Coconut Grove

Miami commissioners denounce Venezuelan TV owners

Miami commissioners have declared the owners of Venezuela’s Globovisión television station “persona non grata” in the city.

The resolution, drafted by outspoken former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo, who was recently fired as Doral’s city manager, was presented at Thursday’s City Commission meeting.

In the resolution, Carollo wrote that Miami should have an interest in denouncing Globovisión because its principals use the city as their playground, spending millions of dollars on high-end properties and cars, while remaining quiet on human-rights abuses in Venezuela.

Carollo, who attended the commission meeting, claims the television network ignores student-led protests in Venezuela, refusing to broadcast objective news about the protests and stifling information about human-right abuses by President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

“We are going to make clear that we don’t appreciate people oppressing human rights,” Carollo said.

The presence of station owners Raúl Gorrín, Gustavo Perdomo and Juan Domingo Codero in Miami and any other individuals complicit with the Venezuelan government should be declared “hypocritical, unwelcome and repugnant to the residents of Miami,” Carollo wrote in the resolution.

Commissioners voted unanimously. Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who was absent for the vote, wrote a letter that was read at the meeting supporting the resolution to snub Globovisión station owners.

The Globovisión owners could not be reached for comment.

The resolution is purely symbolic. A declaration of “persona non grata” is traditionally used by national governments to oust foreign diplomats.

It is not the first time the commission has inserted itself into an international issue to “send a message” with symbolic declarations that have no real effect.

Shortly after the February protests erupted in Venezuela, the commission passed a resolution that condemned the Venezuelan government “for using violence and intimidation against its political opposition” and urged the U.S. government to take diplomatic action.

In March 2010, the commission passed a resolution urging Congress to oppose cultural exchanges between Cuba and the United States, citing the Cuban government’s violation of basic freedoms and human rights.

Commissioner Wifredo “Willy” Gort said some people may ask why the city, a local entity, gets involved in international matters. Many of Miami’s residents are in exile from their homeland because of oppressive regimes, or are children of those in exile, he said.

“We understand what the people of Venezuela are going through,” Gort said.

The city’s symbolic stances have stirred controversy in the past.

In the early 1990s, the City Commission rescinded a resolution honoring Nelson Mandela after the late South African leader said he appreciated the support of Fidel Castro during his 27 years of imprisonment. The snub came days before Mandela visited Miami Beach.

The move was seen as disrespectful to the black community and led to a prolonged boycott of Miami by black-led firms and organizations.

This latest symbolic gesture was embraced by the commission and members of the public who showed up Thursday in support of the Venezuelan protesters. One group held up a banner that read “SOS Venezuela” and a Venezuelan flag in the commission chambers.

The Miami Herald’s Spanish-language sister paper, El Nuevo Herald, reported this week that Gorrín and Perdomo own properties in ritzy Cocoplum, with two homes valued at more than $4 million each. State records show the pair also own corporations registered to a two-bedroom-one-bathroom home in Miami.

After Carollo read aloud the address of the home with 14 corporations registered at that location, commissioners said the city’s code enforcement department will look into any possible violations.

“I think it is incumbent upon us as a city, as a city that represents Hispanics around the world, to speak up,” said Commissioner Francis Suarez.

Mayor Tomás Regalado said Globovisión is being used as a tool by Maduro’s government.

“The first step that a government takes to become a totalitarian regime is to take hold of the independent media,” he said.

A suggestion by City Attorney Victoria Méndez to tone down the language of the resolution by removing the term “persona not grata” was struck down by the commission.

Miami Herald interns Ayana Steward and Chabeli Herrera contributed to this report.

Related stories from Miami Herald