Maduro held a press conference this afternoon in which he fielded questions from a group of journalists.
One question came from journalist from the Agence France-Presse (AFP). When the journalist asked Maduro for comment on the case of the two firefighters charged with instigating hate earlier this week for recording a video in which they pretended that Maduro was a donkey, the president lashed out angrily and belittled the journalist. Maduro suggested that the press conference “was not the right place” to ask the question, and then asked if the journalist had been instructed by “France” to ask the question.
Below, the exchange as it played out live on television:
Journalist: Now, I want to leave the issue of economics to ask your opinion about the arrest of two firefighters in Merida [state] for sharing a video on social media in which they satirize you, as well as [the fact that] they were charged with instigating hatred. I’d like to know your opinion about this–
Maduro: Do you really think that this a question you can ask in this press conference? Are you a journalist?
Maduro: Where did you get your degree?
Journalist: In the UCAB [Universidad Catolica Andres Bello, located in Caracas].
Journalist: Well, I’m asking you because–
Maduro: –if you, as a professional, think that asking a president that question during an international press conference… I don’t know where you got that question from. Did the French tell you to ask that?
Journalist: No, the question came from me.
Maduro: From you?
Maduro: Ah, can you imagine that? I won’t answer your question.
Maduro: Because this isn’t the right place [to ask that question].
Journalist: Alright, that’s fine.
Maduro: This isn’t the right place.
Journalist: About the financing…
Maduro: You’re out of your league.
Journalist: Alright, that’s fine.
Maduro: You’re going to go viral on social media.
Journalist: I have no aspirations to become viral on social media. In any case, about the financing. Are the five billion dollars [on loan from China] only related to the oil industry, or, which areas would that financing apply to? And the second question is, do you plan to attend the upcoming United Nations General Assembly?
Maduro: I already answered the first question. The second, this isn’t the right place to ask it. And the third [sic], well, I’m evaluating it because you know that I’m targeted for assassination, right? I’m evaluating the security needed to go to New York. I want to go. But I have to look after my security.
EDIT: My original translation incorrectly had the journalist saying “I have aspiration to become viral on social media” [sic]. This is incorrect. The journalist in fact said “I have no aspiration to become viral on social media.
Maduro, and his regime more generally, have a long history of abuses and aggression towards journalists and media.
Reporters Without Borders ranked Venezuela 143/180 in terms of press freedom for 2018, down six points from 2017. According to the organization, the Maduro regime has “distinguished itself for its authoritarian excess”, and now “constantly” harasses independent media, and submits journalists to arbitrary detentions and assault.
Maduro Acknowledges Salt Bae Experience
Upon his arrival in Venezuela from his trip to China, Maduro briefly acknowledge his stop-over in a luxurious Turkish restaurant operated by internet sensation Salt Bae.
Maduro said that while he was flying back to Venezuela, he was invited to the restaurant by Turkish authorities. According to Maduro, he was in Istanbul for only two hours., giving him just enough time to experience the opulent establishment.
On meeting Salt Bae himself, Maduro said:
He personally looked after us. He’s a very friendly and happy man.
Salt Bae–whose real name is Nusret Gökçe–became an internet superstar last year when videos began to appear online showing him slicing meat in a style that has since become his signature.
Salt Bea shared five videos of Maduro’s visit to his restaurant on his Twitter and Instagram accounts last night, but deleted them a few hours later after an onslaught of negative response to the encounter.
Maduro’s visit to the restaurant caused worldwide ire given the severity of the Venezuelan crisis. In the videos, Maduro and first lady Cilia Flores can be seen enjoying Salt Bae’s performance and his meat. In one video, Maduro enjoys a cigar while receiving a gift from Salt Bae.
The event even drew the attention of United States Senator Marco Rubio, who tweeted the address and telephone number of Salt Bae’s restaurant in Miami, and encouraged readers to call him to express their disgust with his apparent friendship with Maduro:
DEA Intercepts 533 Kilograms of Venezuelan Cocaine in Puerto Rico
Drug enforcement authorities confirmed yesterday that they had intercepted a boat carrying 533 kilograms of cocaine off the coast of Patillas, Puerto Rico. The boat–measuring 28 feet in length–came from Venezuela, the authorities confirmed.
According to Puerto Rican media, island authorities in conjunction with assets from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) conducted the interception, and arrested two individuals as a result.
The shipment has an estimated street value of $13 million.
Below, an image of the confiscated cocaine:
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