Commentary: The Big Red Fake News Machine

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by Ray McCoy

 

In the late 1990s, Latin America underwent a seismic shift away from its northern neighbor as a result of the domineering and interventionist policies of successive U.S. administrations dating back to the 19th century. This led to the 1998 election of Hugo Chávez Frias as president of Venezuela, and a chain reaction of similar governments of varying leftist ideological stringency coming to power in nations such as Nicaragua, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil, and Ecuador.

The focus of Chávez’s Bolivarian revolution, first and foremost, was on creating a new bloc of anti-imperialist nations to end U.S. hegemony in the Americas.

But although this was the stated primary ambition, the revolution itself was not limited to Latin America. A dormant far Left in the United States, briefly sidelined after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Bloc, quickly found in this movement a new kindred spirit. They were ecstatic that Chávez was elected in “free and democratic” elections, effectively displacing the two established centrist parties COPEI and Democratic Action, and that he survived a CIA-sponsored coup in 2002 thanks to his genuine popularity among the poor.

Conveniently omitted in this history is that twice in 1992 prior to his election, Chávez, as an army lieutenant colonel along with his colleagues, attempted to overthrow the government of his predecessor Carlos Andrés Pérez, leading to the deaths of almost 200 soldiers. Along with other middle-ranking military officers, Chávez had formed in the 1980s the revolutionary leftist MBR-200 group and conspired for years to overthrow the duopoly ruling his country, by force if necessary.

As seems always to be the case with socialism, real events that harm the reputation of the movement are either ignored or excused by true believers.

The results of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela and its offshoots took more than 15 years to transpire thanks to an oil glut that wiped out the strategic advantage of the nation’s reserves, and are now obvious to all as an example of an unsustainable experiment that ignored the basic rules of supply and demand.

But that part of the story is well known. Now is the time to shed more light on the Canadian and American members of the anti-capitalist Left who not only supported Chávez, but in some cases became paid mouthpieces and accomplices in the scheme to export Bolivarianism to the land of the yanquis.

Charm City Apparatchiks

In 2007, as the rot and decay of the George W. Bush Administration began to manifest itself, a Canadian filmmaker launched a project he hoped would apply his perspective to news reporting after years of toiling in obscurity.

Paul Jay had been a producer, director, and journalist at CTV, Canada’s largest private television network, as well as its state-run CBC network, and had produced several documentary films ranging from “Return to Kandahar” about the war in Afghanistan to “Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows” about professional wrestler Brett Hart.

While many in the media have left-leaning political sympathies, Jay’s leftist convictions run deep. His uncle, Ted Allan, had served with the Lincoln Brigades in the Spanish Civil War, and became a renowned screenwriter. The Lincoln Brigades were made up primarily of anglophone Communists supporting the Republican government of Spain. Allan would later write the biography of Dr. Norman Bethune, a fellow volunteer surgeon from Canada who later served the Communist Chinese before dying in 1939 of sepsis. He was personally close to the Canadian Communist Party leader Tim Buck.

Jay’s new creation would be called The Real News Network (TRNN) and he located the company in Toronto. In 2013, TRNN moved its main headquarters to Baltimore and have made that location and its community a focus of their reporting ever since.

TRNN’s building at 231 Holliday Street, two blocks from City Hall, sold for $1.3 million in 2012. The Real News operates on several digital platforms, notably YouTube and Roku. Despite massive annual investments from its backers, The Real News remained a niche news source under Jay until his 2019 departure. It continues to operate as a nonprofit without accepting corporate advertisements, a structure that is similar to that of The Nation, In These Times and other digital left-wing publications. It has close to 400,000 YouTube subscribers and an unknown number of Roku viewers.

Though these are respectable numbers for an independent creator, they would not begin to financially sustain a full network with both on-screen and production staff.

While claiming to promote real journalism, The Real News Network—perhaps to its credit—quite openly draws its presenters and reporters almost exclusively from members of the far-left activist community.

For example, former Black Panther Eddie Conway, whose conviction for the murder of a Baltimore police officer was overturned in 2014 due to “irregularities,” hosts a series on the network called “Rattling the Bars,” concerning criminal justice issues. Like many TRNN shows, this one is more of an editorial presentation, made worse by the fact that Conway is clearly not confident in front of the camera after more than 40 years in prison. In one episode, Conway clumsily confronted, to no good effect, a group of Donald Trump supporters led by Scott Presler cleaning streets in West Baltimore.

Local and Global

While some of TRNN’s reporting does focus on the decay and corruption of Baltimore, most of the network’s efforts have been spent highlighting issues that are completely disconnected from the city.

A heavy proportion of its stories are hostile to foreign governments in Brazil, Israel, and India. As Jay himself is an anti-Zionist Jew, he is deeply linked to various pro-Palestine movements and media figures such as Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal, the son of former Hillary Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal and an obsessively hostile critic of Israel.

Similarly, TRNN’s main commentator on India is Vijay Prashad, a Marxist at Trinity College in Connecticut who runs the Tricontinental Institute, an organization that claims to support the “Non-Aligned Movement” of anti-imperialist states that met in Havana in 1966 at the Tricontinental Conference. The original Tricontinental continues to function in Cuba as the Organization of Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America (OSPAAAL), the vehicle for exporting its revolution abroad, and Prashad’s group openly admits to collaborating with this organization. Paul Jay’s second-in-command was Sharmini Peries, a Sri Lankan-Canadian with views similar to Prashad’s. At times it seems the only competition that TRNN engaged in was whether to hate Narendra Modi or Benjamin Netanyahu more.

But Peries and others have a connection that is much stronger than either Palestine or India—Venezuela.

At one point, Peries was a direct advisor on economics and trade to Hugo Chávez. The overlap between TRNN and Venezuela’s state-supported media is so blatant, that it almost functions as a branch office with minor local variations. And while Americans as a whole have had to deal with crippling social media censorship thanks to media-generated moral panics, this unabashed fifth column has operated unhindered and without general public acknowledgment.

Thanks to the freedoms enshrined in our Bill of Rights, these activists masquerade as reporters, play the part of martyrs, and live out the youthful fantasies emblazoned on their sweatshop made Ché shirts. The Real News Network and a network of related groups provide them that stage.

Guerrilla TV SuperstarsUploaded from Caracas

The progressive media landscape is littered with the shards of the shattered leftist chandelier that never seemed to illuminate much to begin with. Far-left politics is notoriously schismatic, especially when it comes to applying the theories of Karl Marx and other socialists who died in the 19th century and have been interpreted in many different ways. Many progressives are apologists for Communism while denying that they are believers, such as Cenk Uygur of “The Young Turks,” who gives mealy-mouthed defenses of capitalism but in substance supports a corporate nanny state.

But The Real News and its affiliated organizations rarely allow such ambiguities to stand. On the ideological spectrum, TRNN occupies a space somewhere between “democratic” socialism and revolutionary Marxism-Leninism. The main dispute between these two schools of thought concerns whether violent revolution is necessary in order to eliminate class divisions.

Portions of TRNN’s programing have been sourced directly—and often unedited— from TeleSUR English, a television station owned by the Venezuelan, Cuban, and Nicaraguan governments. Founded in 2005, TeleSUR is the mouthpiece of Hugo Chávez’s successor Nicolás Maduro and the nation’s ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

During the aborted 2002 coup against Chávez, he and his supporters recognized that the commercial media in Venezuela were blatantly sympathetic to military and corporate interests that were intent on ousting him. As a result of this they formed not only TeleSUR, but other international blocs such as Bolivarian Alliance for the Liberation of Our Americas (ALBA) with Cuban and Caribbean allies, the Unasur transnational union in South America and the economic union Mercosur.

But all of these entities, including TeleSUR are political instruments of Chavista governments and political parties. Contributing nations in TeleSUR at one time included Argentina and Ecuador, who pulled out after changes of government and souring of relations with Venezuela. In 2018, Daniela Vielman, one of its Spanish-language anchors, resigned in a huff and discussed the mistreatment, extortion, and political coercion that she and other staff had undergone in covering her nation’s many political crises and civil disturbances.

Many personnel from TRNN also have been prominent commentators on TeleSUR:

  • Tariq Ali has been featured on The Real News to talk about topics relating to Britain, Pakistan, and the Iraq War. He also hosted the TeleSUR program “The World Today,” such as one from 2015 where he heralded a bright red future for the UK under his close friend and colleague Jeremy Corbyn.
  • Abby Martin arrived at TeleSUR after a falling out with Russia’s RTAmerica over the Ukraine crisis. Prior to that, she was a San Diego-area organizer for 9/11 Truth and supported the controlled demolition theory, but later distanced herself from that community and today rarely speaks on the topic. She hosted “Empire Files” on TeleSUR until 2018 when it could no longer be funded. TRNN has featured full episodes of the program, such as one from 2016 with Ecuador’s Marxist foreign minister Guillaume Long. Listed in the credits are two other TRNN staff, Oscar León and executive producer Paul Jay. It continues to produce new episodes using a donation model. 

Besides TeleSUR personnel, TRNN also employs or publishes content by other Maduro government apologists:

  • Gregory Wilpert is the founder of Venezuelaanalysis.com, a news website dedicated to rationalizing Venezuela’s economic meltdown as the result of sanctions. His wife is also a senior Venezuelan diplomat and former ambassador to Ecuador.
  • Lucas Koerner writes for Wilpert’s website and functions as a media critic in defense of the Maduro regime. Like Paul Jay, he is an anti-Zionist Jew and was once arrested for attempting to disrupt the Jerusalem Day parade.

Those last two, in particular, illustrate the depths to which TRNN will sink in order to defend Venezuela in the name of being “anti-war.” Both Koerner and Wilpert have written for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a leftist media watchdog that is blatantly sympathetic to the Chavista government.

In 2006, Wilpert authored a story disputing the notion that Chávez was corrupt by claiming that metrics used by Transparency International and other corruption monitors were skewed by public opinion. As it turns out, the late president’s daughter, Maria Gabriela Chávez, became a multi-billionaire and the richest woman in the country, although most of her assets were held in American and Andorran banks, all while serving as the country’s alternate ambassador to the United Nations.

Koerner is an even more dedicated supporter of Maduro. In 2019, Gabriel Hetland, professor of Latin American studies at the University of Albany, published an article for the North American Congress in Latin America (NACLA) and Jacobin critical of the Maduro government for its incompetence and abuses. In the article, Hetland placed three values above all others: “non-interventionism, self-determination, and solidarity with the oppressed.” NACLA and Jacobin are both staunchly left-wing socialist organizations and media outlets, and Hetland himself had been featured in 2016 with Peries on TRNN downplaying the severity of the humanitarian disaster in Venezuela. Joining him was Koerner’s colleague Rachael Boothroyd, also of TeleSUR and Venezualaanalysis.com.

Nevertheless, Koerner wrote a response a year later for FAIR claiming that Hetland’s piece was part of a campaign to legitimize regime change in Venezuela, despite Hetland’s explicit statements to the contrary. Hetland responded by pointing out that he did not support regime change in Venezuela, nor the November 2019 overthrow of its allied government in Bolivia. In FAIR’s publishing of the exchange, Koerner responded by castigating Hetland for not presenting “solidarity” and an “unqualified defense” of deposed Bolivian leader Evo Morales.

The infighting suggests there is a growing rift between those who accept and those who deny that the Maduro government should continue to be championed by the anti-capitalist left. Unfortunately, it is difficult to gauge which of these players is being sincere as opposed to abandoning a sinking ship out of self-interest.

Party Like There’s No 1989

The Real News Network also shares TeleSUR’s coverage of historical topics, not just current events. It is apparent from the network’s choice of programming that it’s a proponent of ideological dogma and orthodox Cold War-era Marxism.

In 2017, on the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution that established the Soviet Union, Abby Martin interviewed Brian Becker in a very flattering retrospective of the monumental event. While not addressing the Red Terror, famines, or the reconquest of the Caucasus and Central Asia that subjugated many non-Russian minorities, the two created the impression that this bloody introduction to tyranny in the name of progress was a necessary speed bump on the road to their goal.

Becker hailed the creation of the Soviet of Nationalities, a legislative body that supposedly gave all Soviet peoples representation in government. But in practice, both this and the other chamber, the Soviet of the Union, were rubber stamp parliaments for Communist Party organs such as the Politburo and Central Committee. Also omitted was the fact that Becker is the founder and leader of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) a pro-Venezuela Marxist-Leninist group and the head of the ANSWER Coalition. Like Martin, who once hosted a show on RTAmerica, Becker has similarly hosted a program on the Russian-sponsored Sputnik Radio, formerly known as RAI Novosti, since 2015.

Paul Jay’s own TRNN program, “Reality Asserts Itself,” has often featured episodes discussing the virtues of Marxism and Soviet Communism. A 2018 episode was devoted to Marx’s 200th birthday. Another 2018 episode discussed the present-day relevance of Communism with the Russian anti-revisionist Marxist Alexander Buzaglin.

Most TRNN segments on Venezuela have denied the fact that the Chávez and Maduro governments mismanaged the country, removed all constitutional protections, and created a totally petroleum-dependent economy. When discussing the Venezuela crisis in 2019 in the context of whether socialism is a failure, Jay hedged by claiming that foreign sanctions had crippled the Chávez-Maduro experiment. In so doing, he made several false statements, such as that Venezuela was not an industrialized country. In fact, for many decades it was one of the richest and most developed nations in the Western hemisphere.

Is the support for this failed state merely ideological, since the ties to Caracas seem no longer to be financial? How can a network dedicated to ending the fossil fuel economy and Wall Street plutocracy simultaneously credit so much of its financing to both?

In the early 1990s, as a younger documentary filmmaker, Jay produced “Albanian Journey” in the midst of its transition to democracy. While papering over the crimes and oppression wielded by the Communist regime of Enver Hoxha that clung to Stalinism even after China abandoned it following Mao Zedong’s death in 1976, he did portray the decay and downfall of socialism in the Mediterranean state. It seems as if The Real News Network and its embrace of Bolivarian socialism were just an attempt by Paul Jay to hold on to the new hope of a “21st Century Socialism” that Chávez promised. Like the last century’s version, however, its Western supporters are fine with enjoying the comparative luxuries of a decadent capitalist economy as it falls apart.

Green for the Screen

What is so ironic about The Real News Network’s fawning coverage of Venezuela, a petrostate now economically beholden to its creditors, is its simultaneous focus on supporting the replacement of fossil fuels and banning extraction of oil and natural gas in any way possible.

Throughout its history, TRNN has promoted “climate justice” calling it an imperative in 2011. During the 2020 Democratic primary season, one of its correspondents asked at the woke Netroots Nation summit whether candidates’ climate plans were “climate justice plans.”

Mere hypocrisy is not so rare as to be the only reason to highlight this contradiction. What TRNN is actually doing is much worse than that. It is using a manufactured global crisis in order to support the economic interests of a hostile foreign government. While the domestic U.S. oil industry is naturally subject to hazards such as spills and air pollution, in that respect it is not to be distinguished from other oil producers like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia, Norway, or Venezuela. The fracking boom of the 2010s and the further expansion of offshore drilling under President Donald Trump, however, has only served to create downward pressure on oil prices and hurt the bottom lines of every oil-dependent economy—including Venezuela’s, which for decades has sold its gasoline in the United States through its subsidiary Citgo stations.

By advocating for policies such as the Green New Deal, TRNN seeks the economic equivalent of unilateral nuclear disarmament. The United State would abandon fossil fuel extraction prematurely, and therefore would have to be supplied by states like Venezuela once it becomes evident that the energy needs of American citizens cannot be met by renewables. This already has occurred in Germany which once was the vanguard in green technology and is now attempting to compensate with a natural gas pipeline from Russia.

The red-green alliance around climate change is grounded in fear and guilt, not science. Rather than being revolutionaries with microphones fighting Wall Street, the money trail shows them to be fully conflicted and hiding their dirty laundry behind red flags.

While progressive media has embraced several different agendas over the decades in order to buttress their economic and social vision, none has greater potential than climate change does to shape the future of society.

The benefit of focusing on this area is that target audiences beyond the far Left are reluctant to challenge a movement claiming to derive its legitimacy from the scientific community, the United Nations, and Hollywood. It is a common refrain that the dependence of the economy on fossil fuels will doom humanity and the planet at large. But behind this agenda is the serious paradox that is difficult for activist journalists to get around: oil and natural gas are so ingrained in the economy that typically those pushing the agenda of renewable energy are themselves backed by or invested in fossil fuels.

In 2019, presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke found this out fast when his otherwise green-friendly campaign was attacked by the Sunrise Movement for having an insufficiently aggressive climate change plan and for accepting contributions from fossil-fuel company executives.

Progressives deem as heresy anything short of a full embrace of the panic-driven climate change movement—and TRNN does its best to stay near the tip of the spear on the subject.

After the first Democratic debate in June 2019, TRNN talking heads griped that only 15 minutes had been dedicated to climate change. In August 2019, correspondent Dharna Noor interviewed a plaintiff in Juliana v. USA, a landmark class action case that attempted to force the federal government to pay reparations to young Americans over its alleged “inaction” on climate change. (The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case in January.) More recently, TRNN news host Marc Steiner has attempted to tie the coronavirus outbreak to climate change.

Fossil Fuel Skeletons in the Vault

Cloaked in the façade of caring for the future of the planet and opposing Wall Street, TRNN deceptively hides its own past reservoir of fossil fuel interests. Its leaders are not merely ideologically committed to supporting the Venezuelan government; the organization through its funding apparatus had financial ties to the regime and its oil conglomerate until 2018.

Its editorial line remains sympathetic to the regime, and the details of the departure of Jay and Peries remain undisclosed. Their best-known investigative reporter Aaron Maté, one of the central Russiagate skeptics, had left in 2018 under similarly mysterious circumstances. Since then he has appeared more often on China’s CGTN America network. Much of how and why TRNN came about is known only to them and other insiders but, at least in the group’s media materials, they remain staunchly supportive of the Maduro government.

Puzzle pieces relating to its background can be gathered from TRNN videos, as well as tax disclosures. According to a now-deleted 2014 video, the organization’s Baltimore headquarters was purchased by the “small family” Quitiplas Foundation as part of a $3 million investment. According to real estate records the property at 231 N. Holliday Street was purchased for $1.3 million in 2012. But in TRNN’s 2015 IRS 990 tax disclosure, the same property was still listed as belonging to Quitiplas. The foundation has no website, and like many corporations and organizations that want to avoid scrutiny, it is incorporated in Delaware. The name of the foundation comes from the “quitiplas,” which is a percussion instrument originating in Venezuela.

An organization called “Son of Quitiplas” registered under Paul Jay’s name is currently “not in good standing” based on available information from the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation and lists the same property as its address. It is unclear whether this organization is directly linked to Quitiplas, but the status suggests Jay’s entity has been dissolved.

Delving into the list of grantees from 2015, some familiar names pop up:

  • Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting received $5,000.
  • The North American Congress on Latin America received $10,000.
  • Dwarfing all of the others was “Independent World Television” which received $650,000.

Independent World Television is the legal name of The Real News Network. IWT’s own 2015 form 990 listed Jay as the corporation’s CEO along with Hollywood actor and Hugo Chávez supporter Danny Glover as a member of its board of directors (a board that shares significant overlap with that of Quitiplas). Glover co-wrote a eulogy for Chávez in 2014 with fellow board member James Early, who serves as an assistant provost and author at the Smithsonian Institute.

Another board member, Thomas M. Scruggs, is listed as the president of Quitiplas. Scruggs’ personal background is as an ethnomusicologist (one who studies folk music of different cultures), and he has taught at a number of institutions such as the University of Iowa and Florida International University. From 2004-2006, however, he was a guest teacher at the University of the Andes, in Mérida, Venezuela on a Fulbright fellowship. His most well-known work is a foreword to a pamphlet honoring the musician Victor Jara, a Chilean Communist and supporter of murdered President Salvador Allende, who was himself murdered under the regime of General Augusto Pinochet.

In 2012, Scruggs was featured by TRNN on a report about elections in Venezuela from his home in Berkeley, California. Scruggs continues to serve on the boards of both TRNN and Quitiplas. Another board member for both organizations, Dmitri Lascaris of Montreal, is a pro-Palestine activist and current candidate for leader of the Green Party of Canada.

The tax disclosures also show that Quitiplas held financial assets directly tied to the Venezuelan and Argentine governments, as well as massive oil and gas assets. In 2013, it had investments of over $800,000 in 5 percent interest bond holdings for Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA; pronounced Pe-de-ve-sa), the state-owned oil monopoly of Venezuela. On top of that, the foundation owned almost $3 million in 8.75 percent interest bonds for Argentina, which in 2014 would default on its debt. In 2016, TRNN’s Greg Wilpert condemned new Argentine President Mauricio Macri for paying out vulture funds that had held these very same bonds.

Quitiplas also has investments in Sandridge Mississippian Trust, an American fund that holds royalties in oil and gas properties in states like Oklahoma and Kansas. Quitiplas’ investment in Venezuelan and Argentine public debt dates back all the way to 2008, the second year of its existence. That year it also funded IWT with $100,000 and the pro-Venezuela think tank Center for Economic and Policy Research for $500,000. CEPR’s c0-director Mark Weisbrot famously wrote in The Guardian in 2013 that Venezuela’s economy was not “the Greece of Latin America. He was a co-writer of the screenplay for “South of the Border,” Oliver Stone’s fawning 2009 documentary about Chávez and the Latin American “Pink Tide.”

Reality Re-Asserts Itself

As of 2018, the last available year for which filings are available, it appears that the sovereign debt investments such as PDVSA were sold off. Yet Quitiplas continued to hold investments of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in Facebook, Amazon, Alphabet (parent company of Google), Apple, discount store chain Dollar General, and defense contractor Honeywell.

Another investment that Quitiplas consistently has held is the hedge fund Alphakeys Millennium I and III, despite TRNN’s condemnation of hedge funds for capitalizing on public debt in Puerto Rico and hindering medical innovation.

Of course, TRNN portrays Wall Street as a whole as a malevolent force. Jay claimed in a 2018 video that “the billionaire class is not fit to rule.” Also in 2018, TRNN reporter Marc Steiner interviewed Matt Taibbi about the restrictions that Google and Facebook were putting on the privacy and freedom of users while simultaneously calling the recently unpersoned Alex Jones “vile.” Perhaps Steiner was unaware of where his employer’s finances originated.

Did the dumping of PDVSA and other state-owned assets occur to square the organization’s finances with its philosophy, or was that merely a reaction to the declining profitability of the bond market in Latin America and the oil glut of the mid-2010s?

The most likely explanation is that the foundation dumped the assets in compliance with 2017 sanctions on Venezuela, and to PDVSA-related debt holdings specifically. Unlike other years, the organization’s 2016 form 990 disclosure does not include any itemized investment holdings, and the 2014 disclosure is completely unavailable.

A Dim Future?

The editorial line of The Real News Network has not changed with the unexplained departure of Jay and Peries, and it consistently portrays Venezuela as the victim of oppressive U.S. sanctions. Like its TeleSUR partner, TRNN sees the United States as having designs of regime change in Venezuela and worldwide, but unlike them, its content is not labeled as being funded by the Venezuelan government on YouTube.

Today, more than 22 years since Chávez rose to power, the pretension of supporting his successor Maduro in the name of fighting U.S. imperialism is ludicrous. Last year, Venezuela’s sovereign debt rose to $156 billion, some of it held not by hedge funds but by allies such as China and Russia. Due to drops in the worldwide crude oil price, it is facing new economic pressure if China does not agree to restructure Venezuelan debts again.

In March, the U.S. Justice Department indicted Maduro and several of his most senior officials for narcoterrorism and leading the “Cartel of the Suns” to traffic cocaine to the United States by air and maritime routes. The investigation began in 2015 thanks to careless talk by the “narcosobrinos,” two nephews of Hugo Chávez, boasting of their state support to a fellow drug trafficker and DEA informant.

While TRNN continues to cheer on the Venezuelan communes, regime figures have looted the country and squirreled away assets overseas. As millions of their countrymen starve, the boliburgueses (Bolivarian bourgeoisie) like Alejandro Betancourt benefit from state contracts with PDVSA while living among the gringo imperialists in Miami.

Far from promoting a brighter future and more equal world, PDVSA is today a basket case run by Major General Manuel Quevedo. In 2018, the oil company quelled riots at its own cafeteria using national guardsmen. Citgo, its U.S. subsidiary, was found guilty in 2007 of violating the Clean Air Act in a U.S. federal court case. In 2019, the U.S. government legally prohibited PDVSA from profiting from Citgo, and most recently the Supreme Court ruled it liable for a 2004 oil spill. Meanwhile the U.N. High Commission on Refugees claims 4.5 million Venezuelans are currently refugees or migrants abroad.

As it attempts to survive in a difficult digital media market, some questions remain unanswered concerning the relationship between TRNN and the Venezuelan government. Who donated the seed money through Quitiplas to create TRNN in 2008 and buy the Baltimore building five years later? What are the sources of the foundation’s finances since then, and do they include foreign state funds? How formal was the partnership between it and TeleSUR? And finally, what triggered the replacement of Paul Jay and Sharmini Peries, neither of whom have made any public statement since? These are riddles that Venezuelans living abroad, Baltimore residents, and even TRNN’s own confused viewers may find fascinating and troubling.

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Ray McCoy is a freelance journalist from the Midwest
Photo “Venezuela Protest” by Wilfredor. CC BY-SA 4.0.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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