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American journalist and southwest Virginia native released from Venezuelan custody

08 March 2019

"The State Department is aware of and deeply concerned with reports that another USA journalist has been detained in Venezuela by Maduro, who prefers to stifle the truth rather than face it", Kimberly Breier, an assistant secretary in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, wrote in a tweet.

"They're threatening an important European country that is providing humanitarian help to Venezuela", he said.

He noted that the situation remains very fluid both on the ground in terms of worldwide recognition of opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has declared himself president.

Juan Guaido strongly condemned the decision by President Maduro to expel the German ambassador to Caracas, and urged the envoy to "remain" in Venezuela. Malave said the journalist was questioned at the military counterintelligence headquarters and later was driven straight to the airport to be flown out of Venezuela.

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"Before I heard anything I saw on Facebook Messenger - Cody Weddle, he had messaged me and said, 'Hi, I'm fine, '" McMahan recalled.

He added that Germany will continue to recognize Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate interim president and support him in holding fresh elections.

The move brings to more than 250 the number of Venezuelans targeted by U.S. visa bans, a State Department official told AFP.

The German foreign ministry in Berlin confirmed the expulsion order.

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According to witness accounts, the station said, a group of agents raided Weddle's Caracas home before forcing him into a black Jeep.

Mr Guaido has denounced president Nicolas Maduro's re-election previous year as a "sham", while the Socialist leader says he is the victim of a US-led "economic war".

The foreign ministry said Martin Kriener had 48 hours to leave for "interference" in Venezuela's internal affairs.

Venezuela broke off diplomatic ties with neighbouring Colombia after Maduro's security forces blocked a February 23 attempt by Guaido and allies to bring humanitarian aid into Venezuela from Colombia and Brazil. And yesterday he said: "I hope that Europe reacts sharply to this serious threat against an ambassador".

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He returned Monday to call for fresh demonstrations against Maduro, facing down threats of arrest after a tour of friendly Latin American capitals.

The United States ratcheted up the pressure on Wednesday, with National Security Advisor John Bolton warning foreign banks that they could face sanctions if they participate in transactions benefiting Maduro.

His last tweet since his disappearance shows him reporting to WPLG about Guaido's return to Caracas.

Meanwhile, there are also reports that a freelance journalist from the United States has also been detained by Venezuelan authorities.

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Washington has continued to tighten the screws on its campaign of sanctions to force Maduro from power, revoking the visas of 77 people linked to the regime, including officials and their families.

American journalist and southwest Virginia native released from Venezuelan custody