. In a September 2009 cable published by Wikileaks, for example, the US Ambassador to Venezuela, Patrick Duddy, acknowledged that “Globovision is clearly playing with fire by broadcasting incendiary messages, which undermine its credibility and legitimacy and risk giving Chavez a stronger and more compelling excuse for shutting it down.”

In another cable, from February 2010, Duddy reported that “relentless Venezuelan Government (GBRV) pressure … has threatened to put [Globovision and other outlets] out of business,” with the result that Globovisión had pushed out Alberto Federico Ravelli, the station’s Director,  and “tone[d] down [its] strongly anti-Chavez orientation.”

Those moves were ultimately insufficient for Zuluoaga to maintain control and, following the 2013 sale, Globovision’s coverage became even less critical of the government. One academic study of the 2013 – 2015 period, however, concluded that “contrary to popular perception in Venezuela, Globovisión … does not exhibit a strong pro-government bias,” finding instead that it’s “framing of the issues has tended to be neutral, and that there was no significant bias in favor of the government or the opposition.” That study, however, was commissioned by Globovisión itself.

The upshot here is that one of the new Globovisión owners was deeply corrupt during the period when Venezuela’s economy began to unwind. And that unwinding resulted significantly, if not primarily, from mismanagement of the currency exchange system that was so deeply corrupted. This is not a good look for the Bolivarian government. It lends further credence to claims that the government used non-democratic means to constrain non-aligned press outlets and thus shape debate in the public sphere.

Globovisión has had much to answer for and there’s a legitimate argument that its actions in 2002, if not after, merited greater and more immediate sanctions. The Bolivarian government’s response, however, should have proceeded through formal and transparent democratic mechanisms. Forcing the sale of Globovisión to a corrupt ally is not consistent with the principles of liberal democracy, much less twenty-first century socialism.

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