Venezuelan authorities detain and deport US journalist | News | DW | 07.03.2019
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Venezuelan authorities detain and deport US journalist

The Venezuelan government questioned Cody Weddle about a segment on dissatisfied military officers that aired last month. A Caracas-based NGO said 49 journalist detentions have taken place in the country this year.

US journalist Cody Weddle was held for more than 12 hours by Venezuela's security services, Miami-based Local 10 news broadcaster reported on Wednesday. Venezuela's National Union of Press Workers (SNTP) confirmed the detention and said Weddle would be deported.

The incident is the second dispute between a US journalist and the government of acting President Nicolas Maduro since he became embroiled in a power struggle with interim President Juan Guaido, which drew significant worldwide media attention to the beleaguered nation.

Last week, prominent US-based Mexican anchor Jorge Ramos was detained for two hours at the presidential palace after Maduro abruptly cut short an interview. Ramos was subsequently deported.

Read more: Venezuela's foreign journalists hamstrung by visa problems

Deported for critical coverage

The 29-year-old Weddle was detained along with his Venezuelan assistant Carlos Camacho, who was also held for some 12 hours before being released.

Local 10 reported on Twitter that Weddle was questioned about a February 25 segment he had produced for them. "They were interested in a story I did about the current atmosphere in the armed forces," Cody is quoted to have told Local 10. In the reporting, a former soldier tells the story of disaffected soldiers in the Venezuelan army.

Following his detention, Representatives of SNTP, a union and watchdog for press freedom in Venezuela, reported on Twitter that they were able to speak with Weddle, that he was in good condition and had received a deportation order. The journalist will leave Caracas on Thursday at noon.

SNTP noted that Weddle had been working in Venezuela for five years. His disappearance on Wednesday was also reported by Venezuelan press freedom NGO Espacio Publico.

"We know that members of the military intelligence directorate appeared at his home this morning to ask him questions about his coverage," Carlos Correa of Espacio Publico told the AFP news agency.

The NGO has denounced 49 journalist detentions in Venezuela so far this year, with 12 taking place in January and 27 in February.

Read more: German-Venezuelan businessman expresses hope for homeland

US applies more pressure

As Weddle's detention was unfolding, the US announced another round of punitive actions against the Venezuelan government. Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday that the White House planned to revoke the visas of officials and family members connected to Maduro's government.

Read more: Venezuela and the US: From friends to foes

"Today the State Department is announcing that the United States will revoke 77 visas, including many officials of the Maduro regime and their families," Pence said in Washington.

"We will continue to hold the Maduro regime accountable until freedom is restored in Venezuela," he added.

The vice president accused the Cuban government of propping up the embattled Venezuelan acting president. "The truth is the only way Maduro clings to power is with the brutality of his supporters and with the help he receives from communist Cuba," Pence said.

jcg/se (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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