The Venezuelan opposition yesterday released a recording which they claim shows evidence of corruption and internal factionalism within the government. However journalist Mario Silva, supposedly in the recording, said it was a “set-up”.
The recording is allegedly of a conversation between government supporter Mario Silva, who hosts the current affairs program La Hojilla on state channel VTV, and Aramis Palacios, a Cuban military official and supposed member of Cuban intelligence G2.
Opposition legislators played the audio file to press late yesterday morning. The recording lasted around 50 minutes, with opposition legislator Ismael Garcia saying that it would have been from “a little after the 14 April election”.
Within minutes of the opposition releasing the recording, private national newspaper Ultimas Noticias, together with other private international and national media, released a full written transcript of it.
Garcia claimed that the recording would have been handed over to Cuban president Raul Castro, “who seems to direct Venezuelan politics”.
In the recording, Silva made a series of alleged comments in which the pro-government head of the national assembly, Diosdado Cabello, is implicated in acts of corruption and plotting against President Nicolas Maduro.
Cabello is accused of using the government’s currency exchange commission CADIVI and tax authority SENIAT as “sources of financing”, facilitated by Cabello’s brother, Jose David, who heads SENIAT. Part of this is the apparent “leaking” of dollars from CADIVI to Cabello via “ghost companies”.
The national assembly president is also claimed to be conspiring against Maduro. This supposed “Cabello faction” is accused of seeking to “remove (Defence Minister) Diego Molero…to take power of the armed forces and direct Maduro as they want, or launch a state coup”.
Other claims aired in the recording are that the opposition hacked the National Electoral Council system and changed the 14 April presidential election result in their favour, that Vice-president Jorge Arreaza is a contact of opposition journalist Nelson Borrancada, and that state channel VTV is being run by a corrupt “Vampire Group”.
After playing the recording, Garcia called for a parliamentary session to open an investigation into what he called a “very grave” situation.
Meanwhile, former opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, who had been building up the release of the audio file over the previous day, tweeted that “all corrupt and illegitimate governments implode”.
Earlier this month Capriles told press that a “possible recall referendum” is “building up strength”. Further, since former president Hugo Chavez became sick at the end of last year, the opposition and private media has waged a campaign against so called Cuban “interference” in Venezuela, and suggesting that Cabello should have been the interim president, and that there is a “divide” within the government between Cabello and Maduro.
Silva and Cabello respond
Silva responded straight away that the audio recording was a “set-up” and “absolutely false”, then late last night on his daily news analysis program, La Hojilla (The Razorblade), he said that he would make himself available for investigations.
“Let the justice institutions do what they have to do, I’m not scared of the fascists [opposition], much less of justice,” he said.
Live on the program, Silva criticised the opposition’s “attacking” of the Cuban people, and accused the Israeli Mossad of being involved in the “set-up”.
He said the recording was a “crap”, and a combination of extracts from television and radio programs, with which they “put together” using “specific technology”.
“We’re talking about nine years of La Hojilla…the construction [of the recording] can be done very easily…we’re doing our own one to demonstrate, so you all can see how easy it is to do,” he said.
The audio recording is “with a supposed Cuban who doesn’t talk, who doesn’t say very much in the conversation…and doesn’t sound like a Cuban”.
Silva said it wasn’t surprising that they “put together a plan to bury” his program and himself. “The opposition has always said that everything that I say here [on my program] is a lie, but now suddenly this audio of me is their proof against the revolution,” he noted, adding later that “La Hojilla is a problem (un peo) for the opposition”.
“There’s a series of coincidences…the first one is that I went to Cuba on Friday, I went to see my daughter who has cancer, and she’s being treated there as part of the Cuba-Venezuela accord…and on Friday my email was hacked into…and when I looked into it, it was from an IP in Sweden and with direct links with mirrors in the US…they were preparing this,” he said.
“They put it together almost perfectly…and they have inflicted damage, there are people who believe this… this thing will have its consequences,” he added.
Silva talked about the various “set-ups” that he claimed he had seen the opposition put together, including when Globovision was at the scene of the Rodeo prison riots before they happened.
Talking about the people he believe put together the audio, Silva said, “They believe anything, in order to be able to continue conspiring…they are the same people who participated in the 2002 coup,” he stressed, arguing that that was also a “set-up”. He then referred to the 11 people killed in the few days after the elections, including two children, “we have to put an end to impunity in this country”.
In the second part of the program, two of Silva’s assistants explained how computer programs can cut and merge spoken audio, or record one voice and replay it in another voice.
Silva announced that his program would be off air for the next few days. He said he would be undergoing medical treatment, after being hospitalised on Saturday, and said his absence wasn’t related to the opposition’s audio.
“I insist I don’t owe apologies to anyone because I haven’t done anything that isn’t revolutionary… If in any way I were damaging the revolution, I would remove myself,” he said.
Last night Cabello responded on VTV to the audio released by the opposition. He said, “This is the opposition we have, they put on this big party over what information they would release… I’d feel good about proof, not about a show”.
“Every time a video comes out of an [opposition legislator] receiving money, they say it’s illegal… well their desperation is showing,” he said, adding that, “Nobody can divide the Chavista forces, I express my complete support for Nicolas Maduro”.
Further, according to Venezuelan journalist and legislator Earle Herrera, Capriles called a press conference yesterday, then aborted it and called another one, because “nine opposition leaders refused to present the supposed recording of Mario Silva…in the end [Capriles] was relieved because he found someone to present his media bomb”.