Venezuela's embattled president was humiliated over the weekend when an angry crowd of local residents gathered in the street with pots and pans to chase him out of their small town of Villa Rosa.
But President Nicolas Maduro´s embarrassing moment turned into tragedy for journalist Braulio Jatar, who was put behind bars shortly after breaking the story. It's the latest sign that Venezuela's government is becoming increasingly intolerant to dissent and free press, as the country's economy falls apart and the socialist administration starts to lose control of the streets.
On Friday night, Jatar, a local radio host and news site editor, was among first reporters to publish these videos of Venezuelan President Maduro's ill-conceived visit to Villa Rosa, where he was clearly unwelcome.
The images show Maduro (wearing a white shirt and red cap) getting swarmed by protesters banging pots and pans (a form of protest known as a cacerolazo) as he leaves a poor neighborhood in Villa Rosa, a town that previously voted for the ruling party but where many residents now blame the president for the country's economic woes.
Shortly after the spontaneous protest happened, Jatar began to conduct interviews with local residents and published photos and videos of the incident on his website, Reporte Confidencial. The following day he was arrested by Venezuelan police as he headed to a local radio station for his Saturday program. According to family members, Jatar was not allowed to contact anyone for nine hours after his arrest, as the police denied they even had him in custody.
Eventually Venezuela's intelligence services acknowledged Jatar's arrest. His son says police came to their family home and conducted a warrantless search.
On Monday, Jatar was charged with money-laundering after officials said they found “large sums” of cash in his car.
Jatar's family says the money was planted. His niece, New York-based comedian Joanna Haussman, who does videos for Flama, claims her uncle is the latest political prisoner in Venezuela. According to the Venezuela Penal Forum, a human rights group, the country already has 92 political prisoners.
Jatar wasn't the only person arrested after Maduro's flop in Villa Rosa. The Penal Forum says more than 30 local residents were arrested after the protest. Most of them were released over the weekend, except for Jatar.
Political unrest and government crackdowns have been growing in Venezuela as the economy spirals out of control and food shortages worsen.
The Penal Forum says that 23 people were arrested last week during a massive anti-government protest known as “the siege” of Caracas. Several correspondents who flew into Venezuela to cover “the siege” were barred entry into the country, including reporters for Al Jazeera, NPR and Le Monde. A reporter for the Miami Herald was arrested in Caracas and expelled from Venezuela prior to the march.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.