Friday
April 28, 2017

after reporting of a cacerolazo against president maduro

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Detained journalist slapped with money-laundering charges in Venezuela

Braulio Jatar, detained in Venezuela following cacerolazo video, accused of money laundering

CARACAS — A prominent journalist and lawyer jailed on Venezuela’s Margarita island was charged yesterday with money laundering, according to family and a rights group, following his arrest after publicizing a protest against President Nicolás Maduro.

Videos published by activists, purportedly from the locality of Villa Rosa, showed scores of people banging pots and pans, jeering and chasing the socialist leader down the street as he visited the island on Friday evening.

More than 30 people were briefly detained, activists said on Saturday.

The arrests were just the latest in a crackdown by the embattled socialist government as officials seek to stamp out efforts by the opposition to stoke popular pressure over the holding of a recall referendum to oust Maduro from power.

The video, depicting local residents taking the rare chance to hurl insults in Maduro’s face, became an instant social media hit encapsulating the frustration many Venezuelans feel with the direction of the socialist-run economy.

Last week, authorities rounded up 25 opposition activists and supporters in the days running up to a massive anti-government march in the capital.

Further marches have been called over the next few weeks to keep anti-government sentiment building. The recall effort comes amid daily, blocks-long food lines and inflation topping 700 percent.

The incident came as the opposition has been stepping up its campaign for the referendum to recall Maduro, who says a coup is being planned against him.

All those held in Margarita were released after a few hours except Braulio Jatar, 58, who was picked up on Saturday morning on his way to host his regular morning radio show, according to his family.

They knew nothing about his whereabouts until hours later when intelligence agents came to the family home and searched it, allowing them to send him clothes, according to his sister, Boston-based Ana Julia Jatar, 60.

Opposition ups pressure

On Thursday, hundreds of thousands of people marched peacefully through Caracas to demand the right to vote on a recall of Maduro, the successor to Hugo Chávez, whose popularity has plummeted due to a brutal economic crisis.

Of 163 people detained in relation to Thursday’s protests, 29 remain behind bars, according to local rights group Penal Forum. Five of them have been formally charged.

That brings the total of political prisoners in Venezuela to 93, said Alfredo Romero, the director of Penal Forum.

The opposition is looking to build the momentum of protests against Maduro with more demonstrations this week planned outside of the capital.

Still, it was Maduro’s hostile reception during the walk-about on Margarita Island that may give the opposition the biggest boost.

“We’re interested in reinforcing what’s happening from Caracas to the rest of the Venezuelan provinces,” opposition alliance secretary Jesús “Chuo” Torrealba said yesterday in comments broadcast on the Globovision television network referring to the events planned for tomorrow. “Some are calling it the Villa Rosa effect.”

Six-hour protests scheduled for tomorrow will focus on areas outside of Caracas, as the opposition demands that the National Electoral Council publish the conditions needed to start collecting signatures for a referendum to remove Maduro from power. In Caracas, residents will be asked to support the protest by stopping for 10 minutes around lunchtime. The opposition needs to collect signatures from 20 percent of the electorate to trigger the vote.

“We just gathered over a million people in Caracas, and it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to call another mobilization of such a scale after such little time,” Torrealba said. “This (September 7) in Caracas, there will be 10 minutes of protest. Wherever you are, whether it be at home or in the office, in traffic or on the metro, we’re going to stop for 10 minutes.”

Meanwhile, Jatar’s defence lawyer Diomedes Potentini protested the journalist’s mysterious detention.

“There was no crime and they did not present any evidence,” Potentini said in an e-mailed response to questions.

— Herald with Reuters, The Washington Post

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