Venezuelan YouTuber released after ‘terrorism arrest’

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Screengrab of a post demanding the release of Oscar Alejandro PérezImage source, Fundacion Venezolana Por la Libertad

A Venezuelan YouTuber who uploads travel videos has been released after being held for 32 hours following his arrest at Caracas airport on Sunday.

Venezuela’s Attorney-General Tarek Saab said US-based YouTuber Oscar Alejandro Pérez had been arrested over a video he uploaded last year.

Mr Saab alleges that in the video, the influencer urges blowing up a financial building in Caracas.

After his release, Mr Pérez said he would never disturb the public order.

The YouTuber, who has close to two million followers, said the sentence Mr Saab had referred to had been taken out of context.

In the video, he points to a high-rise building housing and says: “That lit-up building behind us is Credicard Tower.

“Curious detail: all the servers for Venezuelan credit and debit cards are in there. If a bomb were to be thrown at that building, the whole national banking system would collapse.”

In a message uploaded after he was freed, Mr Pérez said he was sorry if the clip had been misconstrued.

He insisted he loved his home country and said that any attacks on a financial institution would harm his family as well as him, something he would never entertain.

Mr Pérez was arrested as he was about to board a flight to Canaima, a national park in the south of Venezuela which is home to Angel Falls.

He was freed on Monday on condition he make himself available to prosecutors and the courts if they summon him, Attorney-General Saab said.

The YouTuber’s arrest was the latest in a wave of arrests of individuals which have included human rights advocates and political activists. Most of them have been charged with “terrorism” or inciting hate. Mr Saab did not clarify exactly what Mr Pérez was arrested on suspicion of.

In most cases, those arrested have been active members of the opposition coalition or outspoken critics of President Nicolás Maduro’s government.

It is more unusual for Venezuela’s attorney-general, who is a close ally of President Maduro, to accuse a YouTuber of trying to destabilise the country.

However, tension has been on the rise in the run-up to July’s presidential election, in which Mr Maduro is running for a third consecutive term.

The previous election in 2016 was widely dismissed as neither free nor fair, and the opposition leader, María Corina Machado, has accused the president of trying to handpick who will stand against him in this election.

Ms Machado has been barred from running for political office and her replacement has been blocked from registering as a candidate.

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