President Nicolas Maduro has a rather unlikely new villain as he campaigns to bring down Venezuela's spiraling crime: telenovelas. He accuses the TV soap operas of spreading "anti-values" to young people by glamorizing violence, guns, and drugs; the UN ranks Venezuela's homicide rate as the fifth highest globally. In his state of the union speech last week, Maduro specifically took aim at a popular soap De Todas Maneras Rosa, which features a psychopathic former beauty queen who fatally poisons her own mother to hide the paternity of her son. And last night, Maduro's VP met with broadcast and pay TV operators, warning that they could be in violation of a 2004 law mandating "socially responsible" programming.
It's unclear whether the government will take steps to restrict programming or impose harsher rules on telenovelas. One soap opera creator sees the campaign as a gambit to reinforce government control of the airwaves. Media self-censorship is already high after several years of the government imposing multimillion-dollar fines and even taking channels off the air for allegedly slanted coverage. "There are almost no guns in Venezuelan telenovelas," he said. "There are a number of things that aren't shown for fear of being fined." As far as guns go, the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence blames the country's bloodshed on the proliferation of illegal firearms, between 9 million and 15 million by the government's count, as well as the lack of punishment for those who commit crimes.