The Univision anchor Jorge Ramos and his five-person crew have been deported from Venezuela after they were detained in the presidential palace in Caracas during an interview with the embattled president, Nicolás Maduro.
The Mexican-born journalist said he and his crew were detained for two hours on Monday night after asking a question Maduro did not approve of.
The network’s US president Daniel Coronell said the team’s equipment as well as the material that upset Maduro were confiscated.
Ramos told Univision that Maduro took offence when the journalist showed the president images of Venezuelans eating out of the trash to prove people were living a humanitarian crisis.
On Tuesday, Venezuelan intelligence agents escorted Ramos and his crew to Caracas’s Maiquetía airport, where they left on a flight for Miami.
“They didn’t give us a reason” for the deportation, Ramos told reporters as he arrived at the terminal. “They just said to us last night that we had been expelled from the country.”
Ramos is arguably the best-known journalist in the Spanish-speaking world. He has gained particular notoriety for regularly locking horns with Donald Trump, who had him ejected from a press conference while on the campaign trail in 2015. The have since sparred over the US president’s proposed border wall among other contentious issues.
Maduro, who is fending off mounting international pressure to cede power to the opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó, has been accused of regularly detaining journalists. Last month, two French journalists were held after filming outside Miraflores. Numerous local journalists have been harassed or detained in recent years.
Venezuela’s information minister, Jorge Rodríguez – who is regarded by analysts as Maduro’s chief propagandist – suggested Ramos was a state department stooge in a tweet. “We do not lend ourselves to cheap shows,” he went on to say.
Maduro had until recently favoured interviews with friendly outlets, but in the last month has sat down with more aggressive reporters from the BBC and Eurovision, while an ABC crew also interviewed him on Monday.
The move against Ramos drew swift condemnation from Human Rights Watch, with the advocacy group’s Americas director, José Miguel Vivanco, calling for the immediate release of Ramos and his crew.
“The international community must be alert,” he tweeted on Monday evening, later adding that “Jorge Ramos and his team are surrounded by Maduro’s intelligence services (responsible for atrocities).”
Guaidó also attacked Maduro, tweeting that “the desperation of the usurper is each day more evident, he could even respond to [Ramos’] questions.”
The Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has drawn criticism from some international observers for refusing to back Guaidó.
The Mexican foreign ministry condemned the crew’s detention after their release on Monday night. “Our country calls for respect for freedom of expression and reiterates its obligation in defense of the security of Mexican citizens abroad,” a tweet read.
Univision is the largest Spanish-language network in the US. Ramos anchors its flagship nightly news program, Noticiero Univision.
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