The news that a U.S media outfit was detained in Venezuela on Monday during an interview with the country’s President Nicolas Maduro is rather unfortunate.
THE NEW TODAY is categorically stating from the onset that Mr. Maduro has crossed the line where democracy is concerned and should be treated as a leader who is lacking in common decency and is prepared to use repressive means against those who hold differing views.
Why would you allow someone into your home and then detain him? Doesn’t this remind us of the brutal slaying of the dissident Saudi journalist who entered his country’s Embassy in Turkey and was murdered minutes later by Saudi intelligence officials?
This is what the BBC reported on Monday night about the Caracas incident: “US broadcaster Univision says its team was briefly detained in the Venezuelan presidential palace where they had been interviewing President Nicolás Maduro.
The incident happened after award-winning journalist Jorge Ramos showed Mr Maduro images of Venezuelans eating from a bin lorry, the network says. Their equipment was confiscated.
Venezuela’s Information Minister Jorge Rodríguez said the government had welcomed hundreds of journalists but it did not support “cheap shows”.
Univision, the leading Spanish-language TV network in the US, said the six-member crew had been released after almost three hours but that their recording and personal belongings had not been returned.
Speaking on Univision, Mr Ramos said Mr Maduro “had not liked” some of the questions about “the lack of democracy in Venezuela, torture, political prisoners and the humanitarian crisis”.
“He (Maduro) got up after I showed him videos of young people eating out of a bin lorry,” he said of the interview at the Miraflores palace in the capital, Caracas.
“What I told Nicolás Maduro is that millions of Venezuelans and many governments around the world don’t consider him a legitimate president but a dictator.”
During their detention, Mr Ramos and Univision Vice President María Martínez were kept for “a few minutes” in a separate room where the lights were turned off, the broadcaster said.
Mr Ramos, a veteran Mexican-born American journalist, is known for his confrontational style of questioning. In 2015, he was thrown out of a news conference of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump”.
THE NEW TODAY holds the view that it is one thing to throw a journalist out of a press conference as what Trump did but it is a vastly much different thing to detain a journalist and hold him against his free will for asking uncomfortable questions as is the case with President Maduro.
It should be noted that this incident in Caracas comes on the heels of planned activities by a group of leftwingers in Grenada to mark the 40th anniversary of the so-called glorious Grenada Revolution.
Those of us who are old enough will remember the dark and repressive days of curtailment of press freedom and human rights by those same revolutionaries who sought to throw out Western democratic norms and traditions on the island and replace it with a new doctrine called communism/Marxism with the backing of Cuba and the then Soviet Union.
Those were the days when the independent Torchlight newspaper was closed down by the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of the late Maurice Bishop and Bernard Coard, a Methodist minister was deported, and the Catholic Church was infiltrated by a known revolutionary figure under the guise of joining the Priesthood.
The Grenadian Voice newspaper was born during the revolutionary period and its founders, the late Leslie Pierre, Lloyd Noel, and former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas were detained without charge or trial as political prisoners at the Richmond Hill prison until the October 25, 1983 military intervention by U.S and Caribbean troops to end Grenada’s bloody flirtation with the Marxist-Leninist philosophy.
The island’s best known journalist internationally, Alistair Hughes who was associated with the Grenadian Voice was not detained but was constantly harassed on a daily basis by armed youngsters who should really still be in school instead of walking around with guns.
There was one occasion when a youngster burst into the then Cable & Wireless building on the Carenage where Mr. Hughes had gone to post his stories for those regional and international media houses that he worked for and was set upon in broad daylight by the thug who was assigned to monitor his activities.
The armed youngman held onto the back of Mr. Hughes’ pants and dragged him out of the cubicle where he was filing his reports and took the script away from him.
There are many of us in Grenada who lived through the dark period of human right abuses and curtailment of press freedom during the 1979-83 era and can understand what Maduro is up to in Venezuela.
Unfortunately, his small band of backers and admirers in Grenada including Foreign Minister Peter David and veteran trade unionist Chester Humphrey are very silent about Monday’s event at the Palace in which media people were detained and their equipment and personal belongings confiscated by a repressive regime that has purchased several Caribbean leaders through PetroCaribe dollars.
The rest of the world cannot stand idle by and do not condemn these acts of repression by Maduro in Venezuela.
A solution is urgently needed to the current political, economic and financial crisis in Venezuela to bring back law and order and good governance to the country.
Maduro has had enough time to help resolve the situation and all possibilities should be looked at in order to create a better future and life for the people of Venezuela who are under the worst hardship in the modern history of this once oil-rich South American republic.