In an incendiary televised speech on Saturday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro announced the arrest of an American citizen for involvement in a “coup” conspiracy, declared new sanctions on “terrorists” George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, and accused the United States government of maintaining “concentration camps” for children.
During an event commemorating the anniversary of the Caracazo street protests, Maduro announced on Saturday that his law enforcement officials had arrested “various” American citizens, highlighting one in particular, which the President described as a U.S. pilot of Latin American descent, whom he noted was arrested in the state of Táchira. Táchira, bordering Colombia, has been the site of much state violence against peaceful student protesters since civil strife reached its current fever pitch in February 2013. Last week, a National Guard soldier shot and killed a 14-year-old in Táchira’s capital, San Cristóbal, as he returned home from school.
It is not known whether the American citizen arrested is a commercial or military pilot, and Maduro has not disclosed the nature of the “loads of documentation” he claims exists as evidence for a coup plot. Maduro claimed the pilot was one of several Americans taken into custody.
In his speech, Maduro also announced a series of sanctions on the United States. Former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and a number of legislators, including Senator Marco Rubio and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen were all barred from traveling into Venezuela. Any American attempting to enter Venezuela would require a special visa, which also requires the payment of a special fee. Additionally, Maduro called for a significant reduction in the number of diplomats allowed to work at the American embassy in Caracas at any given time, and made it illegal for any Venezuelan citizen to meet with American diplomats without a special permit from the federal government.
“They won’t be able to enter Venezuela for being terrorists!” Maduro told the crowd of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, with the crowd chanting “Maduro, Maduro, hit the Yankee hard!” Uruguay’s El Pais notes also that Maduro told the crowd that the United States “has thousands of prisoners in concentration camps,” including Latino children, and that African Americans suffer “daily persecution.”
The U.S. State Department told the media this weekend that they could not yet comment on the new sanctions Maduro has imposed, as no official communications from the Venezuelan government have arrived to Washington. The United States Congress sanctioned Venezuela in December, barring certain high-level officials from entering the United States or engaging the American market in any way. Venezuelan exiles in the United States have called for stricter sanctions on Venezuela to prevent its socialist leaders from doing business in the United States, while preventing Venezuelan citizens from doing the same.