When reporter Ben Zand was dispatched to report on one of the most deadly capital cities in the world – Caracas, Venezuela – he knew it might be dangerous.
But what he didn’t bargain for was hostility to the BBC so great that one community commander threated to chop his penis off.
Luckily he escaped with his manhood intact but he was in constant fear of abduction – even being told he would be good target in rare interview with a notorious kidnap gang.
Venezuela is a country in turmoil with law and order collapsing, hyperinflation crippling the economy and record levels of crime and murder on the street.
Documentary maker Ben travelled to the country earlier this year to try to understand what life is like in the unstable country.
His experiences form part of a new documentary series on BBC focusing on the world’s most dangerous cities.
Whilst in Venezuela earlier this year Ben visited a " Colectivo" – one of the groups set up by the late president Hugo Chavez to "protect" socialism.
The groups have assumed more power in the country’s current turmoil and have been linked to kidnapping, murder and extorition.
They are suspicious of foreign media but Ben did not expect the threat he got when questioning the leader of one group.
Visiting the "January 23rd" community of 1,3000 families which among other things has created it’s own currency to try to look after members Ben said: "I was nervous kidnapping was a common theme and I wasn’t sure I was going to be making it back.
"These guys have created their own community and it’s impressive and frightening in equal measure."
He met the chief of the community commenting "He is quite a scary guy I’m not going to lie to you, I don’t want to get on the wrong side of him."
During the interview Ben asked the leader what he thought about the view that his idol Chavez might have had a negative effect on the country and if the capital was dangerous in his view.
Clearly incensed by the line of questioning he responded: "It is possible you are here to try and antagonise us."
He then made an action with his fingers like a knife cutting off something and Ben realised he said he’d cut his penis off.
He then ended the interview and ushered the film crew away.
But worse was to come when he went to interview violent kidnap gang.
He was warned by his translator that if he said the wrong thing the gang would have no qualms about killing him.
To protect the gang Ben and his team were told to leave their phones behind keep their camera hidden and were taken to a house to meet the gang on the back of motorbikes then searched at gunpoint for tracking devices.
Throughout the interview the gang members wore bandanas over their faces and waved their guns around.
The gang joked that Ben would be a good person to kidnap because he was a reporter.
Explaining a typical scenario they told him: "The best ones are the businessmen.
"First we study them for two or three weeks, then we get a car and snatch them up.
"Then we tie them up and ask for the ransom, it depends how rich the businessman is, $1,000 or $2,000 dollars."
Waving his gun, the man said: "This is how we survive, this is how we get food for our families.
"By dealing drugs and kidnapping. However messes with us, we will kill them.
"At first when you do it you get upset then it becomes routine.
"This is our life, there is nothing else you can turn to."
Also in the show Ben goes to the scene of a recent murder and is shocked to see people walking past a dead body lying on a roadside verge as they head to work – seemingly anesthetized to the obvious horror.
Afterwards he said: "I was pretty shaken after the trip, the interview with the gang was one of the scariest I’ve done."
BBC Three’s World’s Most Dangerous Cities with Ben Zand will be available online on iPlayer on Saturday August 8.
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