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 Web sites 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 Web sites including NTN24.com, a Colombia-based regional news network, and pastebin.com, bulletin boards that cyberactivists use to anonymously share information, were being blocked.
U.S.-based company Renesys, a top analyzer of global Internet traffic, confirmed the Web site blocking and service degradation, but said it could not determine if CANTV was decreasing bandwidth.
"I certainly don't know from our data if it is deliberate, although given the context, it seems plausible," said Renesys researcher Doug Madory.
Venezuela's traffic to its close ally Cuba over the ALBA-1 cable, meanwhile, appeared unaffected, he said.
Programmer and cyberactivist Jose Luis Rivas, who is from San Cristobal but did give his location for fear of persecution, said the Internet went out in most of the city of 600,000 about midnight Wednesday. (continued...)
© 2014 Associated Press/AP Online syndicated under contract with NewsEdge. All rights reserved.
Posted: 2014-02-24 @ 4:00pm PT
Well since the foreign media doesn't do their job, somebody has to. Perhaps you can explain why the US is using the same voting machines as Venezuela http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/29/washington/29ballot.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&. Report from 2006 (Sequoia was purchased by Smartmatic)
It seems it's the machines that count, not the votes
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/06/16/1100628/-It-s-the-Voting-Machines-Not-the-Voters# (2012 US election using the Smartmatic machines confirmed to have faulty technology)