Azócar–host of a political talk show on Táchira-based Televisora del Táchira, correspondent for the national daily El Universal in the western city of San Cristóbal, and author of the blog Gustavoazocar–was accused of irregularities in the assignment of a 2000 advertising contract. An outspoken critic of President Hugo Chávez, he was jailed in 2009 after posting information about the long-running case on his blog.
In March 2006, a state prosecutor in western Táchira ordered Azócar’s arrest for allegedly failing to appear before a local court. He was released 10 days later and allowed to continue to work, but was not allowed to leave the country or speak publicly about the legal proceedings against him. On July 29, 2009, however, a local judge issued an arrest warrant for him, stating that the journalist violated those conditions by republishing news reports about the case on his blog.
The first trial judge, Fanny Yasmina Becerra, was taken off the case without explanation in August. Becerra, who had overseen the case since May, was about to hear the trial’s final witness when the change was made, Azócar told CPJ. A new judge, José Oliveros, was assigned to the case on September 16. Oliveros announced he would begin a new trial and reaffirmed the decision to hold the journalist in custody throughout the proceedings.
Azócar was being held in the Central Penitentiary of the West in the Andean Táchira province. He said he was in good health, and told CPJ that prison authorities and other prisoners were treating him well. According to Azócar, two local journalists were in charge of his TV program while he was jailed and a handful of local journalism students kept up his blog.