Venezuela president Maduro ‘detained journalists’ after they showed him video of people eating rubbish

Univision reporters say interview ended after 17 minutes with their equipment confiscated

Venezuelan men eat food from back of rubbish truck

A team of American journalists said they were detained at Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s palace after he abruptly ended an interview when they showed him a video of people eating rubbish.

The group, led by Univision’s Jorge Ramos, was freed shortly after but their equipment was confiscated by Venezuelan officials, according to the network’s US president, Daniel Coronell.

Mr Ramos, in a phone interview with Univision after he was released, said the interview with Mr Maduro lasted about 17 minutes.

“He didn’t like the things we were asking him about the lack of democracy in Venezuela, about torture, political prisoners, the humanitarian crisis that they were living,” he said.

But the breaking point came, Mr Ramos said, after he showed Mr Maduro a video of people eating from a rubbish truck.

“Immediately after, one of his ministers, Jorge Rodriguez, came to tell us that the interview was not authorised,” Mr Ramos said.

All their equipment was confiscated, including their cameras and mobile phones, Mr Ramos added. He said he was then using a phone that was not his. He and his team were questioned for more than two hours, he said.

Mr Ramos said the interview they recorded was also taken. “The interview, they have it,” he said.

Journalists allegedly detained by Venezuelan president Nicholas Maduro after showing him a video of people eating rubbish

Another Univision reporter, Enrique Acevedo, later tweeted out the video he said Mr Ramos showed Mr Maduro.

“These are the images that Jorge Ramos showed to Nicolas Maduro and provoked him to get up from the interview,” Mr Acevedo wrote in Spanish. “This is what Maduro doesn’t want the world to see.”

On Monday evening, Kimberly Breier, the US assistant secretary of state for the region, said on Twitter that the State Department had received word that Mr Maduro was holding Mr Ramos and his team against their will.

“We insist on their immediate release; the world is watching,” she said.

An hour after Ms Breier’s announcement, the Univision News Twitter account posted a picture of Mr Ramos after his release on the phone at his hotel.

But Jorge Rodriguez, Venezuela’s information minister, criticised the group from Univision, writing in a tweet that hundreds of journalists who have visited the presidential palace were treated well.

“We do not offer ourselves to cheap shows,” he said.

In another tweet, Mr Rodriguez seemed to accuse the State Department of stoking controversy.

Responding to Mr Rodriguez, Senator Marco Rubio compared the Venezuelan official to “Baghdad Bob”, the spokesperson for Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

The response from other US politicians, many of whom have been fiercely critical of Mr Maduro’s government and supportive of his challenger, Juan Guaido, was swift.

Senator Rick Scott said Mr Maduro was “losing his grip”.

“Detaining reporters is unacceptable. He should think carefully about his next steps and release them now,” he added

Senator Bob Menendez called Mr Ramos “a living legend, truth-teller and democracy fighter” and said his detention was “despicable and will not stand”.

While the administration voiced its support for Mr Ramos in the tangle with Mr Maduro, the Univision anchor has disagreed with Donald Trump in the past.

In August 2015, Mr Ramos interrupted then-candidate Mr Trump during a news conference in Iowa.

“I’m a reporter, an immigrant, a senior citizen,” Mr Ramos said, hoping to ask a question about Mr Trump’s immigration policies. “I have the right to ask a question.”

“Go back to Univision,” Mr Trump replied, before ordering a bodyguard to remove Mr Ramos from the room.

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After protests from other reporters in the room, Mr Trump allowed Mr Ramos to return, but their back-and-forth escalated until Mr Trump reminded Mr Ramos that he was, at the time, suing Univision for an alleged breach of contract involving Mr Trump’s Miss Universe pageant.

The network cancelled plans to broadcast the pageant because of Mr Trump’s incendiary comments about Mexican immigrants.

“How much am I suing Univision for right now?” Mr Trump asked. “Do you know the number? I know you’re part of the lawsuit.”

“I’m a reporter,” Mr Ramos said.

Washington Post

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