US demands Venezuela release American journalist

Kimberly Breier, the US assistant secretary of state says that ‘journalism is not a crime’ and the State Department is ‘aware and deeply concerned’. (AFP pic)

WASHINGTON: 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.

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.

Venezuela’s borders with Colombia and Brazil have become a flashpoint over opposition attempts to bring in humanitarian aid rejected by Maduro and blocked by the military.

Seven people were killed and more than 300 injured in border clashes February 23 during a push to bring in the food and medicine, most of which was supplied by the United States.

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 and led the unsuccessful bid to bring in humanitarian supplies.