This article was published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Friday, March 8, 2019:
In this space on Monday, this writer noted that Venezuela’s Marxist dictator Nicolas Maduro “had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Month.”
It just got worse.
For the second time in a week, Maduro’s thugs detained, arrested, manhandled, quizzed, pressured, and then deported American journalists living in Caracas. The most recent incident occurred on Wednesday morning. At 6:40 am, four heavily armed agents from Venezuela President Maduro’s military counterintelligence service arrived at U.S. journalist Cody Weddle’s apartment in Caracas with a search order. They arrested him and his assistant, Carlos Camacho, put them in a blacked-out military vehicle, and took them to headquarters for questioning. The agents ransacked his apartment, and removed all of his video recording and related equipment.
Is Maduro asking for trouble, or is he just wanting to see how far he can push the American president before he exercises one or more of those “options” just waiting “on the table” for such an opportunity as this?
Just a day earlier, a representative for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs told the Washington Examiner: “We hold Nicolas Maduro and those who surround him fully responsible for the safety and welfare of interim President Guaido and his family.” That same message was delivered by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last Saturday. Pompeo made it clear that an attack by Maduro or his people on Guaido “would represent a major escalation of tensions.”
It may safely be assumed that such warnings would also apply to Americans living in Caracas with valid residency permits. If that assumption is correct, why is Maduro playing with fire by deliberately detaining Weddle and his assistant?
Both were taken to military headquarters where they were masked and hooded for hours before being questioned about their work. Upon his release afterwards, Weddle said:
They wanted to know about the work I did, who I worked with. They wanted to know what kind of military people I’ve spoken to, what type of opposition politicians I know … who were the opposition politicians I spoke to in the past few days.”
They tried to pressure Weddle into generating some pro-Maduro propaganda as well, guiding his answers while they videotaped his responses. They sought, he said, to get him to say “that Juan Guaido is not the president, and that the [awful] situation [here] is a result of [U.S.] sanctions.
The New York Times reported that the questioning of Weddle and his associate ended when “the people present appeared to grow worried about the attention his detainment was receiving.” They took him to the airport and sent him home. His associate, a Venezuelan citizen, was released. Neither was charged.
This incident came just days after a similar harassment of American journalist Jorge Ramos and five members of his team from New York-based Univision working in Caracas. Ramos had obtained a face-to-face interview with Maduro, which ended abruptly when Maduro didn’t like the direction the interview was taking.
When Ramos showed him his cellphone video of some citizens raiding a garbage truck and then asked for Maduro’s response, the dictator ended the interview and ordered some of his thugs to arrest them. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), an active observer of the unwinding of the Maduro regime, showed the offending cellphone video on Twitter: “This is the video that upset the dictator. [Jorge] recorded it on his cell phone on the streets of Caracas. When he played it for Maduro during the interview the dictator got angry & detained him & his crew in a dark room for over 2 hours.”
Upon his release, Ramos explained that, “He [Maduro] didn’t like the things we were asking, about the lack of democracy in Venezuela, [about] the torture of political prisoners, about the humanitarian crisis that they are living.”
According to the National Union of Press Workers, Weddle, Ramos and their team members joined nearly three dozen other reporters and journalists Maduro has detained, manhandled, and deported just in the last two months.
Even hard-core Maduro supporters see the danger of pushing the American president too far. Eva Golinger, a longtime supporter of Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, saw the fine line that Maduro is treading. On Wednesday, Golinger tweeted:
Reports in Venezuela that US journalist Cody Weddle has been detained by Venezuelan military intelligence, his home raided. If true, this is extremely problematic and a very dangerous move for the Maduro government to make. Trump is waiting for any excuse to intervene.
The warning was repeated by Phil Gunson, a political consultant at the International Crisis Group: “Having military intelligence arrest a US citizen … seems like [an] unnecessary provocation.”
At the moment, the Trump administration is taking (and talking) a softer line: it’s all about sanctions and economic and political pressures that it is hoped will be sufficient to persuade Maduro to step aside. But if Maduro crosses that line, either wittingly or not, and the White House exercises the military option (there may be 5,000 U.S. troops already in Colombia awaiting such orders from the president), it’s going to end badly for Maduro.
The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor: Venezuela’s Maduro had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Month
The New York Times: Cody Weddle, a U.S. Journalist, Is Arrested in Venezuela and Will Be Deported
Washington Post: Venezuela questions, deports U.S. journalist
Washington Examiner: US pushes Russia to keep Venezuela’s interim president safe from harm