As thousands of pro-government Twitter accounts were suspended Thursday afternoon, Nicolas Maduro’s administration expressed outrage at the infringement upon freedom of speech. Many of those accounts belonged to the government and its officials including ministries and a state governor and several socialist journalists and supporters. At the same time these tweets were silenced, the president lost more than 6,000 followers on the social media site in one fell swoop.

Although neither a reason nor a culprit has been discovered, Maduro blamed the international right wing. According to Venezuelanalysis.com:

Information Minister [Delcy] Rodriguez…said that the government had already lodged an official complaint with Twitter, explaining, “We’re going to go to the official mechanisms…because we demand an explanation. We’re also going to call the world for a movement that supports us so that they give us our accounts back…we’ll see each other [the government and Twitter] between lawyers”.

Meanwhile, Maduro accused Twitter of collaborating with opponents of the Bolivarian revolution to attack his government.

“We have discovered a massive attack by the company Twitter and the international right-wing against the accounts of Bolivarian patriots and Chavistas…from various countries in the world,” he said on national television last night.

The president argued that the alleged attack was due to that fact that he and the government use the social network as a means to inform the Venezuelan people, and claimed that the conservative opposition was “practising for something”.

“The Venezuelan opposition want to cause a set of events of great magnitude, a negative impact on the economy, society and peace of the country, so that the [municipal] elections of 8 December are suspended,” Maduro said.

So far…no prominent opposition figure or journalist has publicly commented on the alleged online attack. Likewise, de facto opposition leader Henrique Capriles and pro-opposition journalists Nelson Bocaranda and Leopoldo Castillo have not mentioned the incident on their twitter accounts.

According to pro-government independent news website Aporrea.org no similar activity of a sudden loss of followers or closure of accounts has occurred to opposition figures on Twitter.

The opposition’s stance was attacked by pro-government lawmaker Pedro Carreño, who said, “Squalid [pro-opposition] journalists talk of freedom of expression and then see the censorship of [social] network accounts as normal”.

Pro-government figures also called upon supporters to double the number of Twitter followers lost and intensify organising efforts ahead of the 8 December municipal elections.

Information Minister Rodriguez called the incident a “massive attack” that should be “denounced as such,” stating her belief that the suspension of these accounts was an attempt to cut the world off from the “truth about the [Bolivarian] revolution,” which the Venezuelan government has spread via social media since the late Hugo Chavez opened his Twitter account in 2010.

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi

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