CARACAS, Venezuela – A prominent journalist on the Venezuelan island of Margarita was charged Monday with money laundering and will remain behind bars after publicizing a protest against President Nicolas Maduro.
Videos of the Friday evening protest, in which residents of a working-class neighborhood banged pots and hurled insults in Maduro's face, became an instant social media hit encapsulating the frustration many Venezuelans feel with the direction of the socialist-run economy.
Braulio Jatar, who is also a lawyer, helped spread news of the demonstration on his Margarita-based website, Reporte Confidencial, which supports the opposition.
His family said he was picked up by intelligence police early Saturday on his way to host his regular morning radio show. Police allege they found him with a suitcase full of cash.
The case has garnered attention beyond Venezuela's borders because Jatar holds a Chilean passport and his sister is editor of El Planeta, a Spanish-language media outlet in Boston. A Chilean consulate official was present at his court appearance Monday.
Ana Julia Jatar, in a video posted on Facebook, said her brother suffers from chronic hypertension that must be treated with medicine.
"If something happens to my brother, if he doesn't receive his medicines, it will be the government of Nicolas Maduro's fault," said Jatar, who is married to Ricardo Hausmann, a prominent Harvard economist and former Venezuelan planning minister who is a frequent target of Maduro's scorn.
The arrest has been condemned by press freedom groups and Venezuela's opposition, which has been decrying a crackdown on anti-government activists amid increasing agitation against Maduro.
Foro Penal, a human rights group, says dozens of people were arrested as a result of disturbances at an opposition-organized march in Caracas last week that drew hundreds of thousands of people into the streets to demand a recall referendum against Maduro go forward. A handful remain detained.