Exclusive: This WhatsApp group reveals wave of emotion around Venezuela's uprising

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By Camille Bello  &  Marta Rodríguez Martínez & Lillo Montalto Monella
Exclusive: This WhatsApp group reveals wave of emotion around Venezuela's uprising
Copyright  Reuters

They woke up to claims Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaidó had helped secure the release of political prisoner Leopoldo López and that, together, with the support of the military, they were preparing to oust President Nicolás Maduro from power.

Amidst emotion, fear and confusion — and a mistrust of the media — Venezuelans turned to their WhatsApp groups in search of more clarity.

One opposition-supporting Venezuelan family has shared with Euronews the conversation they had on their WhatsApp family group as tensions grew in the streets of Caracas. At the request of the family, we have changed their names.

We see the initial elation about the uprising before concerns about the internet going down prompt suggestions family members should use a virtual private network (VPN) for their access. It then slowly dawns on them that the hoped-for-coup may not be happening after all.

An investigation by the Pew Research Center in 2018 indicates only 33% of Venezuelans trust the government of Nicolás Maduro and it's a similar picture with the media.

According to Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), since Maduro came to power in 2013 "he has insisted on limiting the voice of the independent press and maintains permanent control over information".

"In 2017 and 2018, repression against the independent press intensified and RSF registered a record number of arbitrary arrests and violence against journalists by Venezuelan law enforcement and intelligence services," the organisation's report said.

The National Union of Press Workers of Venezuela claims that more than 100 media organisations were shut down in less than five years. The last one was Radio Caracas, whose shutdown was ordered by Venezuela's National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) on Wednesday.