Maduro's Military Detains, Releases U.S. Reporter and Aide
(Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan security forces detained a U.S. freelance reporter and his Venezuelan assistant Wednesday for questioning before both men were released, according to the nation’s union for journalists and local media.
Officers raided the homes of Cody Weddle and Carlos Camacho, arresting them and seizing their equipment, said Marco Ruiz, the general secretary of the National Union of Press Workers. The union and Espacio Publico, a Venezuelan organization that works for a free press, weren’t immediately able to communicate with the men.
The union known by the Spanish abbreviation SNTP said Weddle and Camacho had been taken to military-police headquarters in east Caracas, where both were interrogated. In early evening, Miami television station Local 10 reported that Weddle had been released and was at Simon Bolivar International Airport outside Caracas waiting to catch a flight back to the U.S.
Weddle’s outlet reported that he was being deported. This followed on the heels of the the press union reporting that Camacho had been freed.
‘Not a Crime’
President Nicolas Maduro’s autocratic regime has arrested 36 journalists and press workers this year, including Weddle and Camacho, according to SNTP. Last week, Maduro ordered Univision journalist Jorge Ramos held for hours in the presidential palace after he angered him with questions about hunger in the country.
Following the pair’s arrest, the U.S., which says Maduro’s presidency is illegitimate, had demanded that the government release them.
“The State Department is aware of and deeply concerned with reports that another U.S. journalist has been detained in #Venezuela by #Maduro, who prefers to stifle the truth rather than face it. Being a journalist is not a crime. We demand the journalist’s immediate release, unharmed,” Kimberly Breier, assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, said in a posting on Twitter.
National Assembly leader Juan Guaido also took to Twitter to demand the government free Weddle, “who was kidnapped by a regime that usurps functions and tries, without success, to hide the truth of what is happening in our country.”
Carlos Correa, director of Espacio Publico, said neighbors confirmed that the detention order came from a military court.
Weddle is a graduate of Virginia Tech University and his work has appeared in outlets such as the Miami Herald, WPLG-TV in Miami, the BBC and Al Jazeera English, according to his LinkedIn profile.
WPLG said in a story posted on its website that it last communicated with Weddle on Tuesday afternoon.
Neither Venezuela’s public prosecutors office nor the armed forces press office responded to requests for comment about Weddle.
(Updates to add pair released in first, third paragraphs; adds Guaido comment in seventh paragraph.)
--With assistance from Patricia Laya, Jose Orozco and Fabiola Zerpa.
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