Captive American Journalist Released, Deported from Venezuela

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Tensions are escalating by the day in Venezuela, where US -backed opposition leader Juan Guaido seeks to oust Maduro.

He told reporters in Berlin on that "there was information that he (Guaido) was meant to be arrested there, and I think the presence of various ambassadors contributed to helping prevent this arrest".

Weddle, 29, had been working for the Florida television station and had just published a report on Monday about self-declared interim president Juan Guaido's "triumphant return" to Caracas.

Weddle is the latest in a series of foreign journalists to be taken into custody in Venezuela.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called the move "an incomprehensible decision, which escalates the situation instead of easing tensions". She said that one of the men showed her an order to raid Weddle's apartment, that the order came from a military tribunal and that the journalist was being accused of "betraying the homeland".

The Venezuelan government believed that Washington's approval of Guaido as the country's interim leader aimed to oust the current administration, and open up its vast oil reserves as well as gold deposits to USA corporations.

In a speech at the National Assembly, Guaido condemned the expulsion of the ambassador.

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Weddle's assistant Carlos Camacho, a Venezuelan national, was also detained after a raid on his home by the same counter-intelligence agency on Wednesday morning, reported the union, who catalogued 36 cases of journalists held this year.

The U.S. State Department said it's aware of a missing journalist and warned President Nicolas Maduro's government that the world is watching. "He said he was fine and wanted to know how I was". "He could have Juan Guaido arrested as soon as he arrived...but that would probably inch us closer here to some type of military confrontation".

Kriener, along with ambassadors and diplomats from other European embassies, had gone to the airport on Monday to support Guaido, who had risked arrest on his return to Venezuela for flouting a court-imposed travel ban to visit other Latin American countries.

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.

The United States slapped sanctions on Venezuela's vital oil industry in January to try to cut off government revenue and force Maduro out, and pledged further action on Wednesday.

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

But Mr Maduro, a 55-year-old former bus driver and foreign minister, still has powerful backers at home and overseas, namely the Venezuelan armed forces and Russian Federation and China, which have both urged non-interference in the country's internal affairs.

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