On Sunday, Miami Herald reporter Jim Wyss returned to the U.S. after 48 hours in the custody of Venezuelan authorities.
The 42-year-old reporter, who was picked up while reporting on cross-border smuggling between Venezuela and Colombia, recounted his experience on “AMERICA with Jorge Ramos.”
Ramos asked if Venezuelan authorities accused Wyss of being part of a conspiracy against President Nicolás Maduro.
“You know, it was never clear exactly what they were trying to do,” Wyss said on Tuesday. “But there is a lot of paranoia along the border.
Maduro often talks about plots against him coming from both Colombia and the American media, Wyss explained.
“And I think I was just kind of a perfect stereotype in a sense,” he added. “I was this gringo reporter working for the Miami Herald who came across the border from Colombia. It set off all sorts of kind of alarms there.”
Wyss penned his first-person story in the Miami Herald on Monday.
“I was wearing a bulletproof vest, lying flat in the backseat of an unmarked armored car and being escorted by three heavily armed men when I started to worry,” he wrote. “At that point I had been in the custody of Venezuela’s General Directorate of Military Counter Intelligence for 24 hours. I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that a “commission” was waiting for me.”
He didn’t experience any physical or verbal abuse at the hands of Venezuelan authorities, he told reporters.
Although Wyss lives and works in Bogota, Colombia, he was flown into Miami. He met his wife, a Colombian actress, at the airport, an emotional reunion captured by photographers.
The journalist’s detention fits into the broader narrative Venezuelan government’s hostile treatment of the media. President Maduro has intensified the media suppression that characterized the tenure of former President Hugo Chávez, who passed away in March.
Wyss was waiting to interview an official from the Bolivarian National Guard about contraband smuggling when the visit “turned into a slow-motion detention.”
He was told to wait for a “general” for several hours. After that, he was transferred over to an “inspector” and placed in an armored car with doors that didn’t open from the inside.
After his release, he sent a message to the general who took his cell phone to follow up, he told Jorge Ramos.
“I’m still looking for the contraband statistics,” he said. “So give me a call.”
Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.