The government of Venezuela is escalating their war of words with the United States. Last week, President Nicolas Maduro accused President Obama of plotting to overthrow him — a charge the White House vigorously denied. Later, they detained 4 American missionaries and 5 other US citizens for the same reason.
Now the Venezuelans have arrested an American pilot with “Latino roots” near the Colombian border and charged him with espionage and “recruiting” for a coup against Maduro. The Venezuelan president announced the arrest during a pro government rally that was held as a counter to growing opposition protests being held around the country.
A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Caracas said he was unable to comment, citing a lack of any official diplomatic communication with the Venezuelan government.
Maduro, Hugo Chavez’s left wing successor, has waged a bitter war of words against the U.S. in recent weeks.
Last week he accused the White House – which he dubbed ‘arrogant Yankees’ – of trying to overthrow him. The Obama administration vehemently denied the charge.
In his latest attack, Maduro said his government will prohibit some U.S. officials from entering Venezuela in retaliation for a similar measure by the government of President Barack Obama against a group of Venezuelan public officials.
He said U.S. tourists will also be subject to hefty visa fees – akin to those Venezuelans must pay to visit America.
The two countries have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010. Nonetheless, they have continued to exchange diplomatic staff. On Saturday, Maduro said the U.S. has far more officials in Venezuela than his socialist government has in the U.S.
‘They have 100 diplomats and we have 17,’ Maduro said.
In an address that all Venezuelan television and radio stations were required to carry, Maduro addressed Obama directly, saying the U.S. president has ‘arrogantly’ refused to engage in talks to resolve the issues between the two countries.
‘I’m very sorry, Mr. President, that you have gone down this dead end,’ he said.
Maduro asked that the changes regulating diplomats be implemented immediately, within the limits of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Among other things, U.S. diplomats will be required to seek approval from the Foreign Ministry for meetings they conduct here.
The news comes amid rising tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela and a surge in anti-government protests in the capital, Caracas.
He recently called on other Latin American nations to form a coalition to investigate America for ‘human rights violations’.
It is not clear if the pilot is one of the six U.S. nationals arrested recently, all accused of espionage by President Nicolas Maduro.
This kind of pettiness is typical of Maduro, who lacks the charisma of Hugo Chavez but shares his need for dramatic gestures — especially when it comes to sticking it to the US.
Maduro is reacting to rumors of a coup against him. But the US is almost certainly not part of any plot. The Venezuelan military leaders are all handpicked by Maduro so at least the loyalty of the general officers can be counted on. It’s also helpful for Maduro that he can count on his Cuban bodyguards and advisors to remain with him.
The Venezuelan economy is in free fall due to mismanagement and falling oil prices. It appears that both the economy and their president are both in meltdown mode.