When Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told reporters that a former U.S. Marine had been arrested Aug. 4 for entering Venezuela illegally from Colombia, he gave no proof that the man was, in fact, a former Marine or that the man even exists. He did, however, claim the man's passport showed he had been in Asia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Jordan during recent years.
Chavez will be up for re-election on October 7, and many believe this is all part of a ploy to project an "us versus them" attitude on Venezuelan voters. To that end, Chavez has upped his rhetoric considerably, painting a picture of being under siege by the Venezuelan opposition, which he claims the U.S. is backing.
One U.S. State Department official, responding to Chavez's announcement on the condition of anonymity, said the Venezuelan gov. had not notified the U.S. government of the former Marine's capture: that the State Department had learned of it from reporters like everyone else.
The official would only say that if Chavez's claims were true, the U.S. expects the American to be treated "according to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations" and for U.S. consular officials to be granted access to the American without delay.