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Community-based radio station's transmitter destroyed after airing criticism of local mayor

(IPYS/IFEX) - On 20 November 2008, unidentified persons destroyed the main transmitter of community based radio station Radio Minumboc, located in the municipality of Carache in the State of Trujillo, western Venezuela.

The incident took place three days before Venezuela's regional elections and after the station had criticized the administration of Mayor Sogel Sallam Miranda, who was running for re-election for the governing party, Venezuela's United Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, PSUV). A new transmitter costs 100,000 bolívares (approx. US$ 46,000).

The radio station's director, José Gregorio Torres, reported that the signal was gone when they were about to do a live broadcast of a forum with the some of the candidates. Workers discovered that the booth where the broadcasting equipment was housed had been destroyed and the equipment damaged. The booth is outside the city in an area which is hard to get to. Beside it lay intact the amplifier belonging to Venezolana de Televisión (VTV), the state TV station.

José Gregorio Torres does not rule out the possibility that persons close to the mayor may be responsible, especially when taking into account that during the last few months some of the radio station's workers have been intimidated by the municipality's personnel.

On 24 November, the coordinator of the Radio Minumboc Foundation, Antonio Torres, who is also president of Venezuela's Community based Radio Stations' Network, denounced the case before the Center for Penal, Scientific and Criminal Investigations (Cuerpo de Investigaciones Penales, Científicas y Criminalísticas, CICPC) and Trujillo's Superior Prosecutor's Office. He has yet to receive a reply.

On 4 December, Torres denounced the case before the National Commission for Telecommunications (Comisión Nacional de Telecomunicaciones, CONATEL), and to other government institutions. He is waiting for the incident to be investigated and the equipment restored. For the time being the station is broadcasting its signal only in Carache using a short range transmitter.

Radio Minumboc has been broadcasting since 2002. It used to support the government. Its directors are known in Trujillo as militants of the "dissident chavismo", a group that competed with PSUV candidates during the last elections.

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