Mon, Nov 11, 2013 - Page 7 News List

Caracas frees US reporter arrested while doing story

Reuters, CARACAS

Venezuelan authorities released a Miami Herald reporter on Saturday after detaining the American two days ago near the border with Colombia, where he was researching a story ahead of next month’s local elections, the paper said.

Jim Wyss was handed unharmed and in good spirits to US diplomats in Caracas, the Herald said.

“I’m very grateful for everybody who worked to help resolve this problem,” Wyss said, according to a story on the newspaper’s Web site. “And I’m thankful to the Venezuelan authorities for helping accelerate this process.”

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government, which accuses Western media of fanning an international campaign to destabilize his socialist administration, has not commented on the case.

The Herald said soldiers arrested Wyss on Thursday evening after he sought an interview with military officials in the Andean city of San Cristobal, where he was preparing a story on economic shortages and the Dec. 8 municipal elections.

“Venezuelan authorities said Wyss was taken into custody because he did not have permission to report in the country,” the paper added.

Wyss is based in Bogota, Colombia. He quipped about tight living conditions and his diet of ham sandwiches in the Caracas detention center where he was held.

“It’s like living in a bar with bunkbeds,” he said.

Since winning an election to replace former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in April, Maduro has leveled a stream of accusations of US-inspired plots and sabotage against his socialist administration.

A US filmmaker was held for nearly two months on accusations of spying, while three US diplomats were expelled in September on similar charges. Officials say foreign correspondents are complicit in the “silent war” against him.

The Maduro government is under pressure over Venezuela’s economy, where inflation is running at an annual 54 percent and scarcity of basic goods are common.

The opposition is hoping next month’s nationwide municipal polls will turn into a protest vote against Maduro.

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