Cody Weddle, a freelance reporter and contributor for WPLG Local 10 News in Miami, returned safely to the U.S. three days after being detained in Venezuela.
I am so grateful to everyone who expressed concern about my safety on Wednesday and helped spread the word about my arrest and that of my colleague Carlos. I am convinced that it was due to that outcry that my captors decided to release me..— Cody Weddle (@coweddle) March 9, 2019
In the moments before my release they described the “small revolt” that had our arrest had sparked.— Cody Weddle (@coweddle) March 9, 2019
While I’m relieved to be safely back in the United States, I’m also heartbroken to leave the place that had become my home for nearly five years. I’m extremely thankful to the countless Venezuelans who welcomed me as one of their own during my time there.— Cody Weddle (@coweddle) March 9, 2019
I plan to continue covering this unprecedented crisis going forward and hope to return to the country at some point.— Cody Weddle (@coweddle) March 9, 2019
My detention was brief and I wasn’t harmed physically. But it serves as an example of the deteriorating situation for members of the press in Venezuela and also around the world.— Cody Weddle (@coweddle) March 9, 2019
A free and critical press is a fundamental pillar of a free society. Defending it and valuing it is everyone’s responsibility.— Cody Weddle (@coweddle) March 9, 2019
Weddle was featured on NPR Mar. 10, describing exactly what happened to him on Wednesday of that week.
“So when I heard my doorbell ring on Wednesday at about 6:30 – and I thought it was the water guy. We have water regularly delivered to our apartment there,” Weddle told Lulu Garcia-Navarro. “Then I opened the door. And there were those four officers there. They raided my apartment. They went through every single thing I had. They were going through my WhatsApp messages for hours and hours. They also brought in some other equipment that they said was used for a sweep. It was a bizarre looking apparatus that shot out a laser. And they pointed it at my walls and at the air conditioning unit. And they said they were looking for spying equipment.”
Weddle said the officers put a ski mask over his face and took him to their headquarters. There they put him in a chair and prodded him. The officers accused him of being a “mercenary journalist,” and asked him questions about his contacts.
“I think, possibly, it was about some reporting I did about the current state of affairs within the armed forces,” he said. “I did speak to – anonymously to some sources within the armed forces – within the security forces, rather, about how they are affected by the economic crisis. And what I already knew, and what I confirmed through that reporting, was that a large portion of Venezuela's security forces are suffering the effects of this economic crisis. While they would like to see a change, they can't do anything because of intense internal surveillance.”
Weddle’s situation reflects a large issue facing reporters in the socialist nightmare country of Venezuela. Navarro reported that along with Weddle, 37 more reporters were detained. On Monday, another journalist, Luis Carlos Diaz, was arrested.
URGENT - Military counterintelligence officials are believed to have detained Venezuelan journalist Luis Carlos Diaz. He's been missing since 5:30 this afternoon. #DóndeEstáLuisCarlos https://t.co/ymkLCGDjO3— Cody Weddle (@coweddle) March 12, 2019
The Guardian reported that Diaz was arrested by agents of Venezuela's intelligence service, Sebin, after they raided his home.
The United Nations Human Rights Office tweeted that they had their mission ask the Venezuelan government, “for urgent access to Diaz.” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who tweeted about Weddle’s capture, also posted about Diaz.
Good.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) March 12, 2019
But the fact #MaduroRegime was willing to abduct @LuisCarlos while the @UNHumanRights technical mission is in #Venezuela reveals the mindset of this mafia. They believe they can act with total impunity. https://t.co/NTseXoXNyE