Authorities in Venezuela have reportedly arrested a US freelance journalist after an early morning raid on his Caracas home by the country’s feared military counter-intelligence agency.
Cody Weddle, who freelances for the Miami Herald, the Daily Telegraph and ABC News, has been out of contact since 8am when the raid took place and his equipment was confiscated, according to a press workers’ union in Venezuela.
Weddle’s assistant Carlos Camacho, a Venezuelan national, was also detained after a raid on his home by the same counter-intelligence agency on Wednesday morning, reported the union, who catalogued 36 cases of journalists held this year.
Weddle is the latest in a string of foreign journalists to be detained in Venezuela. Last week Univision anchor Jorge Ramos and his crew were held while interviewing the country’s embattled president, Nicolás Maduro. They were released and deported shortly afterwards, while their equipment – including the recordings of the curtailed interview – were kept by authorities.
“The Maduro regime, desperate, is doing the only thing it knows to do: repress and censor,” tweeted José Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director at Human Rights Watch.
Maduro, who is fending off mounting international pressure to cede power to the opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó, detained two French journalists in January who were filming outside the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas. Numerous local journalists have been harassed in recent years.
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Florida senator Marco Rubio, long one of Maduro’s fiercest critics on the international stage, joined the chorus expressing outrage over Weddle’s detention on Wednesday morning. “US citizen & journalist Cody Weddle is missing in Venezuela and apparently arrested by the Maduro regime this morning,” he tweeted.
The move against Weddle worried several Venezuela analysts, who see little logic to Maduro’s authoritarian attacks against individual journalists.
“If [Weddle’s detention is] true, this is extremely problematic and a very dangerous move for the Maduro government to make,” Eva Golinger, a former adviser to Maduro’s late predecessor Hugo Chávez, tweeted. “Trump is waiting for any excuse to intervene,” she went on to say, in reference to the persistent threats leveled by the White House since it threw its weight behind Maduro’s ouster in late January.
Phil Gunson, a consultant with Crisis Group in Venezuela, seconded that concern. “Given the current state of relations between the US and Venezuela, having military intelligence arrest a US citizen, freelance reporter Cody Weddle, seems like unnecessary provocation,” he tweeted. “Who thought that would be a good idea?”