MIAMI, Florida. - The tense, 17-minute interview with Nicolás Maduro conducted by journalist Jorge Ramos in February was kept censored by the Venezuelan government - until Thursday.
Univision News was able to recover the February 25 interview in its entirety right up to the moment that Maduro cut it short and stormed off after he became upset by the line of questioning by Ramos. Venezuelan officials seized the interview, and Univision's camera equipment, and deported Ramos and the team of journalists who accompanied him.
"You come to provoke me. You're going to choke on your provocation. You are going to choke on your provocation with Coca-Cola," Maduro told Ramos when the journalist handed him a list with the names of 400 of the 989 political prisoners that human rights groups have registered in Venezuela.
That was only one of a half dozen threats and insults that Maduro launched against Ramos in response to his questions about the current humanitarian and political crisis in Venezuela, which has led to the exile of more than 3.5 million of its citizens as well as the emprisonment - and death - of hundreds more.
The tone of the conversation bothered Maduro from the first question: "You know, you are not the legitimate president. So, what do I call him? For them (National Assembly legislators) you are a dictator," Ramos told him.
Maduro answered the question waving a miniature copy of the Venezuelan Constitution: "You have to call me as the Constitution says. My name is Nicolás, I have only one name: Nicolás Maduro Moros. I am a worker, a simple man, by popular vote I have been elected and re-elected president. So, well, it's up to you how you want to call me," he said.
Maduro sought to dismiss the reasons why the Venezuelan National Assembly and more than 50 governments around the globe ceased to recognize him as the legitimate president, or the denounciations of fraud during presidential elections in 2013, the usurpation of legislative authority by he executive in 2015, and the allegations of fraud in the hastily advanced presidential elections in 2018 which resulted in the re-election of Maduro for six more years.
"You have to be a little more balanced," Maduro instructs Ramos, adding: "You are biased against the Bolivarian revolution. You are a right-wing opponent living in the United States, very anti-revolutionary. You're not just a journalist, Jorge."
Ramos employed the same incisive style with Maduro that he customarily uses to conduct his interviews with politicians and other powerful figures, his personal brand honed over a decades-long career. Maduro said he knew what he was facing: "I accepted your interview because I knew it would be like that," he said, before taking exception and bringing it to a halt.
"This interview, I tell you, does not make any sense to me or to you, did you hear? I think it's better to suspend it, did you hear? I thank you for everything, see you later," Maduro said as Ramos tried to show a video on his iPad filmed days earlier on the streets of Caracas, where children and adults are seen feeding directly from a garbage truck.
At minute 17:35 Maduro got up from his chair and ordered the temporary detention of the journalists and seized the material they had recorded until that point.
On Thursday's 6.30pm evening newscast, Univision News will broadcast part of the censored interview. The entire interview will be broadcast this Sunday, June 2, in the program Aquí y Ahora, at 7:00 pm (6:00 pm CT).