(Bloomberg) — A U.S. free-lance reporter and his Venezuelan assistant were arrested Wednesday by military counterintelligence agents, according to the nation’s union for journalists.
Officers raided the homes of Cody Weddle and Carlos Camacho, arresting them and seizing their equipment, said Marco Ruiz, the general secretary of the National Union of Press Workers. The union and Espacio Publico, a Venezuelan organization that works for a free press, haven’t been able to communicate with the men.
By late Wednesday afternoon, the union known by the Spanish abbreviation SNTP said that representatives had spoken with authorities and learned that Weddle and Camacho had been taken to military-police headquarters in east Caracas. “Both are being interrogated,” the STNP tweeted. “They did not provide further details.”
Hours later, relatives of Camacho confirmed that he had been released, the press union said in a Twitter post. The union earlier had said that both men remained “incommunicado.”
President Nicolas Maduro’s autocratic regime has arrested 36 journalists and press workers this year, including Weddle and Camacho, according to STNP. Last week, Maduro ordered Univision journalist Jorge Ramos held for hours in the presidential palace after he angered him with questions about hunger in the country.
‘Not a Crime’
The U.S., which says Maduro’s presidency is illegitimate, said Wednesday he must free the reporters.
“The State Department is 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,” Kimberly Breier, assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, said in a posting on Twitter.
Carlos Correa, director of Espacio Publico, said neighbors confirmed that the detention order came from a military court. The union said it hasn’t been able to discover what crimes the men are accused of.
Weddle is a graduate of Virginia Tech University and his work has appeared in outlets such as the Miami Herald, WPLG-TV in Miami, the BBC and Al Jazeera English, according to his LinkedIn profile.
WPLG said in a story posted on its website that it last communicated with Weddle on Tuesday afternoon.
Neither Venezuela’s public prosecutors office nor the armed forces press office responded to requests for comment about Weddle.
Senator Rick Scott, a Florida Republican, wrote on Twitter that Weddle’s arrest was unacceptable: “He must be released immediately and the U.S. will not stand for this kind of intimidation!”
(Updates to add Camacho released in foruth paragraph.)
–With assistance from Patricia Laya.
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