Morning Chronicle - In Venezuela, newspaper HQ handed to govt official

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In Venezuela, newspaper HQ handed to govt official
In Venezuela, newspaper HQ handed to govt official

In Venezuela, newspaper HQ handed to govt official

A Venezuelan court has officially handed over the headquarters of the newspaper El Nacional to Diosdado Cabello, widely seen as the government's number-two man.

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The move came as Cabello won a defamation lawsuit against this opposition daily.

"Ownership of the headquarters of El Nacional and the land on which it is built were directly awarded to Diosdado Cabello (...) in an irregular and clandestine judicial auction," a statement from the newspaper said.

The newspaper said the auction was carried out without fair information exchanges or open bidding.

The headquarters of EL Nacional was seized in May.

In April, a Venezuelan court had sentenced the daily to pay $13.4 million for causing "serious moral damage" to Cabello, deputy and number two of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

The conviction is the legal follow-up to a complaint filed in 2015 by Cabello against El Nacional after it re-ran an article from the Spanish newspaper ABC which linked him to drug trafficking.

At the same time, he filed suits against ABC in Spain and The Wall Street Journal in the United States. Both of these complaints were dismissed.

After filing the complaint, the powerful leader issued several threats to the media outlet and promised to turn it into a university or use its land for the construction of popular housing.

"I don't want any money for me," Cabello had said.

The Inter-American Press Society (SIP) called it "the theft of the century of independent journalism".

El Nacional, founded in 1943 by the Venezuelan writer Miguel Otero Silva, ceased circulation in print in December 2018, after 75 years of history, including two decades of opposition to the governments of Hugo Chavez (1999-2013) and his successor Nicolas Maduro.

More than a hundred media outlets have closed since Maduro came to power, according to the NGO Espacio Publico.