Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Truth Peeks Out from Behind the Propaganda...

from the New York Times
CARACAS, Venezuela — Not long ago, Jim Wyss, a South America correspondent for The Miami Herald, was detained by Venezuelan authorities for 48 hours and questioned by military intelligence. This week, he briefly became a poster boy for Venezuelan national pride.

Mr. Wyss, who is based in Bogotá, Colombia, was surprised on Thursday to find his picture being used in an online promotional campaign conducted by TeleSur, a 24-hour news network operated by the Venezuelan government.

As part of the campaign, the network has been posting images and short videos on Twitter and YouTube, with the hashtag #AmamosaVenezuela, or #WeLoveVenezuela.

One image showed a picture of Hugo Chávez, Venezuela’s longtime leftist president who died in 2013, with the words “We love Venezuela for being the cradle of liberators.”

Another showed a few images of Venezuelan landmarks, including Angel Falls, the world’s tallest waterfall, with the words “We love Venezuela for its beautiful scenery.”

But another image showed a picture of a light-haired, foreign-looking man ferociously hugging a woman with the slogan “We love Venezuela for receiving foreigners like one of their own.”

The only problem is that the man in the picture is Mr. Wyss.

And the photograph was taken in November 2013, as he arrived at the Miami airport after his detention by Venezuelan authorities.

At the time Mr. Wyss had been reporting in the western state of Táchira, when he was detained by military intelligence officials. He was questioned for hours while interrogators examined his computer files and photographs and combed through the hundreds of contacts on his cellphone.

He was held overnight and then flown to the capital, Caracas, where he was put in an immigration detention cell for a second night before finally being released.

Venezuelan authorities told him that he could resume his reporting, but shortly afterward he flew to Miami, where he was photographed giving a bear hug to a colleague. The picture appeared on the website of The Miami Herald and was somehow picked up by TeleSur and used in its promotional campaign this week.

Mr. Wyss wrote a lighthearted blog post on Friday about his unexpected appearance along with Mr. Chávez and Angel Falls in the TeleSur promo.

The image with the photograph of Mr. Wyss has since been removed from TeleSur’s Twitter feed. But on Friday it could still be found on Topsy, a website that logs and tracks Twitter posts. The website shows that the image was posted on the station’s Twitter feed on Thursday.

“I thought it was hilarious,” Mr. Wyss said by telephone from Bogotá. “I didn’t know if it was a big screw-up in TeleSur or if somebody had a really wicked sense of humor. It’s kind of bizarre.”

Mr. Wyss said he had returned to Venezuela since the incident in 2013 and had been able to operate as a journalist without trouble.

An employee at the office of TeleSur said that the station’s president, Patricia Villegas, would not comment.

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