Updated at 1 a.m. ET Thursday
Cody Weddle, the American journalist who was detained and taken into custody by Venezuelan authorities early Wednesday morning, has been released and will soon be deported to the U.S., several news outlets, including Spanish language newspapers, have reported.
The Virginia-born journalist was held for about 12 hours by a counterintelligence military agency, Weddle’s employer, WPLG Local News 10 reported.
According to witness accounts, the station said, a group of agents raided Weddle’s Caracas home before forcing him into a black Jeep.
Weddle’s assistant, Carlos Camacho, a Venezuelan citizen, was also detained by officials after raiding his apartment. Camacho was released sometime in the early afternoon — hours before the 29-year-old reporter.
The pair are the latest alleged targets of President Nicolás Maduro who has been accused of suppressing press freedoms amid the political unrest sweeping through the country.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio referred in a tweet to Weddle’s detention by the counterintelligence agency as a kidnapping.
“They do this for one reason alone, to intimidate journalists from reporting on [Juan Guaido] & on conditions in Venezuela,” he said.
The U.S. has recognized opposition leader Guaido as the country’s rightful head of state.
Prior to Weddle’s reported release, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Kimberly Breier said Maduro “prefers to stifle the truth rather than face it.”
A Venezuelan union representing members of the press said there are 36 cases in which journalists and other press employees have been illegally detained since the start of 2019.
“Cody has been dedicated and committed to telling the story in Venezuela to our viewers here in South Florida. The arrest of a journalist doing his job is outrageous and unacceptable,” WPLG President and CEO E.R. Bert Medina said early Wednesday.
Weddle had been based in Caracas for four years, according to Espacio Publico, a free speech NGO. He has also worked as a freelancer for ABC News, Canadian Broadcast Corp. and The Miami Herald.
His detention and subsequent ouster from the country comes a week after Univision journalist Jorge Ramos was held in the presidential palace after an interview with Maduro went awry. Ramos and his TV crew were eventually released and deported.
Florida Sen. Rick Scott also attacked Maduro on social media for Weddle’s detention.
It is “completely unacceptable for @NicolasMaduro and his thugs to detain @WPLGLocal10‘s Cody Weddle for reporting on the successful return of the legitimate Venezuelan President @jguaido,” Scott wrote in a tweet, demanding the reporter’s immediate release.
“The U.S. will not stand for this kind of intimidation,” he added.