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Journalists Detained for Reporting on Caracas Mayor Arrest

Following the shocking images of Venezuelan secret service (Sebin) agents storming the office of Antonio Ledezma, Mayor of Caracas, the Socialist national guard has heightened its surveillance of journalists, cameramen, and even bystanders with recording equipment to prevent further compromising images from being shared on social media.

Witnesses report Sebin and national guard agents are alert monitoring the area outside of the secret service building, detaining and questioning reporters for several hours. Gabriela Salcedo, a journalist for Venezuelans VenTVNoticias and her cameraman were arrested and questioned for three hours. Upon being released, Salcedo recounted her side of the story.

Sebin agents, Salcedo noted on Twitter, stopped her and her cameraman because of their alleged loitering outside of the building. While some news outlets have claimed that the journalists were there looking to find more information on Ledezma’s arrest, Salcedo herself said on Twitter their presence there was a coincidence. “I inform you that they asked us to issue declarations after finding us standing before the Sebin [building] in Plaza Venezuela (because of the traffic light) and suspecting us of taking photos.” She noted that agents told her they were “attentive” to anyone attempting to use recording equipment within the vicinity of Sebin headquarters.

Venezuelan newspaper El Universal reports that Ledezma was held for several hours at Sebin headquarters after his arrest, which surveillance footage shows was an all-out siege in which witnesses say Ledezma was dragged out of his office “like a dog.” Authorities later explained Ledezma had been arrested for nebulous “conspiracy” charges, implicated in a “coup” attempt, according to a nearly three-hour speech by President Maduro on Friday night.

Ledezma’s arrest sent shockwaves through the Venezuelan dissident community, which had gathered in the nation’s capital earlier in the week to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the arrest of Leopoldo López, the head of the Popular Will opposition party. López has yet to properly stand trial after being arrested for organizing a protest against Maduro’s Socialist government on February, 12, 2014, in which a number of peaceful student protesters were attacked. In addition to López, Ledezma joined Daniel Ceballos in prison. Ceballos is the Mayor of San Cristóbal, the regional capital of Táchira, the westernmost state in the nation. Táchira, which borders Colombia, has become the most actively resistant province in Venezuela and the scene of much of the National Guard’s violence against peaceful student protesters. San Cristóbal itself is home to many of the nation’s colleges.

According to Andrés Pastrana, former President of Colombia and prominent advocate for the opposition in Venezuela, there were 83 confirmed prisoners of conscience behind bars in Venezuela earlier in the week. According to human rights workers, Ledezma becomes the 98th confirmed Venezuelan political prisoner.

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