MEDELLIN, Colombia – Venezuelan journalist Sergio Contreras is convinced that in his homeland freedom is not a right but rather a whim of the Nicolas Maduro regime, something that he said he realized during the 60 days he spent under arrest for participating in a demonstration and which motivated him to go into exile.
Contreras, who is also a professor at the Andres Bello Catholic University, this week arrived in Medellin, Colombia, to participate in the mid-year meeting of the Inter-American Press Association, where in an interview with EFE he told about his arrest and the odyssey of his trip of more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) from Caracas to the Colombian city of Cucuta.
“A year ago, when I was in charge of the social networks for El Nuevo Pais newspaper, I was jailed by the Bolivarian National Police for participating in a public demonstration, like thousands of Venezuelans,” he recalled about his arrest on May 10, 2017, amid the anti-government street protests besetting Venezuela.
He was turned over to the Sebin national intelligence service, then to the Military Counterintelligence Directorate and convicted on a bogus charge of weapons possession in a military court “with all the procedural defects you can imagine.”
He was charged with betraying the homeland, military rebellion and stealing army weapons and spent 60 days in the Ramo Verde maximum security military prison but since prosecutors could not back up the charges he was released, in part due to the fact that the Caraota Digital media outlet had videotaped his arrest.
In Ramo Verde, Contreras got to know opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez because they were put together in the same 2x2-meter (6.5x6.5-foot) cell known as “The little tiger.”
He said that “Venezuela is sunk into a deep repression and an unscrupulous use of the public framework to repress and persecute any democratic idea,” adding that “freedom is a whim of the regime ... nobody has their freedom guaranteed, the political leaders don’t have it, nor the journalists, nor any of the citizens.”
Contreras decided to send his pregnant wife and his 9-year-old son to Spain and leave the country himself to request asylum.
He traveled across half of Venezuela by car to the border city of Cucuta, from where he was taken to Medellin to attend the IPA meeting, and from where he intends to fly to Spain.