Caracas – The U.S. State Department announced Tuesday that the Venezuelan government had notified it about the arrest of a U.S. citizen in the Andean nation, but Caracas has not responded to official requests that this country's consulate be allowed access to the man.
"(T)he Venezuelans did confirm to us here in Washington yesterday after the briefing that they do have an American citizen under custody," department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in her daily press conference.
"They did not follow usual channels and notify our Embassy in capital, nor have they responded to our requests for consular access to him," she said, without specifying the channels through which the State Department received confirmation from Venezuela.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said last Friday that the arrested man had said that he had served in the U.S. Marines and that he was refusing to cooperate with the police investigation.
Chávez added that the man's passport shows that he was in Iraq in 2006, entered Afghanistan multiple times since 2004 and traveled to Jordan in 2007, as well as visiting Britain, Germany, the Dominican Republic and Colombia, from where he was traveling at the time of his arrest.
However, as of Monday at midday, the State Department was continuing to say that it had not received notification of the arrest.
"So we are continuing to ask them first to communicate directly with our Embassy in Caracas, which is the standard diplomatic practice, and second, to grant us consular access," Nuland said Tuesday.
Chávez, who had warned about possible activities by government opponents to destabilize the country, said that the arrested man "has all the appearances of being a mercenary."
On Oct. 7, 19 million Venezuelans will be eligible to go to the polls to elect the country's president for the 2013-2019 term from among seven candidates, including Chávez, who has been in power since 1999, and consensus opposition standard-bearer Henrique Capriles.