Miami Herald reporter Jim Wyss arrived at Miami International Airport Sunday into the arms of his girlfriend and awaiting well-wishers and media.
The Herald’s Andean Bureau chief arrived in Miami on an American Airlines flight from Caracas following nearly 48 hours of detention by Venezuelan authorities. He was released Saturday to U.S. Embassy officials.
“First of all, I want to thank everyone who helped in my release,” a visibly tired Wyss, 42, said at the airport. “Aside from being detained, authorities were professional. I was never verbally or physically threatened.”
“We’re relieved and glad Jim is home, safe and sound,” said Aminda Marqués Gonzalez, the Herald’s executive editor.
“It’s really great to have him back,” said Wyss’ girlfriend Ana Soler, an actress in Bogotá, Colombia, where Wyss is based. “It was really scary in those hours when we couldn’t communicate. It makes you think the worst.
“Now, I’ll be able to be with him and pamper him,” said Soler, who happened to be in South Florida visiting family. “Jim is a terrific man.”
Wyss was detained near the Colombian border Thursday evening while working on a story about contraband, as well as, Venezuela’s sputtering economy and upcoming municipal elections. Members of the National Guard in the Andean city of San Cristóbal, Táchira, apprehended Wyss after he solicited an interview with military officials.
Wyss said he did not immediately know which entity had taken him into custody. It took some time to convince authorities he indeed was a journalist simply doing his job.
“The worst part was the uncertainty,” Wyss said Sunday, adding that what he needed most at the moment was some sleep. He also thanked his supervisors for “moving heaven and earth to get me released.”
While at the airport, he quipped on the phone with the Herald’s executive editor, saying: “You know you’ve failed as a journalist when the cameras are trained on you.”
Venezuelan authorities said Wyss was taken into custody because he did not have permission to report in the country. Wyss said he was flown Friday evening to the detention center in Caracas, where he was visited by a U.S. Embassy official.
Wyss, a well-known and respected journalist, has made more than a dozen reporting trips to Venezuela over several years to cover everything from former President Hugo Chavez’s death to myriad national and local elections, including the upcoming round of municipal elections scheduled for Dec. 8.
“I hope to be back at work soon covering the elections,” Wyss said.