NY police harass Venezuelan Foreign Minister


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Detained and Later Released at New York Airport

Saturday, Sep 23, 2006

By: Venezuelanalysis.com

Caracas, Venezuela, September 23, 2006‹Venezuela¹s Foreign Minister Nicolas 
Maduro was taken into custody at New York City¹s JFK international airport 
today, where he was seeking to board a flight back to Venezuela. He was released
only after UN officials came to his aid. Venezuela promised to file a formal 
complaint with the UN about the incident.

Maduro explained to the media that he was held for an hour and a half by New 
York police when he refused to undergo a strip search at the JFK airport, as he 
was boarding his flight back to Caracas. According to Maduro, the officers 
confiscated his identity documents and his boarding pass.

The officers also threatened to use force and to handcuff him, said Maduro, all 
the while he was insisting that the officers were violating international 
conventions that protect diplomats traveling to and from New York City to attend
UN events.

Maduro had been in New York to participate in the opening of the 61st UN General
Assembly, where Venezuelan President Chavez had held a fiery speech against U.S.
President George W. Bush.

³When I explained my situation as foreign minister, the abuse increased, the 
violation that lasted for an hour and a half. When some level of the U.S. 
government reacted, my documentation was returned to me, my ticket, and 
practically turned me over to a delegation from the UN and [Venezuelan] 
ambassador [to the UN] Francisco Arias Cardenas,² said Maduro.

Venezuela¹s President Chavez said, during an interview with a local television 
station in eastern Venezuela, that Maduro¹s detention was a ³provocation² and an
act of desperation on the part of the U.S. government.

According to some reports, the reason Maduro was being held was because of his 
being on a blacklist in the U.S., for having participated in Chavez¹s 1992 coup 
attempt against the then government of Carlos Andrés Pérez. Chavez, though, 
denied that he had been part of that action. Before Chavez became president the 
U.S. denied him a visa to travel to the U.S. because of his 1992 coup attempt.

During a 9:00pm press conference at Venezuela¹s mission to the UN, just a few 
hours after the incident, Maduro said that Assistant Secretary of State for 
Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon spoke to him and apologized about the 
incident, ³trying to give explanations.²

However, even after talking to Shannon, Maduro said that another State 
Department representative insisted that Maduro and his team submit themselves to
further searches, which they refused to do, ³with all forcefulness because we 
saw this as an effort to politically ratify the violation of international law.²
³They would have to get us out of this airport dead, if they had tried to touch 
us,² added Maduro emphatically.

A spokesperson for Homeland Security, Russ Knocke, denied in an interview with 
the news agency AFP that Maduro was ever detained by U.S. security forces at the
airport. ³There is no evidence to affirm any of this,² he said, referring to 
Maduro¹s accusations. ³The department wanted to confirm with a second control 
his identity as Foreign Minister of Venezuela. In this process the minister 
[then] decided not to travel,² said Knocke.

Maduro, when asked about the spokesperson¹s statement, responded, ³The U.S. 
government will try a thousand lies. There are sufficient witnesses of this 
detention and of the abuses they committed.²

Maduro also announced that Venezuela would file a formal complaint with the UN, 
about his ³illegal² detention at the JFK airport. According to Maduro, Kofi 
Annan¹s office already told him that a special delegation of lawyers would be 
named by the UN, which will look into the case.

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