IAPA Delegation Getting Cold Shoulder In Venezuela

By: Mark Fitzgerald

An Inter American Press Association (IAPA) delegation traveling in Venezuela to assess the state of press freedom under the administration of mercurial President Hugo Chavez isn’t having much luck getting together with government officials.

Predictably, Chavez and other national officials have refused to meet with the Miami-based free-press group. Last fall, Venezuela’s vice president, Jos? Vicente Rangel called IAPA a “latrine” that represents the “murkiest and darkest of the media world.”

The delegation, headed by IAPA President Diana M. Daniels, general counsel and corporate secretary of The Washington Post Co., did have an appointment with the pro-Chavez mayor of Caroni in the state of Bolivar who was officially advised by the state legislature to evict the daily newspaper Correo de Caroni from the offices it has used for 29 years, and demolish the premises.

But Tuesday morning, when the delegation arrived at City Hall, they were told the mayor was not in his office because he had another appointment, according to a report by Globovision TV that was published on the Web sites of the Caracas dailies El Universal and El Nacional.

The state’s governor, Francisco Rangel G?mez also let it be known Tuesday that he would not meet with the IAPA group.

IAPA delegates were scheduled to meet with the newspaper’s director, David Natera, who recently told the newspaper El Nacional that the state government’s “aberrance (and) madness is evidence that this regime shows everyone what is happening in Venezuela and especially (in southern Bolivar): they want to silence Correo del Caroni.”

The IAPA delegation is scheduled on Wednesday to see two members of the unanimously pro-Chavez national assembly. It will conclude its three-day trip with a press conference Wednesday.

In addition to Daniels, the IAPA delegation includes the group’s first vice president, Rafael Molina of the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic daily El D?a; Gonzalo Morroqu?n of the Guatemala City daily Prensa Libre; Felipe Edwards of the Santiago, Chile daily La Segunda; IAPA Executive Director Julio Mu?oz; and the group’s press freedom director, Ricardo Trotti.

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