Jorge Ramos, the Univisión news anchor who was detained in Caracas by Nicolás Maduro on Monday evening and deported on Tuesday, said he and his team were interrogated by Venezuelan security forces before being released.
Ramos, who arrived back in Miami on Tuesday, was interviewing Maduro Monday at the Miraflores Palace, the presidential palace in the country’s capital.
Ramos, speaking by telephone from Caracas Monday night after he was released, told Univisión viewers: “About 17 minutes into the interview, he didn’t like the questions we were asking about the lack of democracy in Venezuela, about tortures to political prisoners, about the humanitarian crisis and he left the interview after I showed him a group of young people collecting food from a trash can on the street.”
Maduro ordered the journalists to be detained by the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Sebin), and their equipment confiscated. They were interrogated for about 2 1/2 hours in a dark room, Ramos said. The security forces took their cellphones, equipment and personal belongings, he added.
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“What has happened is an act of repression, a violation of international law, a violation of our right as journalists to ask any questions,’’ said Ramos, after he returned to Miami. “The bottom line is that our job is to keep asking uncomfortable questions to those in power. If we do not ask those uncomfortable questions, we’re not doing journalism.”
Ramos said the first question he asked Maduro was if he should call him president or dictator. Maduro has been under siege since late January when the head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, declared he was the interim president under Venezuela’s constitution and called for new elections.
Maduro, Ramos said, took out a copy of the constitution and told him that he was the constitutional president.
Ramos reminded him that for millions of Venezuelans he was not, and that Guaidó and the National Assembly did not view him as the country’s rightful president.
Another tense moment of the interview was when Ramos asked him about “El Pollo” Hugo Carvajal, retired general and former Venezuelan intelligence chief who told the New York Times that Maduro was responsible for hundreds of deaths.
Carvajal recently recognized Guaidó as president and called on the Venezuelan armed forces to rebel against Maduro.
Ramos said he then showed Maduro the video of young people feeding on garbage and calling for the end of Maduro’s government.
“The images of the boys were recorded 10 minutes from Miraflores. We were not looking for them. These boys, very brave, gave us their name. That is the group that the Chavistas wanted to have controlled, but they do not have them anymore, “ Ramos said.
Angered, Maduro refused to look at the video and tried to close the iPad, Ramos said.
“It was very important for me to be able to call Maduro a dictator in Miraflores. When Maduro gets up and leaves, I said, ‘You are not answering the questions.’ What you are doing is not [a democratic leader], it is a dictator,” the journalist said he told him.
According to Ramos, Maduro’s communications team did not set conditions for the interview.
“Maduro thought he was going to win the interview,” Ramos said in Miami. “He has done several interviews with international media recently and has done relatively well. He thought he could win all those interviews.”