Freedom of speech ‘doesn't exist’ in Venezuela

Venezuela used to be one of the most progressive democracies in Latin America, but today there is no room for opinions that differ from those of the government, says Venezuelan journalist and writer Carlos Omobono, now based in Italy. He is the latest in our “Global Voices of Freedom” series.

This content was published on November 30, 2022 - 09:00
Bruno Kaufmann, Michele Novaga

In the 1970s Venezuela was considered a refuge for persecuted people from other Latin American countries and a haven for freedom of expression. But today, as the Venezuelan journalist Carlos Omobono reports, independent voices are being persecuted and driven out of the country by President Nicolás Maduro’s regime.

An estimated 7.1 million Venezuelans now live abroad, according to the latest United Nations figures prepared by the Inter-Agency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants for Venezuela "R4V", which comprises over 200 organisations and associations. This makes the South American country a leading nation in terms of the size of its overseas diaspora: roughly one quarter of the population has emigrated.

One of them is journalist Carlos Omobono, who used to work for several Venezuelan newspapers and radio stations and was an anchor for the private television channel Venevisión in the 1990s.

His popular show "Tu y yo con Carlos Omobono" (You and I with Carlos Omobono) used to keep millions of Venezuelans glued to their sets on Sunday evenings.

“I've been living in Italy for nine years after being expelled from my beloved homeland,” Omobono tells SWI

He has not returned to Venezuela since Maduro took over from Hugo Chávez in 2013. He now works in Milan, where he continues to make his voice heard. “A voice, if it is sincere, must always be heard. A voice that talks of freedom always finds an echo and people willing to listen to it. And so my voice spreads through free spirits who are able to listen to me,” Omobono says.

What needs to happen for democracy to return to Venezuela? “We have to fight for it; we enjoy a lot of sympathy around the world, but it is up to us to use it. We have to make sure Venezuela returns to what it once was, one of the most advanced democracies in Latin America. It was a country that welcomed many people who fled dictatorships in neighbouring countries, and it also welcomed many Italian, Spanish and other exiles,” he says in the latest edition of the “Global Voices of Freedom” series.

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