A team of American journalists led by Univision's Jorge Ramos said they had their camera equipment and phones seized at Venezuela's presidential palace after Nicolas Maduro abruptly ended an interview Monday. Ramos, one of the most influential Spanish-speaking journalists in the US, told the AP late Monday that Maduro cut short the interview after 17 minutes when he was shown video on an iPad shot a day earlier of young Venezuelans eating food scraps out of the back of a garbage truck. The Univision team left the Miraflores palace after two hours without having their phones, footage, or four cameras returned, Ramos said. He said they were informed by intelligence agents that they would be deported Tuesday, when they were already scheduled to return to their base in Miami. "The hotel we are staying in is surrounded by Venezuelan authorities, we cannot go outside," a member of the team tweeted, per CNN.
Venezuela's government denied Ramos' account. They accused him of trying to stage an international incident after a senior State Department official and Sen. Marco Rubio relayed reports on social media of what they called Ramos' detention at the same time an interview shot earlier in the day with US network ABC was being aired. "Hundreds of journalists have passed through Miraflores and received the same decent treatment we give all those doing journalistic work," Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez said on Twitter. Ramos, who interviewed Maduro's mentor, Hugo Chavez, three times, said Maduro accused him of siding with the government's opponents in the political fight for power now raging in Venezuela. "They interrogated us. They put us in a security room. They turned off the lights," he said on Univision, via phone. "They have stolen our work." (Rubio recently made headlines for apparently threatening Maduro on Twitter.)