Venezuela frees Miami journalist

BOGOTA, Colombia --  A Miami Herald reporter detained Thursday by authorities in western Venezuela on suspicion of working in the country without permission has been released and is expected to return to the United States on Sunday.

Jim Wyss, the Herald’s Bogota-based Andean bureau chief, was detained in San Cristobal in  Tachira province as he was reporting on several stories in connection with December local elections and Venezuela’s troubled economy.

 Nadja Drost, a freelance journalist on the board of the Foreign Journalists Assn. of Colombia said Wyss was taken to Caracas shortly after his arrest and held in an immigration detention facility there until his release was arranged Saturday afternoon.

 In an article published Friday in the Herald, the newspaper’s management was quoted as saying that Wyss, 40, had made a dozen reporting trips to Venezuela since taking over the bureau in 2010 and had never encountered problems.

 “Just why the national guard decided to detain Jim on this trip is something of a mystery,” said Drost who was in touch with Wyss’ family and close friends. Officials at Venezuela’s Ministry of Communication and Information have made no comment since Wyss’ arrest.

 Foreign journalists are allowed to enter Venezuela without a work visa, although the ministry nominally requires that they register with the government-sponsored Venezuelan foreign press association. That requirement has been lightly enforced.

 On Friday, the Miami-based Inter American Press Assn., a group of newspaper publishers in the Americas, issued a statement demanding that President Nicolas Maduro release Wyss, saying his detention constituted an abuse of freedom of the press.


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Chris Kraul is a special correspondent.

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