Deadline Miami

Happy tourist or detained reporter? It’s all in the telling

Miami Herald reporter Jim Wyss being welcomed at Miami International Airport by colleague Luisa Yanez. Scores of reporters were awaiting the arrival of Wyss, who had just been released from a Venezuelan detention center. The photo, taken by Herald staffer Carl Juste, has been used by Venezuelan tourism officials without permission to tout the country’s welcoming attitude toward foreigners.
Miami Herald reporter Jim Wyss being welcomed at Miami International Airport by colleague Luisa Yanez. Scores of reporters were awaiting the arrival of Wyss, who had just been released from a Venezuelan detention center. The photo, taken by Herald staffer Carl Juste, has been used by Venezuelan tourism officials without permission to tout the country’s welcoming attitude toward foreigners.

Facing an economic crisis and smoldering social unrest, Venezuela has been giving itself a shot in the arm with an online campaign called #AmamosAVenezuela — “We love Venezuela.”

On Thursday, TeleSur, the state-run television station, jumped into the action with this phrase: “We love Venezuela for receiving foreigners like they were one of our own.” Above the slogan was a picture of a happy man locked in an embrace.

Unfortunately, the picture was of Miami Herald Reporter Jim Wyss at Miami International Airport in November 2013. The reason he was so happy? He was returning to the United States after spending 48 hours in detention in Venezuela (The picture, by Miami Herald Photographer Carl Juste, has since been removed from the site.).

Telesur did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Wyss was picked up by military intelligence in the border city of San Cristóbal just over a year ago as he was reporting about contraband along the frontier with Colombia. At the time, officials said he was detained because he did not have the proper media credentials.

He has since returned to report from the country.

The online campaign comes as Venezuela is promoting itself at the Fitur tourism convention in Madrid. The country could use tourist cash, as it’s staving off a collapse amid falling crude oil prices.

Hurting its efforts, however, is the fact that Venezuela has apparently cemented its reputation as one of the most dangerous countries in the Americas, and it’s the food shortages and almost weekly protests that are making headlines — not its breathtaking landscapes.

Thursday’s promo piece by TeleSur isn’t likely to help.

“What people don’t know about the #AmamosAVenezuela campaign is that it tells the truth,” one Twitter user wrote. “They treat foreigners just as poorly as they treat their own.”

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