A Moscow security official says he believes the United States is planning a military intervention in Venezuela. The claim comes after US reporters accused the Venezuelan government of holding them against their will.
A Russian security official said on Tuesday he believed Washington was planning to intervene militarily in Venezuela.
Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, said Moscow had agreed to a US proposal to hold talks in Venezuela — a Russian ally — but that the US had postponed them on "false pretenses."
"The United States is preparing a military invasion of an independent state," Patrushev said in an interview with Russian weekly newspaper Argumenty i Fakty.
"The transfer of American special operations forces to Puerto Rico, the landing of US forces in Colombia and other facts indicate the Pentagon is reinforcing its troops in the region in order to use them in an operation to remove ... Maduro from power."
US journalists briefly detained in Venezuela
Patrushev's comments come on the heels of accusations that the Venezuelan government held a reporting team from a Spanish-language US television network against their will for more than two hours.
Univision anchor Jorge Ramos was interviewing President Nicolas Maduro when an altercation took place that he says led to their brief detention.
Ramos claims that he and his team were locked up in a security room where the lights were turned off and that their cellphones were confiscated.
"He did not like the things we were asking him, about the lack of democracy in Venezuela, about torture, political prisoners, about the humanitarian crisis that is going on," Ramos recounted, saying that he showed Maduro a photo of young men eating out of the garbage.
According to Ramos, the photo prompted Venezuela's acting president to abruptly leave the interview and shortly after, the team was stripped of their equipment and personal items.
The anchor spoke by phone with Univision news and the network aired the footage that allegedly drew Maduro's ire.
Journalists set to be deported
US State Department official Kimberly Breier announced the team's detention on Twitter. "The State Department has received word the journalist Jorge Ramos and his team are being held against their will at Miraflores Palace by Nicolas Maduro. We insist on their immediate release; the world is watching," Breier said.
Venezuela's Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez denounced Univision on Twitter, arguing that the government has welcomed hundreds of journalists at the Miraflores presidential palace. But Rodriguez said Caracas did not support "cheap shows," orchestrated with the help of the US Department of State.
Venezuela's Press Workers Union said on Twitter that members of Venezuela's security services had surrounded the hotel where the journalists were staying and had notified the team that they would be taken to the airport in the morning, as part of deportation procedures.
Univision is one of the largest Spanish-language broadcasters in the US. Ramos, of Mexican origin, is one of the network's most prominent anchors and is known for his tough and confrontational style during his interviews.
In 2015, he was ejected from a press conference of then-candidate Donald Trump, after he refused to sit down and continued to press Trump over his pledge to deport undocumented immigrants from the US.
kw,jcg/jm (Reuters, dpa, EFE)