WASHINGTON— Outside of Latin America the anti-government street protests in Venezuela have been receiving relatively little news coverage, especially when compared to the crisis in Ukraine. Even though the South American nation is a major oil producer, and its deteriorating economic and political stability could affect the world, restrictions on the press and a seeming lack of engagement by U.S. officials are keeping Venezuela out of the headlines.
Demonstrations in Venezuela that often turn into violent and deadly confrontations with police, the National Guard and pro-government militias have been going on for weeks.
This situation is similar to the crisis in Ukraine that forced President Viktor Yanukovych to flee the country and culminated in Russia’s takeover of Crimea.
Venezuela is getting less international media attention, in part, however, because its government has refused or revoked journalist visas, and made it difficult and dangerous for reporters.
Cynthia Romero, who is with the Freedom House, a press freedom organization, said "There are several cases of intimidation, of attacks, not only of journalists, local journalists, but also as international journalists, which also makes it very difficult for the international press to get the news out about what is happening.”
The United States and Europe are engaging in high-level diplomatic talks with Russia and Ukraine to try to resolve the regional conflict. Romero said Washington is not as engaged in Venezuela, which has led to less media coverage.
“We do not have key officials within the U.S. and European policy circles, key opinion shapers really talking about Venezuela the way they are talking about Ukraine, and so I think that also drives the media attention,” she said.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio asked Secretary of State John Kerry why the United States has not spoken out forcefully against the Venezuelan government’s repression of opposition groups.
“Why can’t we just say what is obvious to anyone who sees these facts that the government of Venezuela is not and does not comport itself as a democracy, and in fact because of all of these activities and others, and violence against their own people have lost the legitimacy of a government,” said Rubio.
Washington has dismissed repeated charges by Venezuela’s leaders that it is aiding the protesters. Kerry said U.S. involvement in resolving the crisis could be misconstrued and believes regional organizations should lead international efforts.
“We are very supportive of third-party mediation efforts that are aimed at trying to end the violence and see if we can not get it [to] an honest dialogue to address the legitimate grievances of people in Venezuela,” said Kerry.
This less confrontational approach, however, also makes less news for the media to cover.