US Diplomatic Agents in Venezuela for Soccer Tournament Branded As Terrorists

By Allison Battey Logan Koffler

Jul 6, 2007 11:18am

Diplomatic Security  Service Agents from the US State Department were detained at  Maracaibo  Airport in Venezuela where they were branded "terrorists" by the Venezuelan government. The agents were on assignment at the time to guard America’s envoy to the Copa America soccer tournament. Former Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield, who left his position just yesterday, told Reuters that the two agents were "jacked around" upon their arrival two weeks ago by Venezuelan officials who then revoked the agents’ weapons permits. The weapons were later returned to US embassy officials. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the incident is "not completely surprising" coming from the Chavez government. "They have sought various ways to harass U.S. government officials," McCormack said. "And our ambassador down there was subject to — has been subject to periodic harassment, over time, so it’s just another step in that direction." The incident comes at a time of tension between Chavez’s government and the White House. Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolás Maduro told the AP that Brownfield came to Venezuela in order to destabilize Chavez’s government and "assist in his downfall." McCormack said the harassment of the State Department agents is unlikely to foster better communication between the two nations. "This is not the kind of behavior one would expect from a country with which you have diplomatic relations," he said. The American Embassy in Venezuela has communicated with Venezuelan officials about the incident, McCormack said, adding that the American agents have been able to remain in the country to protect the soccer team. After losing to Argentina and Paraguay, the U.S. soccer team was eliminated from the Copa America on Independence Day. The team will play its last game, against also-eliminated Colombia, today.

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