Venezuela Arrests U.S. Mercenary

Suspected Mercenary Had Passport Stamps from Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan

Rachael Boothroyd

The Venezuelan National Guard have arrested a suspected US mercenary on the Venezuela-Colombia border and are currently interrogating the unidentified man, who is of Hispanic origin, said the country’s president, Hugo Chavez on Thursday.

The man was arrested on August 4th as he attempted to illegally enter Venezuela from Colombia on a bus during the night. He was carrying a US passport which had exit stamps from visits to Libya, Iraq (2006) and Afghanistan (2004 onwards) and allegedly tore up pieces of paper from a notebook in his possession whilst being apprehended. Chavez has since stated that the man had confessed to having previously served as a US marine.

“Our security forces captured a North American citizen, but of Latin American origin, about 4 or 5 days ago… we arrested him and right now he is being detained,” said Chavez from a political act in Vargas state near to the capital.

Following the capture, the Venezuelan government voiced its concerns that the man was working in league with the Venezuelan opposition, and had entered the country with plans to destabilise the national political situation in the run-up to elections.

“Our attention is drawn to the fact that this has happened with just a few weeks till the elections, so we are alert,” said President Chavez. “The deadbeat opposition is capable of anything, but it had better not occur to them to destabilise this country,” he added.

Over 19 million Venezuelans are expected to take to the country’s voting stations on October 7 for the national elections, when incumbent socialist president Hugo Chavez will face conservative candidate, Capriles Radonski.

With political campaigning well underway in the Caribbean nation, government spokespeople and supporters have warned that the country’s right-wing political opposition might try to dispute the election results in October. The opposition disputed the results of the 2004 recall referendum in 2004, which Chavez won with 59% support. The Carter Centre and the OAS confirmed the result as accurate.

The country’s US backed opposition has previously tried to oust the Chavez government on numerous occasions, including through a 47 hour coup in 2002 and a managerial strike in the oil sector in 2002-2003.

In a public telephone call to his justice minister, Tareck El-Aissami yesterday, Chavez asked after if the prisoner was eating properly and said that he was taking a personal interest in making sure that all his human rights were upheld. He later went on to confirm that the suspect was refusing to cooperate with the Venezuelan authorities.

“He is refusing to tell us anything, he won’t cooperate, he won’t say where he came from. One minute he is fleeing from the guerrillas (in Colombia), the next he is fleeing from drugs traffickers, the little he does say is contradictory. Then he closes down, he has been trained to resist interrogation,” said the president.

Chavez has since ordered Aissami to inform the US government of the man’s capture, after a US spokesperson said he was concerned that his government had not been officially notified of the man’s arrest. The US has not had an acting ambassador in Venezuela since 2010 and relations between the two countries are tense.

As well as visits to Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, the man’s passport also showed that he had travelled to Jordan, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Germany and Great Britain. The detainee also tried to rip up his passport before being arrested.

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