US apologizes for incident with Venezuelan official
Venezuela has made a formal complaint to United States authorities and United Nations after Foreign Affairs minister Nicolas Maduro was detained Saturday for over an hour at New York's JFK airport.
The US State Department apologised for Maduro's 90 minutes detention in the airport where he was about to board a plane back to Caracas after having attended this week's United Nations General Assembly.
Mr. Maduro alleges he was verbally abused and strip searched which is a "flagrant breach of international law".
"We were detained for an hour and a half, threatened by police with being beaten", said Maduro who underlined that "the US government is responsible for the incident"
US authorities first denied Mr. Maduro had been detained and his documents seized, saying he had been asked to go through a second security screening.
However the Venezuelan official version was later confirmed and the US Department apologised.
"The State Department can confirm there was an incident with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro at JKF airport in New York. The State Department regrets this incident", said a US spokesperson adding that "the United States government apologised to Foreign Minister Maduro and the Venezuelan government".
In spite of our diplomatic immunity, "we humbly allowed a first check of our luggage. But then they wanted to strip me, my shoes, belt "revealed Maduro.
The Venezuelan minister while in detention managed to phone the Venezuelan television station to denounce his situation.
"I'm currently under arrest, retained by the New York Police", Maduro told the channel which was immediately retransmitted to the whole country.
He was finally handed to a UN delegation and Venezuela's ambassador Francisco Arias Cardenas.
In Caracas President Hugo Chavez described the incident as a provocation.
"This is a provocation of Mr. Danger (US President Bush)", Chavez was quoted in the Venezuelan television.
Vice president Jose Vicente Rangel linked the incident to President Chavez speech before the UN criticizing the Bush administration and calling the US president "Mr. Danger" and the "devil", among other things.
"The incident at JKF can't be extracted from the context of the current situation with United States", said Rangel.
President Chavez said Mr. Maduro had been questioned about his alleged role in a failed Venezuelan coup attempt in 1992, led by Chavez, against then elected president Carlos Andres Perez.