By Associated Press - Monday, February 25, 2019

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - 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 U.S., told The Associated Press 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 telephones, 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.

“They stole my work,” Ramos said. “My job is to ask questions.”

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 U.S. 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.

More than 50 governments around the world have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader after Maduro was sworn in for a second term last month following what the critics say was an illegitimate election.

Ramos has previously angered one of Maduro’s strongest critics: U.S. President Donald Trump, who famously had the journalist removed from a news conference on the campaign trail in 2015 when he asked about his anti-immigrant views toward Mexicans.

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