Venezuelan Intelligence Services Detain Influential Journalist

Strongman Nicolás Maduro’s intelligence forces in Caracas have detained Luis Carlos Díaz, one of Venezuela’s most prominent journalists who had been covering the country’s political turmoil and the ongoing electricity crisis. He has been missing since 5:30 am Monday.

News of his arrest sparked a Twitter firestorm with hashtags such as #DóndeEstáLuisCarlos and #WhereIsLuisCarlos. According to the country’s National Press Workers Union, Venezuela’s intelligence service SEBIN raided Diaz’s home in the morning and was taken to El Helicoide, one of the most feared political prisons. Agents confiscated cell phones and a hard drive at Díaz’s residence.

His wife, Naky Soto, said that Diaz was arrested when he was biking home from his job at Union Radio network. During a TV broadcast, Diosdado Cabello, one of the top officials of Maduro’s socialist party PSUV, accused Díaz of plotting against the country with a “blackout operation” that had caused power outages in some areas of the country. However, Cabello did not provide any evidence of the matter.

Following Díaz’s arrest, the Maduro regime said two people had been captured due to a cyber attack against the country’s electric gridlock, Bloomberg reported. Díaz’s apprehension has drawn condemnation. Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted Monday: “A few days ago, drug lord Diosdado Cabello threatened journalist Luis Carlos Díaz. Yesterday he was abducted by the Maduro regime secret police, SEBIN. Free Luis Carlos.”

Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, who was briefly detained and deported by Maduro forces in late February, wrote on Twitter that “Maduro’s dictatorship is too sensitive to the pressure of social media. These hours are crucial to keep the pressure and achieve the release of Luis Carlos.” In light of the arrest, Human Rights Watch José Miguel Vivanco said in a tweet that “the dictatorship thinks that jailing journalists can hide the truth about its corruption, brutality and ineffectiveness.”

Juan Guaidó, Venezuela’s interim president, also demanded the journalist’s release as he was getting ready to lead a rally against Maduro, local press indicated. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet Jeria requested “urgent access” for the Caracas-based technical mission to visit Díaz, local newspaper El Universal reported. “I am deeply worried about the alleged arrest,” she said via Twitter.

The arrest occurs as Venezuelans have been grappling with electricity outages for almost six days. Although some states have begun reestablishing power, a great swath of the country remains in the dark, even causing serious concerns for public health and safety. Guaidó told CNN Monday that at least 17 people have died as a result of lack of power, but it is challenging to obtain an accurate death toll due to the regime’s stringent control of information.

According to Chile-based NGO Espacio Público, at least 50 journalists have been detained in Venezuela so far this year. Other journalists have suffered the unclenching fist of the regime: German journalist Billy Six was detained and arrested at El Helicoide since November 2018. Last month, Caracas-based Telemundo journalist Daniel Garrido was also retained for hours when he was covering the arrest of Univision’s Ramos.


About the Author

Robert Valencia is the breaking news editor for The North Star. His work as editor and reporter appeared on Newsweek, World Politics Review, Mic.com, Public Radio International and The Miami Herald, among other outlets. He’s a frequent commentator on foreign affairs and U.S. politics on Al Jazeera English, CNN en Español, Univision, Telemundo, Voice of America, C-SPAN, Sirius XM and other media outlets across Latin America and the Caribbean.