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Venezuela frees 3 foreign journalists

Venezuela frees 3 foreign journalists

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Caracas: Venezuelan authorities freed three foreign journalists and have permitted them to continue reporting from the South American nation.

Photographer Leonardo Munoz, video editor Mauren Barriga, both Colombian nationals, and Spanish editor Gonzalo Dominguez were released on Thursday night after spending the night at El Helicoide, the headquarters of Venezuela's Sebin intelligence service, reports Efe news.

Munoz, Barriga and Dominguez works for Efe, a Spanish international news agency.

The reporters were accompanied at the time of their release by Deputy Spanish Consul Julio Navas and the Charge d'Affaires at Colombia's embassy, German Castaneda.

Venezuelan government sources said unofficially that the reporters were detained by mistake, attributing the mix-up to conflicting orders and adding that the Sebin agents had apologised to the correspondents for their "arbitrary arrest".

Other journalists have also experienced problems this week while trying to cover developments in Venezuela, where a long-simmering political crisis entered a more acute phase on January 23 when National Assembly speaker Juan Guaido proclaimed himself the country's legitimate leader.

Incumbent President Nicolas Maduro won last May's ballot by a wide margin, but much of the opposition boycotted the process and rejected the result as illegitimate, a stance shared by the US and numerous nations in Latin America and Europe.

Washington and its Western allies recognised Guaido as interim head of state and the European Parliament followed suit on Thursday.

The parliament voted 439-104 for a motion to acknowledge Guaido as Interim President even as the executive arm of the European Union was touting the creation of a contact group comprising European and Latin American nations aimed at finding a democratic solution to the political crisis in Venezuela within 90 days.

The Spanish government would recognise Guaido on February 12 if Maduro refused to call a snap election.

Russia, which supports the Maduro government, warned on Thursday of a persistent risk of armed conflict in Venezuela and expressed willingness to join a mediation process.

Among Latin American nations, Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua remain solidly behind Maduro, while Mexico and Uruguay are calling for mediation.

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