Venezuela: Maduro regime falsely accuses Voz Media journalist Orlando Avendaño of 'instigating hatred' and calling for rebellion

Avendaño, exiled in Colombia, is a renowned Venezuelan investigative journalist who has been targeted on numerous occasions by the Maduro regime.

Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek Williams Saab, who plays a key role in the Nicolás Maduro regime, issued an arrest warrant this Monday for Voz Media editor and journalist Orlando Avendaño under the false accusation of "incitement" of hatred.

Saab accused Avendaño of calling for insurrection in Venezuela. He based this on a post on X (formerly Twitter) from earlier this month that was clearly taken out of context. In the post, the Voz Media journalist praised the opposition leader, María Corina Machado, for encouraging Venezuelans to get to the polls at a time when they are fighting to recover democracy in their country.

The Maduro regime's attorney general, who is leading a crusade against Machado's party and her political group, Vente Venezuela, posted a photo of Avendaño with former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, who was a well-known critic of the Maduro regime. They tried to link the journalist with Maduro's enemies to justify persecuting the Voz Media journalist.

"Well, this Orlando Avendaño appears next to this guy (…) You have to have truly toxic blood to hang out with that 'insufferable' Uribe. Because there are many half-crazed Venezuelans who, just for attention and credibility, want a photo with Uribe. As if that were a war trophy. Well, know that that is in itself, due to the way things are presented, the indication that something bad is being plotted," said Maduro's attorney general, who then proceeded to make the official accusation.

Saab read one of Avendaño's posts from March 5. The Voz Media journalist said that the mood around María Corina Machado is "insurrectional," referring to the fact that Venezuelans will go to the polls to support an opposition leader who is actually standing up politically against the Maduro regime.

However, the attorney general's office distorted the context of the post and used it to accuse Avendaño of instigating hatred on social media.

"In other words, the electoral thing is like, let's say, the watering down, because deep down they are looking for something insurrectional," Saab said about the post. "Likewise, other policy messages from legitimately constituted authorities call for their elevation, etc. In this sense, we have appointed the 19th National Attorney General's Office to investigate this subject, who is wanted for inciting hatred, a crime that he was convicted of and confessed to."

During his speech, Saab not only revealed that the regime's attorney general is investigating Avendaño but also issued a severe international threat against the journalist.

"This subject currently works for a far-right media outlet in the United States, obviously aligned with the most extremist sectors of that country. We currently have him located, I am not going to reveal where," said Saab.

At the end of his accusation and threat, human rights defenders accused Saab of threatening the journalist's physical integrity.

"Tyranny and its executor of systematic repression and persecution threaten journalist Orlando Avendaño saying: 'We have him located,'" said renowned human rights lawyer Tamara Suju. "Tarek William, what does this mean? That what happened to Lieutenant Ojeda could happen to him? Are they going to have him kidnapped and take him to Venezuela even though he is Colombian? Reporting and taking a photo with Uribe is not a crime."

Suju referred to the case of Venezuelan soldier Ronald Ojeda, who was kidnapped and murdered in Chile last month under strange circumstances. At the moment, there is only one suspect for this crime, a teenager of Venezuelan nationality; however, various press reports link the Maduro regime with the murder of Ojeda. The family of the former lieutenant has accused the Maduro regime before the International Criminal Court.

Avendaño, exiled in Colombia, is a renowned Venezuelan investigative journalist who has Colombian nationality and has been targeted on numerous occasions by spokespersons for the Maduro regime.

Days before Saab's indictment, a senior official in the Maduro regime, Jorge Rodríguez, congressman and brother of Vice President Delcy Rodríguez, used Avendaño's post to link Vente Venezuela and María Corina Machado with subversive activities.

Likewise, the regime's number two man, Diosdado Cabello, who is accused and wanted by the United States for drug trafficking, has insulted the Voz Media journalist on numerous occasions on his TV program.

The accusation against Avendaño comes at a time when the Maduro regime is intensifying its persecution of those with opposing beliefs. The next presidential "elections" are scheduled for July 28. However, due to the lack of electoral integrity, the international community is concerned about its legitimacy.

In recent months, the regime has accused various activists, journalists, and opinion leaders of leading subversion plans against Venezuela. Avendaño is the latest of them.

Orlando Avendaño responds to the accusations of the Maduro regime

In a video posted on his X account, Avendaño denounced that, at noon in Venezuela, officials of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) raided his family's house in the state of Valencia, seizing all electronic equipment.

"Around noon this Monday, April 1st, a group of officials of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service broke into my parents' house with a search warrant. They were looking for me. They came in, took the electronic equipment, cell phones, etc. A few minutes later, the regime's prosecutor, Tarek William Saab, announced in a press conference that there was an investigation against me,"  Avendaño stated, who later defended himself against the accusations.

"They accuse me of three things. The first, for a tweet I wrote several weeks ago in which I speak of an insurrectional spirit. The second, that I am paid by María Corina and that I am part of a Vente Venezuela operation. The third one, that I am part of a much bigger conspiracy of assassination with former President Alvaro Uribe from Colombia. Let's see, this is completely false."

"Regarding the first point, yes, I said in a tweet several weeks ago that in Venezuela there was an insurrectionary mood. Yes, and I do not take it back. The simple fact of wanting freedom implies a gesture of rebellion. Wanting to vote implies a gesture of rebellion. Wanting to elect a candidate implies a gesture of rebellion. That's what I meant," the Voz Media journalist countered. "But I don't have to explain it. Anything is good for them to grab hold of and invent all this. I have not spoken of conspiracy, I have not spoken of violence, I have not spoken of any of that. Yes, this is an authoritarian system and wanting to be free is a gesture of rebellion. That is what I referred to."

Subsequently, Avendaño affirmed that he has no contractual or commercial ties with opposition leader María Corina Machado or her work team.

"No, my support to María Corina in any case is completely organic and autonomous. And as autonomous I have the freedom when I see something as I have done so far, that I do not like, to say so. When I have a criticism or a dissent, to express it. I am not paid by María Corina. I am only paid for my work, and by the way, I am honored to work in a media like Voz Media where freedom is protected, respected and promoted," said the Venezuelan journalist.

Finally, Avendaño referred to his relationship with former President Uribe, affirming that, for him, it is an honor to be able to meet and talk with the historic Colombian leader.

"Regarding the third point, the only thing I have for former President Alvaro Uribe is my respect and admiration for what he has done for Colombia, for saving Colombia. It is not a crime to meet Uribe, nor to take a picture with Uribe, nor to sit and talk with Uribe. On the contrary, it is a privilege that honors me," said Avendaño.