The US State Department has demanded the immediate release of an American journalist detained in Venezuela after it was reported on Wednesday the country’s counter-intelligence agency arrested the freelance reporter.
Cody Weddle was reportedly obtained by Venezuela authorities during a raid at his home in Caracas this week.
The journalist, who produced freelance coverage on the political crisis under Nicolas Maduro for publications like the Daily Telegraph, Miami Herald and ABC News, had not been reached since 8am on Wednesday morning, according to a Venezuela press workers’ union.
Kimberly Breier, an assistant secretary of state at the US State Department, called on Venezuela to release the journalist in a tweet on Wednesday, saying the federal agency was “aware of and deeply concerned” about the developments.
The Venezuela leader — whose recent electoral victory has been deemed a farce by the international community — “prefers to stifle the truth rather than face it,” Ms Breier wrote.
“Being a journalist is not a crime,” she added. “We demand the journalist’s immediate release, unharmed.”
The arrest arrives a week after Jorge Ramos — a notable journalist and Univision anchor — was detained in Venezuela along with his crew. The incident occurred as the reporter was interviewing Mr Maduro, according to the Guardian, which said the news team was deported shortly afterwards.
The latest arrest has sparked outcry from civil rights groups and press organisations alike.
“The Maduro regime, desperate, is doing the only thing it knows to do: repress and censor,” José Miguel Vivanco, a director at Human Rights Watch, wrote in a tweet.
Donald Trump and his White House administration have thrown their support behind opposition leader Juan Guaido, who recently invoked a Constitutional authority allowing the leader of Venezuela’s Democratically-elected Congress to assume the presidency.
Meanwhile, the Maduro regime has blocked international aid from coming into the country, causing a deadly confrontation at the nation’s borders, as the economic and political crisis continues to intensify.