and detain two employees
HAVANA TIMES – On October 20, at about 9 a.m., agents from the Venezuelan Intelligence Service raided the headquarters of Correo del Caroní. The independent newspaper is located in the southern city of Puerto Ordaz. The agents confiscated a computer and documents, and barred the paper’s lawyer from the scene.
The agents left at about 3 p.m., and took journalist María Ramírez Cabello and administrative employee Susana Reyes into custody. Editor Oscar Murillo spoke with the Committee to Protect Journalists via messaging app.
Murillo said the agents held the two employees at the intelligence service’s regional headquarters and interrogated them for about six hours. They were not allowed access to a lawyer. They were finally released without charges at 9:40 p.m. He said the agents returned the confiscated documents but not the computer.
Previously, on October 12, intelligence agents raided the home of Correo del Caroní founder and director David Natera Febres.
“Venezuelan authorities must stop harassing Correo del Caroní, its owner David Natera Febres, and its employees. They should be allowed to work without interference or intimidation,” said CPJ Central and South America Program Coordinator Natalie Southwick.
“It is astounding that the Maduro government chooses to devote resources to fight the independent press. Instead it should bring everything it has to mitigate the economic, social, and health crises that continue to decimate Venezuela.”
Maduro considers independent journalism terrorism
Both raids were conducted under an order from Judge Carol Padilla from the Special Court, which has jurisdiction over terrorism-related crimes, according to a report by the paper and Murillo, who reviewed a copy of the court order during the October 20 raid. Murillo said the order did not specify any alleged crimes committed by the newspaper or its employees.
After the October 12 raid on Natera Febres’ home, intelligence agents detained him They interrogated him for over four hours without a lawyer present, and then released him without charges.
In the interrogations of the outlet’s owner and of its employees, Intelligence Service agents asked questions about the operations and management of Correo del Caroní, and the outlet’s alleged relationship with Natera Febres’ son, David Natera Bilancieri, Murillo said.
Natera Bilancieri was recently appointed as a member of the National Council of Judicial Defense, a body established to support an interim government that would be led by opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
In 2015, CPJ documented how restrictions on Correo del Caroní’s newsprint limited the paper’s ability to operate. In 2016, a judge sentenced Natera Febres to four years in prison for criminal defamation, fined him, and barred him from leaving the country in relation to the newspaper’s investigation of alleged corruption at a state-run mining company, as CPJ documented.
CPJ called Venezuela’s office of the vice presidency, which supervises the intelligence service, but no one answered the call.