CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan authorities released Local 10 reporter Cody Weddle on Wednesday night, more than 10 hours after agents took him from his Caracas apartment.
Weddle said he was at the Simon Bolívar International Airport in Maiquetia waiting to board a flight back to the United States. Weddle said officials told him he was being deported, but it was unclear exactly when he would return.
Early Wednesday morning, a group of black-clad agents with bulletproof vests and an order signed by a Venezuelan military judge raided his apartment in Caracas and took him away in a Jeep.
Weddle said he was held for several hours alone with a ski mask covering his face. Weddle said guards searched his cellphone and computer and would sporadically question him about his work. He was not hurt, but he said he was without food and water during the interrogation.
"It was clear they didn't like my reporting," Weddle told Local 10's Louis Aguirre. "They were interested in a story I did about the current atmosphere in the armed forces."
Weddle said the agents accused him of treason, espionage and removing military artifacts.
After the interrogation, he said Venezuelan counterintelligence agents left him in the custody of Venezuelan immigration officials at the airport.
“I’m a little shaken up. I’m a little worried about my mom. As a journalist, it’s not nice to be the story, but that’s what happened,” Weddle said.
Weddle was in the custody of Venezuela's Dirección General de Contrainteligencia Militar, a military agency that investigates espionage. They also detained Weddle's assistant Carlos Camacho, a Venezuelan citizen, who was also later released.
Tensions have been running high in Venezuela in recent weeks as opposition leader Juan Guiado has challenged the presidency of Nicolas Maduro. Dozens of counties, including the U.S. and Canada, have recognized Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate leader.
Weddle's detention was part of a broader crackdown on journalists in Venezuela. Last week, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos was detained for several hours after a contentious interview with Maduro.
.@WPLGLocal10’s reporter has been released. Maduro and his thugs need to know: the U.S. will not stand for threats against journalists.— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) March 7, 2019
Hoping @coweddle has a safe return home! https://t.co/OUu2vjxIa4
Venezuelan officials have yet to explain why Weddle and Camacho were detained.
Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, as well a number of South Florida officials, condemned Weddle's detention and cheered his release.
"They do this for one reason alone, to intimidate journalists from reporting on Juan Guaido and on conditions in Venezuela," Rubio said.
Earlier, Guaido demanded Weddle's release, saying he had been "kidnapped" as part of an attempt to hide what is going on in Venezuela. The White House and the Organization of American States also demanded Weddle's release.
Weddle has reported from Venezuela for more than four years. He started his work in Caracas with Telesur, a Venezuelan government network.
Weddle said authorities returned his phone and computer, but all of his possessions remain in his Caracas apartment. Weddle was circumspect about leaving what has been his home for almost five years.
"It appears I will not be coming back to Venezuela, but maybe I can tell the story from somewhere else," Weddle said.