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Venezuela releases Miami Herald reporter detained for two days

Miami Herald Andean Bureau Chief Jim Wyss
Miami Herald Andean Bureau Chief Jim Wyss

CARACAS - Venezuelan authorities released a Miami Herald reporter on Saturday after detaining the American two days ago near the border with Colombia where he was researching a story ahead of next month's local elections, the paper said.

Jim Wyss was handed over unharmed and in good spirits to U.S. diplomats in Caracas, the Herald said.

"I'm very grateful for everybody who worked to help resolve this problem," Wyss said, according to a story on the newspaper's website. "And I'm thankful to the Venezuelan authorities for helping accelerate this process."

President Nicolas Maduro's government, which accuses Western media of fanning an international campaign to destabilize his socialist government, has not commented on the case.

The Herald said soldiers arrested Wyss on Thursday evening after he sought an interview with military officials in the Andean city of San Cristobal, where he was preparing a story on economic shortages and the December 8 municipal elections.

"Venezuelan authorities said Wyss was taken into custody because he did not have permission to report in the country," the paper added. Wyss is based in Bogota, Colombia.

Wyss quipped about tight living conditions, and his diet of ham sandwiches, in the Caracas detention center where he was held. "It's like living in a bar with bunkbeds," he said.

Since winning an election to replace Hugo Chavez in April, Maduro has leveled a stream of accusations of U.S.-inspired plots and sabotage against his socialist administration.

An American filmmaker was arrested and held for nearly two months on accusations of spying, while three U.S. diplomats were expelled in September on similar charges. Officials say foreign correspondents are complicit in the "silent war" against him.

The Maduro government is under pressure over Venezuela's economy, where inflation is running at an annual 54 percent and scarcity of basic goods are common. The opposition is hoping next month's nationwide municipal polls will turn into a protest vote against Maduro.