Venezuela tries to suppress communications

AP/ABC News:
The battle for Venezuela is being fought as vigorously online as on the streets, with opposition activists tracking the government crackdown on social networks, and authorities fighting back by cutting Internet to a clash-torn city, and selectively blocking websites and a communication app popular with protesters.

Beatriz Font, a local TV reporter in San Cristobal, capital of the western border state of Tachira, said Thursday night that she could hear gunshots and police were breaking up protests just as they had the night before when Internet service was cut in this city.

"We're still without Internet. And some people don't have water or electricity either," Font said from this university town which has seen some of the fiercest anti-government demonstrations.

Later, the U.S. company Zello said Venezuela's state-run telecoms company, CANTV, had just blocked access to the push-to-talk, "walkie-talkie" application, a hugely popular organizing tool for protesters from Egypt to Ukraine.

The app for smartphones and computers supports up to 600 users on a single channel, and company CEO Bill Moore said it became the No. 1 app in Ukraine on Thursday for both the Apple and Android operating systems. In one day this week, Zello reported more than 150,000 downloads in Venezuela.

Some believe Venezuela's information war, which last week included the government's blocking of images on Twitter after violence in Caracas claimed three lives, is only just beginning.

The socialist government cemented a near-monopoly on the country's broadcast media during the 14-year rule of President Hugo Chavez, who died last March, and social media have been crucial in recent days for opposition activists as they organized and exchanged information on deaths, injuries and arrests.

Net-savvy activists reported a serious nationwide degradation in Internet service provided by CANTV, which handles about 90 percent of the country's traffic. They said websites including NTN24.com, a Colombia-based regional news network, and pastebin.com, bulletin boards that cyberactivists use to anonymously share information, were being blocked.
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Venezuela is a government that can't handle the truth and wants to make sure that its people are denied access to it.  They maybe getting help from their despotic friends in the Cuban and Iranian governments.  The government is desperately trying to hide its incompetence and mismanagement of Venezuela's resources.

But the game has changed in Venezuela and the opposition is becoming kinetic.

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