U.S. can have access to American held in Venezuela, Chavez says

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the man was detained while trying to cross the border from Colombia into Venezuela.

Story highlights

  • President Hugo Chavez says authorities are continuing to investigate the matter
  • Detainee has not been identified
  • Chavez has said the man had "all the appearances of a mercenary"
The United States will have no problem getting access to an American detainee who is being held in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday.
"Foreign Minister Maduro has informed me of the U.S. government's request through its embassy to have access to the detainee. Of course, we approve it. They request it today, and tomorrow they will have contact with the detainee," Chavez said on Venezuela's state-run VTV.
Chavez's statement may be news to some State Department officials, who have complained about not being allowed to communicate with the detainee.
"The Venezuelans did confirm to us here in Washington yesterday ... that they do have an American citizen under custody," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Tuesday.
"They did not follow usual channels and notify our embassy in capital, nor have they responded to our request for consular access to him," she said.
Chavez has accused the detainee of having "all the appearances of a mercenary."
The man has not been identified.
Chavez, who is running for re-election, first announced the arrest last week. The man was detained while trying to cross the border from Colombia into Venezuela, the president said.
Late Tuesday, Chavez reported that authorities were continuing to investigate the matter and had reached out to the Colombian government.
The detainee told authorities he was a former Marine, but otherwise refused to provide information, according to Chavez, who has described the man's behavior as "suspicious."
Chavez said the passport the man was carrying had stamps from recent years from Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The president also said police seized a notebook with written coordinates.
"It sends a powerful signal, how this citizen wanted to illegally enter the country, to do who knows what. ... He says he was fleeing from I don't know who. The certainty is that this forces us to activate many more alarms everywhere," Chavez said last week.
The Venezuelan president has repeatedly accused U.S. officials and members of Venezuela's opposition of plotting to destabilize the country's government.