Venezuelan Writer, 69, Arrested for Posting About Politician Attending Party During COVID

Venezuela
A Venezuelan writer was arrested after she accused an official of attending a wedding where Covid-19 protocols were not followed. The Venezuelan flag. Michele Eve Sandberg/Corbis via Getty Images

Venezuelan writer Milagros Mata Gil was arbitrarily detained on Wednesday by Venezuelan authorities after she posted on Facebook about a wedding that allegedly spurred dozens of COVID-19 cases.

Mata Gil's post, "The Deadly Party," accused Attorney General Tarek William Saab of attending a massive wedding in the city of Lechería, where about 800 people were reportedly present without following COVID-19 safety protocols, Tal Caul reported. Saab was elected by the government of President Nicolás Maduro, who is fighting to be considered the country's legitimate leader.

#Venezuela || Fueron detenidos la periodista y escritora Milagros Mata Gil y el poeta Juan Manuel Muñoz por el CONAS en el estado #Anzoátegui.#DaleLetra#InformarNOEsDelito pic.twitter.com/QyXa5Ptx1p

— @SegoviaBastidas (@SegoviaBastidas) April 1, 2021

According to the Caracas Chronicles, Mata Gil posted Wednesday afternoon on Facebook that officials were looking for her where she resides in El Tigre, Anzoátegui, and that poet Juan Manuel Muñoz, known as Moriche, was already in their custody. Moriche reportedly managed a WhatsApp group that contains "sarcastic and offensive comments about Saab and his family," according to Tal Caul.

"I haven't done anything," Mata Gil wrote, adding that five armed men had tried to take her earlier that day but she had not been home.

Hours later, after she voluntarily accepted authorities' summons, Mata Gil posted again that she and Moriche would be held over night and taken to a hearing for "incitement to hatred and [by] order of Tarek [William] Saab," NTN 24 reported.

Lawyer Jorge Márquez, who is representing both Mata Gil and Moriche, said a hearing would take place either Thursday or Friday, according to the Chronicles.

Mata Gil, 69, was born on April 17, 1951 and will soon turn 70 years old, according to one report by Letralia. Her age matters: as reported by NTN, Gonzalo Himiob, vice president of the non-profit organization Foro Penal, tweeted that according to Venezuelan law El COPP, Article 23, people over 70 years old cannot be held in jail.

Tanto Milagros Mata Gil como Juan Manuel Muñoz “Moriche”, son mayores de 70 años. El COPP (Art. 231) prohíbe que se les dicte detención preventiva en cualquier centro de reclusión. En última instancia, solo pueden ser sujetos a medidas cautelares o a arresto domiciliario.

— Gonzalo Himiob S. (@HimiobSantome) April 1, 2021

In "The Deadly Party," Mata Gil wrote the wedding was a possible cause for a COVID-19 outbreak in the country that has caused more than 600 cases, according to Tal Caul. Venezuela reported 1,348 new COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the Chronicles.

Mata Gil wrote that the wedding organizer was reportedly suffering coronavirus symptoms, but continued working at the event because they would not turn down the high-paying business.

The article does not cite how Mata Gil got the information about the wedding as rumors about the excessive party have flooded social media. On March 22, a video of the wedding went viral showing guests dancing without wearing masks or maintaining social distancing. Tal Caul reported that other media outlets confirmed a man in the video was Saab.

Como pueden ver, al fiscal disfrutando de la boda Síria en Lechería, donde no hubo ningún tipo de protocolo de seguridad pic.twitter.com/pQhFkNh8AW

— 🇻🇪Neylhe Medici🇻🇪 (@NeyMedici) March 22, 2021

"Towards obscenity and secret pursuits of pleasure," Mata Gil's post read. "Let's not forget the matter of agreed suicides. The decadence. The decadence. And it's still missing. But of this, they paid some consequence."

Mata Gil is a member of the Venezuelan Academy of Language and a researcher of Venezuelan literature.