The First Arrests in the Odebrecht Case...are of journalists looking into it.

As the government detains and deports journalists for doing their jobs, we apparently need to repeat things that ought to go without saying: taking bribes is a crime, reporting it isn’t.

Leandro Stoliar

Yesterday at noon in Zulia State, the secret police (SEBIN) arrested journalists Jesús Urbina and María José Túa, managers and activists for NGO Transparencia Venezuela. Brazilian correspondents Leandro Stoliar (pictured above) and Gilson Souza de Oliveira (reporting for Rede Record, a Brazilian TV network) were also arrested as they were gathering information on the site of the second bridge over Maracaibo Lake —Nigale Bridge— one of many unfinished projects, one of many jewels in Odebrecht’s corruption crown.

In peace and with dogged perseverance, the people of Transparencia Venezuela perform the invaluable task of keeping tabs on corruption.

Although Venezuela ranks second in Latin America in the company’s bribe-o-meter, according to its former president Marcelo Odebrecht, the Venezuelan government has remained impassive in the face of this enormous scandal. Its silence has no parallels in the region.

Agents arrested and escorted the journalists to SEBIN’s Maracaibo headquarters, for an “interview”. Several hours later, lawyers from the Human Rights Committee who were accompanying them said that the interview had morphed into a “preventive detention”. The authorities confiscated their mobile phones, reviewed the material they’d been reporting and restrained them without charges, which is a severe violation of their Human Rights.

In peace and with dogged perseverance, the people of Transparencia Venezuela perform the invaluable task of keeping tabs on corruption, a colossal problem in our country. After ten hours of unjustified arrest, the Venezuelan journalists were released.

Their Brazilian colleagues, however, remained in custody until Sunday, when they will be forced to leave the country.

Jesús Urbina is a noble teacher, a respected journalist and a man I admire personally for those and other reasons.

I’m extremely concerned by the ordeal these journalists are going through merely for doing their job: investigate and document an unfinished public work, promised by el finado in 2005 and scheduled for inauguration in 2010.

This new injustice takes place just a month after the arrest of lawmaker Gilber Caro, who’s yet to be presented before a court while he’s kept in an extremely dangerous prison. Caro’s case gives you the pulse of the regime’s abuse. If they breached a lawmaker’s parliamentary immunity and are treating him like a prisoner, it’s impossible to be optimistic about the fate others might face.


Naky Soto

Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.