The Story that Was Never Published About Venezuela
"The story was no longer about the border, it was about corruption, and the news network got scared as fuck"
I'm not going to name names, because that's tacky... and childish. Problem is, I'm childish. So I'll call her: G. Also, because of a confidentiality agreement I am bound to, I can't disclose the name of the news network that bailed on airing this story. So, unfortunately, I'll have to refer to it as "The Network."
It was August 2015 and stupid-out-of-his-mind-garbage man, Nicolás Maduro (President of Venezuela), closed the border between Colombia and his corruption-ridden country. The reason? who the hell knows. It's always about a ridiculous tantrum the "commander in chief" feels like throwing. The point is, as a freelance journalist, who happened to be in Venezuela at the time, I pitched a story about family.
Hundreds of families, who used to transit from Colombia to Venezuela on a daily basis, now were forbidden to cross from one country to the other. Think about it. You live in a small-ass town in Venezuela but can walk 5 minutes over to a bigger town in Colombia where you can find everything from HARINA PAN, to a decent education. Not any more. And that's what G loved about the story.
I traveled like any other Venezuelan would: aware that every fucking flight would, by default, be delayed and that it would take for freaking ever to go from A to B. But I made it to Ureña, the border town between Venezuela and Colombia's Cúcuta.
CNN, the NY POST, NY TIMES and, of course, the BBC (how are the British always everywhere?) had been there already. It took me a week after the border closed to get to location from Caracas and by then the action had passed.
So I was about to lay back and have a big bottle of cheap booze when my neighbor (I was staying at a friend's apt building) knocks on the door and introduces herself as a mother who had seen her own son escape from the motherland by crossing borders illegally. She said she had to bribe the "Venezuelan National Guard" in order to get her son through. The story was no longer about the border, it was about corruption, and the news network got scared as fuck.
"I literally crawled through a river of shit just to get the story. It cost me time and a pair of pants"
Well, alright. There's a story no one had. People were paying off the National (fucking) Guard in order to cross from Venezuela to Colombia for what nowadays are about $10. As you see in the video, I called the contact (a moto taxi) who got me though all the check points. The only way between borders was a river everyone referred to as "la trocha" (which might as well translate to "The Sewage"). I literally crawled through a river of shit just to get the story. It cost me time and a pair of pants.
It was, from a sick journalistic point of view, perfect. I crossed the border illegally — just to prove a point — right before a mother met with her two kids, finally escaping from who knows what kind of hell. I had a story.
I threw away the pants, had a cheap bottle of booze for dinner and traveled back to Caracas the next day. I spent two weeks editing the piece you are now watching (hope you are) before G, the story editor from the News Network, tells me that "her boss" has told her that "the network cannot air the piece based on the content, as the journalist has attained the story by crossing the Venezuelan/Colombian border illegally." The Network did not want to risk its "stand" with the Venezuelan government based on an online story produced for its failing online show.
Two weeks of revised cuts and conversations end on a "we'll pay you 50% of the agreed amount." MSNBC gave me, then, the rights to the piece but it was too late to get it sold to any other network as it had been more than a month since the closing of the border.
So here it is... the story that MSNBC did not feel comfortable airing. Months after the issue at hand. The story still showcases the outstanding levels of corruption within the National Guard. In this country, those who are supposed to protect you will let you do just about anything for a couple of bucks.