Caracas, Venezuela, September 28, 2006—Venezuela officially presented a letter of protest to the United States on Tuesday, against “the illegal detention of Foreign Minister [Nicolás] Maduro in the New York Airport.”
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Maduro was detained last Saturday evening at JFK airport in New York for an hour and a half, in which he stated that the officers confiscated his documents and threatened to use force and handcuffs. According to reports, Maduro was released after the United Nations (UN) intervened.
Tuesday’s letter to the US demanded, “categorically to the government of the United States a public amends in the international realm, such as the adoption of pertinent measures regarding the unfriendly, condemnable, and unacceptable act, of which the Foreign Minister was the subject.”
In the document, Venezuela further accused US authorities of “flagrantly” violating the UN Charter, the 1945 UN Convention on Privileges and Immunities, and the Agreement between the UN and the United States regarding the headquarters of the international organization.
The US ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield has apologized for the incident and additionally met with Maduro on Tuesday, in a meeting that the Venezuelan Foreign Minister described as “clear and positive.”
According to Maduro, the United States has apologized both in private and publicly.
“We believe that the steps that they have taken are going to permit the clarification of this case and achieve what has been achieved up until now, which is the recognition on the part of the US government, that the incident occurred and that they were responsible,” stated Maduro.
According to Union Radio, Brownfield said he had a “good meeting” with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister and that “we are sorry about the incident and we hope that it does not occur again in the future.”
“My government has expressed its position in this incident. In the US, we have a tradition which we learn from our mothers and this is that when we commit an error, we should apologize and say that we are sorry for the error and the incident, and that is what my government has tried to do and I hope that this is sufficient for the Venezuelan government,” Brownfield told Union Radio.
Nevertheless, US ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, has dismissed the incident as “Venezuelan street theater.”
"There was no incident at the airport,” Bolton stated, according to the BBC. "[Maduro] purchased his ticket at a time and in a manner and with funding such that he was asked to go to secondary screening and he objected to that, and the first thing he did was call the press and speak to them in Spanish. This was propaganda."
Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesperson for UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said earlier this week that legal expert Nicolas Michel had been asked to gather the facts.
“We have received from the Venezuelans a serious complaint. Our legal affairs office is now in touch with the U.S. authorities and the Venezuelan authorities to try to establish the facts of the case,” said Dujarric.
According to El Universal, the Cuban ambassador to Venezuela, Germán Sánchez Otero, called the incident “a flagrant violation of international norms” and declared that “it has called the attention of the whole world.”
“Never has a situation been provoked against a Foreign Minister, representative of a State, of a government, of a people, as occurred a few days ago in New York,” said Sánchez.
The incident occurred Saturday evening as Minister Maduro was returning from his stay in New York where he had traveled with Venezuelan President Chavez and the rest of the Venezuelan delegation for last week’s UN meetings.
Brownfield stated this week, that although the US is at fault, “[Maduro] made some steps that resulted in an [alert] code in the computer," such as buying a one-way ticket in cash and on the same day he traveled. Brownfield denied that the treatment was in retaliation to Chavez’ remarks against President George Bush, before the UN General Assembly last week.
Maduro will be returning to New York next week for a series of meetings. Brownfield stated on Tuesday that “we are not going to see a repeat.”