Members of the Florida congressional delegation are among those criticizing incidents this week in the Venezuelan capital where a Miami-based anchor for the Spanish-language network Univisión was detained for several hours and a journalist for Telemundo went missing for nearly a day.
Univisión anchor Jorge Ramos had been in the presidential palace in Caracas, interviewing President Nicolás Maduro, when Ramos showed him a video of people on the street scavenging for food from garbage trucks. Ramos asked Maduro to comment on reports like the one in the video, which showed Venezuelans were going hungry and resorting to extreme measures to find food. Maduro walked out; a Venezuelan official appeared and told Ramos and his crew that the interview “was not authorized.” They were escorted to what Ramos later described as a “security room” and all their equipment was confiscated.
Ramos and his colleagues were detained for more than two hours, then escorted to their hotel and placed under surveillance until they were allowed to leave the country the following day.
Ramos later told Noticias Univisión that Venezuelan authorities had taken their equipment’s memory cards.
“They stole our work.They don’t want the world to know what’s happening in Venezuela.”
U.S. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) called the incident completely outrageous.
“Nicolas Maduro is losing his grip. Detaining reporters is unacceptable,” Scott tweeted.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), has been a vocal critic of Maduro — recently traveling to Venezuela’s border with Colombia to show support for Juan Guaidó, Venezuelan National Assembly president, as leader of the country — stated, “One sign of a dying dictatorship is that it’s (sic) top leaders become increasingly paranoid.”
In an interview with the South Florida Media Network, U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL) called the situation in Venezuela “a nightmare” and a “huge threat” to the national security interests of the United States.
“It’s a regime that’s more desperate every day, that feels weakened every day, and is more isolated every day, and that is going to continue to get more pressure from the United States and our allies every day.”
Ramos was not the only international journalist that ran into trouble covering events in Venezuela. The Spanish-language network Telemundo says one of its reporters, Daniel Garrido, was kidnapped this week by a group of unidentified men who forced him into a vehicle and covered his head with a hood, questioning him for several hours before freeing him without any explanation and without his equipment.
The Washington-based National Association of Hispanic Journalists said it is investigating the incidents and working with other journalism groups to ensure the safety of fellow journalists.
“In addition to President Maduro’s complete disregard for press freedom, this is another display of a current trend by his administration to only protect those who are willing to spread lies and the propaganda of government officials,” the NAHJ said in a statement.
Ymaris Tejeda is a reporter in the South Florida Media Network’s Washington, D.C., Bureau.