The Maduro regime in Venezuela released an American journalist and his local colleague on Mar. 6, after they spent more than 12 hours in custody in a move that drew further international condemnation of the socialist dictatorship.
Cody Weddle is currently at an airport and is headed for Miami, his mother told CNN.
Sherry Weddle says she hasn’t spoken to her son yet but has messaged him via Facebook.
“He said he’s fine,” she said. CNN affiliate WPLG, for whom Weddle works, also confirmed his release.
Weddle had not been heard from since 8 a.m local time on Wednesday, March 6, 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).
The journalist had 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 said it was last in contact with Weddle on Tuesday afternoon. His latest report for WPLG was on self-declared interim president Juan Guaidó’s return to Venezuela.
— Cody Weddle (@coweddle) March 5, 2019
Venezuela’s Ministry of Communication declined to comment. The U.S. chargé d’affaires to Venezuela has 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 illegitimate socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro’s regime.
Weddle is the latest in a series of foreign journalists to be taken into custody in Venezuela.
This seems a bit risky, imagine all the politicians in VZ that are being detained against their will, incarcerated & being tortured.
— Raul Arciga King (@originalrahrah) March 7, 2019
Last week, six Univision staffers, including veteran anchorman journalist Jorge Ramos, were briefly detained at the presidential palace in Caracas when the crew was interviewing Maduro and asked some questions he didn’t like. 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.
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Kimberly Breier said on Twitter that the State Department was “aware of and deeply concerned with reports that another U.S. journalist has been detained in #Venezuela by #Maduro, who prefers to stifle the truth rather than face it. Being a journalist is not a crime. We demand the journalist’s immediate release, unharmed.”
Maduro is under growing international pressure to give up leadership to Guaidó, who has been recognized by many countries around the world and Venezuela’s regional neighbors as the country’s leader.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a fierce critic of Maduro, tweeted about Weddle’s detention on Wednesday, followed by a flurry of posts about sanctions on Venezuela.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 6, 2019
White House national security adviser John Bolton announced that the U.S. was “putting foreign financial institutions on notice that they will face sanctions for being involved in facilitating illegitimate transactions that benefit Nicolas Maduro and his corrupt network.”
Sherry Weddle earlier told CNN that she had been in touch with the U.S. 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,” Sherry Weddle, who lives in Meadowview, Virginia, where Cody was born and raised, 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 U.S. Embassy to see what they know.”
Sherry Weddle said she last spoke with Cody on Facebook messenger Tuesday evening. “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.