It’s undeniable that Americans have been fed a continuous stream of disinformation about Venezuela since the days of Hugo Chavez. The United States has repeatedly made its disdain for Venezuelan socialism clear, going so far as to back a 2002 coup attempt against Chavez.
Critics of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America (including El Tecolote) have been inclined to defend Chavismo, even now as it’s being wielded much more clumsily by Venezuela’s current president Nicolas Maduro. But we find the recent detainment by Maduro of six Univision staffers, including respected veteran journalist Jorge Ramos, to be really troubling.
“We were detained, there is no other way to describe it,” Ramos told El Tiempo. “We were detained for more than two hours in the Miraflores Palace (Venezuela’s Presidential Palace). He wanted us to board a government bus, something that we refused to do. And when we were all together, we waited for our own transportation and we left for our hotel in Caracas.”
And the reason for this detainment? Ramos and his crew were in Venezuela to interview Maduro, but the interview went in a direction the Venezuelan President wasn’t happy with.
“I asked him whether he was a president or a dictator, because millions of Venezuelans don’t consider him to be a legitimate president; about Juan Guaidó’s accusations that he [Maduro] is a usurper of power; about what the opposition considers a fraudulent election in May 2018; about the accusation by one of his intelligence officials that he was responsible for hundreds of deaths.”
When Ramos asked Maduro about a video of a young Venezuelan men eating out of a garbage truck, the Venezuelan President stormed out of the room. Ramos and crew were detained shortly thereafter. In addition to being held in the palace, their cameras were confiscated, along with their memory cards and cell phones. Ramos said that all of the information from his phone was erased.
Now Ramos’ questions were obviously meant to provoke, but so what? In a free society he, as a journalist, should have the right to ask them. That’s why Maduro’s behavior is so alarming.
The people of Venezuela are suffering, that much is indisputable. But as the corporate American media and Venezuelan state-run media push dueling contradictory narratives, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between authentic news and propaganda. Yes Maduro has been the target of an orchestrated campaign to delegitimize his presidency, but that doesn’t justify the way he has reacted.
We as a newspaper denounce any attempt to censor those who dedicate their lives to reporting and telling the truth. This goes for all elected officials—from Donald Trump or Nicolas Maduro—who attempt to use their position to intimidate journalists.
The bottom line is that If Maduro wants to be respected as a democratically elected leader, he should be behaving like one.