US demands Venezuela release American journalist


Washington (AFP)

The United States on Wednesday demanded the "immediate release" of an American journalist who was reported to have been detained in Caracas by the Venezuelan security services.

Cody Weddle has worked in Venezuela for several years as a correspondent for a variety of US media, including ABC News and the Miami Herald.

Kimberly Breier, the US assistant secretary of state for hemispheric affairs, said on Twitter that the State Department was "aware of and deeply concerned" by the reports that an American journalist was detained.

"Being a journalist is not a crime. We demand the journalist's immediate release, unharmed," she wrote, charging that Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro "prefers to stifle the truth rather than face it."

Weddle's disappearance was reported by a non-government organization, Espacio Publico, in Caracas.

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

According to Venezuela's National Union of Press Workers, Weddle was detained at his Caracas home at 8:00 am and his work equipment was confiscated.

Correa said that as of midday Wednesday, Weddle had not been heard from.

"Our lawyers are trying to locate him to provide legal assistance," he said, expressing concern that Weddle's case might be taken before a military court.

His assistant, Venezuelan Carlos Camacho, was freed after 12 hours in custody, according to the National Union of Press Workers. He had been detained by security services at his home, the union said.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida also tweeted that Weddle "is missing in #Venezuela & apparently arrested by the #MaduroRegime this morning."

Rubio is a fervent opponent of Maduro and strong supporter of Juan Guaido, the opposition leader who declared himself acting president in January leading to an ongoing power struggle.