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US journalist Cody Weddle reportedly detained in Venezuela

Update as of 9:30 p.m. Wednesday: Cody has been released and  is awaiting deportation at an airport in Venezuela.

CARACAS — An American freelance journalist has been detained by Venezuelan authorities in a raid on his Caracas home, according to a Venezuelan journalists union.

Cody Weddle had not been heard from since 8 a.m Wednesday, 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).

Weddle has 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, a CNN affiliate, said it was last in contact with Weddle on Tuesday afternoon, and they have been unable to reach him since. His latest report for WPLG was on self-declared interim president Juan Guaido’s return to Venezuela.

Venezuela’s Ministry of Communication declined to comment. The US 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 President Nicolas Maduro’s regime.

Weddle is the latest in a series of foreign journalists to be taken into custody in Venezuela.

Last week, six Univision staffers, including veteran anchorman journalist Jorge Ramos, were briefly detained at the presidential palace in Caracas when a crew was interviewing Maduro. 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 relinquish power to Guaido, who has been recognized by Western countries and regional neighbors as Venezuela’s leader.

US 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.

White House national security adviser John Bolton announced that the US 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, Cody’s mother, told CNN that she had been in touch with the US 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 US Embassy to see what they know.”

Sherry Weddle first learned about her son’s detention this morning from his contacts in Caracas, including someone in touch with his housekeeper.

She 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.

Weddle attended Virginia Tech at the same time as WTVR CBS 6 reporter Brendan King. Additionally, Weddle was an intern for WTVR CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit during her time at WJHL.

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