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U.S. journalist detained in Venezuela has been freed hours later

Venezuela deports American journalist

An American citizen who working as a journalist in Venezuela has been freed after being detained by security forces early Wednesday. Weddle was at the main Caracas-area airport waiting for a U.S.-bound flight, according to the TV station he works for in Miami.

A doorman at Cody Weddle's residence said a squad of five men wearing black uniforms demanded entry and left with the journalist in custody.   

A spokesman for the State Department said the U.S. was aware of the missing journalist and issued a warning to President Nicolás Maduro's government.

"We have no higher priority than the protection of U.S. citizens abroad," the State Department said in a statement. "Being a journalist is not a crime; the world is watching."

Kimberly Breier, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, earlier called for Weddle's "immediate release."

Tensions have been escalating by the day in Venezuela, where U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó is seeking to oust Maduro.

Weddle has reported from Venezuela for more than four years, most recently working as a freelance journalist for WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami, Florida. His hometown is Meadowview, Virginia.

The station's president said in a statement it can't reach Weddle and is concerned. WPLG-TV said Weddle's assistant was also detained.

Weddle's mother spoke to CNN and said she is "very, very, very worried" for her 29-year-old son. She said Weddle had been living in Venezuela since June 2014.

One of WPLG-TV's reporters said the mother has spoken to the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela.

Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida reacted to the news Wednesday, with Scott calling Weddle's detention "completely unacceptable."

Wednesday's news about Weddle comes on the heels of another incident in Venezuela concerning CNN journalists.

Maria Martinez-Guzman, one of Univision's executive producers, was among those detained last week along with anchor Jorge Ramos and five others by the Venezuelan government in Caracas. She told CBSN she felt outraged and robbed of her work. She described how they were put in a "dark room" and about $180,000 worth of equipment was "stolen."

Ramos and his crew, including Martinez-Guzman and several camerapeople, were interviewing Maduro at the Miraflores presidential palace about the instability in the country, but things went south 17 minutes into their conversation after he showed Maduro footage of Venezuelan youths eating from a garbage truck.

American journalist Maria Martinez-Guzman speaks about being detained by Venezuela's Maduro