WASHINGTON — U.S. officials confirmed that two American employees of the U.S. embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, were shot outside of a nightclub early this morning. The men were part of the embassy’s defense attaché and were hospitalized after the incident.
“Medical staff inform us that their injuries do not appear to be life-threatening. Embassy security and health unit personnel are at the hospital and have been in touch with the two individuals and their families,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.
Lt. Col. Todd Breassele told ABC News that one of the men was to be released from the hospital today, and the other was expected to be released Wednesday.
Venezuelan police officials told reporters that the shooting appeared to stem from a fight in the club, which is located in a shopping center in the eastern part of the city.
The U.S. embassy in Caracas is cooperating with authorities to investigate the incident, Ventrell said.
“We are in contact with local authorities, which is a standard operating procedure for us overseas,” he said.
Shootings are not uncommon in the country, which has one of the world’s worst crime rates. The Venezuelan government estimated that in 2012 more than 16,000 people were murdered, but independent crime tracking organizations estimate the numbers to be much higher.
The State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security report on Venezuela last year rated the criminal threat level for Caracas as “CRITICAL,” calling it the deadliest capital in the world.
“Caracas continues to be notorious for the brazenness of high-profile, violent crimes such as murder, robberies, and kidnappings,” said the report. “Armed assaults and robberies continue to be a part of everyday life.”