An American freelance journalist has been detained by Venezuelan authorities in a raid on his Caracas home, according to a Venezuelan journalists union.
Cody Weddle has not been heard from within the last 12 hours, when he was detained by Venezuela’s feared counterintelligence service DGCIM along with his assistant, Venezuelan citizen Carlos Camacho, according to the National Union of Press Workers (SNTP).
Weddle has lived in Venezuela since June 2014, where he has reported for South Florida’s WPLG Local 10 News, The Miami Herald, ABC and CBC, among others.
WPLG, a CNN affiliate, said it was last in contact with Weddle yesterday afternoon, and they have been unable to reach him since.
His latest report for WPLG was on self-declared interim president Juan Guaido’s return to Venezuela.
Venezuela’s Ministry of Communication declined to comment. The US chargé d’affaires to Venezuela has also not responded to a request for comment.
Marco Ruiz, the president of SNTP, told CNN he spoke with three witnesses who were present when Weddle and Camacho were taken into custody.
SNTP has recorded 36 cases of journalists held in Venezuelan custody this year alone, part of a sweeping crackdown on dissident voices by President Nicolas Maduro’s regime.
Weddle is the latest in a series of foreign journalists to be taken into custody in Venezuela.
Last week, six Univision staffers, including veteran anchorman journalist Jorge Ramos, were briefly detained at the presidential palace in Caracas when a crew was interviewing Maduro.
Ramos and the crew members were released a few hours later, but their equipment, cellphones and interview material were confiscated, according to Univision spokesman Jose Zamora.
Maduro is under growing international pressure to relinquish power to Guaido, who has been recognised by Western countries and regional neighbors as Venezuela’s leader.
Meanwhile Cody’s mother, Sherry Weddle, told CNN that she had been in touch with the US Embassy in Caracas and that they were “following the procedures at this time to make contact with the military police or to make contact with Cody” and would get in touch with her “when they have any information.”
“I’ve also talked to several of our delegates here in Virginia [Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Morgan Griffith] and they are making contact also,” she said in a phone call.
“If I thought traveling to Venezuela would be of help, I’m ready to get on the plane but I’m awaiting for confirmation from the US Embassy to see what they know.”
Ms Weddle first learned about her son’s detention this morning from his contacts in Caracas, including someone in touch with his housekeeper.
She said she last spoke with Cody on Facebook messenger last night.
“Yesterday [I heard from him at] maybe about 6 or 7 yesterday evening and yesterday morning about 10, I asked him how he was doing, he said he was fine and wanted to know how I was.”
They last saw each other in September, when he came home for his 10 year high school reunion.
While a student at Virginia Tech, Weddle studied abroad in Ecuador and went back to the country after graduation to improve his Spanish. He later took a job in Venezuela.
The Venezuelan government today gave the German ambassador 48 hours to leave the country after he expressed support for opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza tweeted a statement saying Ambassador Daniel Kriener interfered in Venezuela’s internal affairs and allied himself with “extremist sectors” of the opposition.
Venezuela considers it unacceptable that a foreign diplomat would take on “a public role more appropriate to that of a political leader,” the statement said.
Kriener and some other diplomats greeted Guaido when he returned to Venezuela on Monday and vowed to intensify his campaign to topple the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
Waiting for Guaido at the country’s main airport, Kriener spoke to media and said he hoped the leader of the National Assembly would have a safe return. There were concerns that the opposition leader might face detention, but Maduro’s government did not move against him.
After Venezuela’s expulsion order, the German Foreign Ministry said in an emailed statement that it was coordinating how to proceed, “including with our partners on the ground.”
Maduro broke off diplomatic relations with the United States after it recognized Guaido as interim president in late January, initially giving American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country. The Trump administration refused to obey Maduro’s order.
The US, Germany and some 50 other countries have urged Maduro to resign so the country can prepare for elections. Maduro says he is the target of a US-backed coup plot.
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