Plenary speech on Venezuela

Mr President, the Venezuelan government has unjustly tried to limit free expression and pluralism in the media and on the Internet. These desperate attempts to censor information and expression remind me of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s behaviour. In fact President Hugo Chávez calls Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a friend – and with friends like these, who needs enemies, one might wonder. Yet the fact that Chávez considers Twitter and text messaging as acts of terrorism shows us that he considers people and the free flow of their ideas and opposition as his enemy. I am a user of Twitter and text messaging, I have to confess, but in Europe, thankfully, we consider free expression a fundamental and universal right, including on the Internet. Limiting digital avenues to expression, information and the exchange of ideas is testimony to the Venezuelan government’s fear of its citizens and their call for an end to violence and oppression. The successful mobilisation of citizens can be seen in the example of Oscar Morales, who set up a Facebook group called ‘A million voices against the FARC’ with the hope of collecting one million people online. He soon mobilised 12 million people to protest on the streets all over the world calling for an end to FARC’s violence. This movement was fuelled by citizens using technology as a vehicle. Trying to limit this vehicle is not only unjust, it will also prove ineffective.