Caracas, Venezuela – UPDATE
The American journalist and southwest Virginia native detained by Venezuelan security forces Wednesday morning has been released, according to CNN.
Cody Weddle is currently at an airport and headed for Miami, according to his mother, Sherry Weddle. She says she hasn't spoken to him but has messaged him on Facebook. Weddle grew up outside Abingdon and attended Virginia Tech before interning at WSLS10.
"He said he's fine," she said. WPLG, the news station Weddle works for in South Florida, also confirmed his release.
Weddle's mother said she told him she wanted him to come home from the country because of growing tensions. But he stayed to report, no surprise to those that worked at 10 News when he interned at the station in 2011.
"What I remember about him is he was very dedicated to this. You can tell when interns come in which ones are very serious about journalism and which ones aren't, he was very focused in his future and getting what he needed out of his internship," 10 News anchor Lindsey Ward said.
Friends have left heartfelt support messages on his Facebook hearing about his release. It's unclear what led to the release, but the State Department and others like Rep. Morgan Griffith worked to make it happen.
"He's over there reporting and even if they want him to leave the country they need to get him out of there safely," Griffith said.
Weddle was a Marching Virginian while at Virginia Tech according to his Facebook. The National Union of Press Workers said Weddle is part of more than 30 journalists detained by the Venezuelan government this year.
An American journalist and Virginia native was detained by Venezuelan security forces Wednesday morning.
Cody Weddle, 29, is a 2012 graduate from Virginia Tech and a 2008 graduate of Patrick Henry High School, originally from the Tri-Cities area. He had been living in Venezuela for more than four years as a freelance journalist. Weddle also worked as an intern at WSLS 10 in 2011 and currently works as a reporter for one of our sister stations, WPLG, in South Florida.
According to WPLG, his home in Caracas was the target of an early morning raid by authorities Wednesday. His assistant was also taken into custody.
WPLG says Weddle's last on-air report Monday focused on the return of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó to the country. A tweet sent by Weddle claimed Guaidó’s homecoming was “triumphant,” but that a path forward for the leader remained uncertain.
Weddle's mother has told CNN that she is "very, very, very worried" for her son's safety. His family lives in Washington County and has asked Congressman Morgan Griffith to intercede. Griffith said it's clear Maduro's forces are holding the journalist. This afternoon, he demanded they release the reporter in a statement.
“It is pretty clear that from some of the reports from other people over there that it was the Maduro forces that raided his apartment this morning. He was taken into custody and they need to release him," said Griffith. "He is an American Citizen and he is over there reporting. Even if they want him to leave the country and they need to get him out of there safely and they need to turn him over to the American authorities in Venezuela.“
On Wednesday afternoon, Assistant Secretary Kimberly Breier released a statement on behalf of the State Department.
.@StateDept 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.— Michael G. Kozak (@WHAAsstSecty) March 6, 2019
Weddle has become the latest journalist to be detained by the embattled Venezuelan president. Univision anchor Jorge Ramos was detained by government forces last month before eventually being released hours later.
However, WPLG compares Weddle's situation to German freelance journalist Billy Six, who is still in a Venezuelan prison after being arrested last November on espionage and rebellion charges.