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Venezuela's Maduro gets tough on dissent

Aug. 7, 2013 at 3:56 PM   |   Comments

CARACAS, Venezuela, Aug. 7 (UPI) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is getting tougher on what remains of political opposition in the Latin America amid signs of a revival of the populist Bolivarian revolution.

The socialist ideological movement of Bolivarian revolution, said to draw inspiration from 19th century Latin American revolutionary Simon Bolivar, was the brainchild of former President Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer in March.

Political tensions rose after regional opposition leader Pablo Uzcategui was gunned down Tuesday by unidentified people on a motorcycle. There was no immediate explanation for the killing, which was witnessed by the politician's wife and two daughters who were driving in another car behind Uzcategui's vehicle.

The late night shooting in Barinas state was at first thought to be a robbery but National Assembly lawmaker Carlos Berrizbeitia told news media he discounted the possibility. Uzcategui's center right Project Venezuela party was at odds with the Chavism movement propagated by Chavez and picked up by Maduro after he succeeded the late president.

In Caracas, government moves against the news media gained new momentum after the opposition Sexto Poder media group announced the suspension of activities following the arrest of owner-publisher Leocenis Garcia.

Authorities arrested Garcia last month on charges of money laundering, which he denies. Media group director and spokesman Alberto Rodriguez said the group's suspension was a "dark chapter in the history of freedom of the press" in Venezuela.

He said the government's freezing of the media group's bank accounts was intended to bankrupt the company and force its closure.

"We do not have the ability to be able to meet the payroll" or pay for electricity and water, Rodriguez said.

There was no immediate government comment on the move, but officials earlier alleged they had noticed large movements of funds in the media group's accounts.

This was Garcia's latest confrontation with Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution. He was arrested in 2008 and 2010 Chavez' orders but was released. In one instance, Chavez objected to the publication of a cartoon that showed the heads of senior officials and members of the judiciary superimposed on the bodies of showgirls.

At least eight people began a hunger strike Tuesday in front of the Organization of the American States office in Caracas to protest the closure of the Sexto Poder media group, the Argentina Independent reported.

The closure of the media group has left 100 people unemployed, the newspaper said on its website.

The protesters include reporters and company directors who want the OAS, which has headquarters in Washington, to intervene. An earlier plea by OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza went unheeded.

Garcia faces multiple charges of fiscal evasion, tax fraud and money laundering.

The Inter-American Press Association voiced concerns Garcia's arrest and the freezing of assets is an attempt to limit freedom of expression in Venezuela.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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