Jared Leto mentioned both Venezuela and Ukraine in his acceptance speech for his Oscar for best supporting actor, but the young protesters in Venezuela who he referenced couldn’t watch his speech live.
“To all the young dreamers watching tonight in places like Ukraine and Venezuela,” he said as received the award for his role in the film Dallas Buyer’s Club, “As you struggle to make your dreams happen, to live the impossible, we’re thinking of you tonight.”
But his speech wasn’t televised in Venezuela itself. The network that traditionally airs the awards in that country–the pro-government channel Venevision–didn’t do so tonight.
For the past couple of days, the nation’s young, media-savvy protesters took their anti-government campaign to Hollywood with the hashtag #OscarsforVenezuela, pleading with celebrities who were likely to be onstage to address the crisis.
On Oscar Sunday, celebrities like Kelly Osbourne and Kevin Spacey tweeted about the crisis in Venezuela, which has claimed the lives of at least 18 people, most of whom were killed during protests.
Jared Leto retweeted several tweets in support of the Venezuelan protest movement in the days before the ceremony, such as this one:
The social media campaign started late last week with photos of the Oscar statuette wearing a gas mask or a family of four wearing gas masks while watching the Oscars at home. The gas mask symbolizes tear gas; which riot police under the Government of Nicolás Maduro have used to suppress the student protests that have paralyzed Venezuela for the past 16 days.
Maduro’s government addressed the campaign on Saturday. Delcy Rodríguez, Venezuela’s Minister of Communication and Information, tweeted, “Right-wing extremists are lobbying in Hollywood, looking for pronouncements against Venezuela at the Oscars!”
The Oscars have traditionally been broadcast on Venevision, Venezuela’s biggest network, which used to be critical of the government until 2004, when it changed its editorial line. Still it came as a shock when, Sunday afternoon, the network announced that it wouldn’t be broadcasting the popular award show.
The network tweeted this at 2:05 pm:
Queremos informar que este año no tenemos los derechos de transmisión de los Premios Óscar.— Venevision (@venevision) March 2, 2014
@Venevision: “We would like to inform that this year we don’t have the rights to air the Oscars.”
It’s uncertain whether the decision was a direct result of the students’ social media campaign. But it was the first time in 39 years that Venevision didn’t air the Oscars.
Some Venezuelans were able to watch the Academy Awards on TNT, but only those who have DIRECTV on cable, which is a small percentage of the population.
While the protesters succeeded in getting their message to the Oscar’s stage, their real challenge remains: to get their message across to poorer Venezuelans who might not have watched the Academy Awards in the first place.