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Detained Reporter Becomes Unlikely Star Of Venezuela Tourism Ad


A lesson now in how not to run a tourism campaign. Venezuela is one of the world's most violent places. It's also facing an economic crisis, so it's been trying to better its image.


Last week, the state-run TV station TeleSUR posted on its website a picture of a smiling man getting a big hug - next to the photo, the words, amamos a Venezuela. Translation - we love Venezuela.

CORNISH: The ad also proclaims that Venezuela welcomes foreigners like one of its own. As soon as it was posted, Jim Wyss started getting e-mails from friends. He was the smiling guy.

JIM WYSS: First of all, the picture wasn't taken in Venezuela. It was taken in Miami. And it was taken after I had been detained in Venezuela for about 48 hours.


SIEGEL: Wyss is South America reporter for The Miami Herald. He was detained in 2013, so he was smiling because he had left.

WYSS: It was free room and board. I would not recommend it as a tourism experience.

CORNISH: The ad has been pulled. TeleSUR has not responded to our request for comment. Jim Wyss says his short time as a poster boy was actually amusing.

WYSS: People keep asking me if I'm angry, and there's really no harm done. I thought it was absolutely hilarious. I'm hoping it means that somebody in TeleSUR had, like, a really wicked sense of humor.

SIEGEL: But more likely, he says, it was a mistake. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.