Venezuelan Foreign Minister Detained by US?

In yet another strange story revolving around the visit of the tyrant, umm (sorry, can’t figury out the strike-through coding) President of Venezuela to the United Nations, now the Foreign Minister of that country is having immigration problems, and even the glorious New York Times dismisses him a merely an “Aide” in the headline (Try Colin Powell, or Madeleine Albright, an Aide to the US President — doesn’t sound right, does it? Condescending?)

Venezuela’s foreign minister was detained at John F. Kennedy Airport yesterday while trying to fly home after the United Nations General Assembly meeting, prompting an apology from the State Department.
The minister, Nicolas Maduro, was returning to Caracas, Venezuela, when he was prevented from boarding his plane, said Joanne Moore, a duty officer at the State Department.
“The State Department regrets this incident. The United States government apologized to Foreign Minister Maduro and the Venezuelan government,” Gonzo Gallegos, a State Department spokesman, said in a statement.
Ms. Moore said she did not know why Mr. Maduro had been stopped. Mr. Maduro told a news conference that he had been detained for an hour and a half.
CNN, quoting an anonymous White House official, said that Mr. Maduro, his wife and their child, arrived at the airport 30 minutes before their scheduled flight yesterday and paid for their tickets in cash. He was asked to go through a second security check but refused and started making a call on his cellphone, the official told CNN.
The official said that Mr. Maduro informed airport security that he was a diplomat only after his travel documents, including his passport, had been confiscated.
The official also said that after the disagreement was resolved, the foreign minister was given permission to board the plane, but chose to remain in New York.
Last night, Mr. Maduro held a news conference at Venezuela’s mission to the United Nations in Midtown.

Let me get this straight. He didn’t pull out his diplomatic passport, even though he was on official state business. Only after his behavior patterns flagged the ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) did he suddenly play the victim and change passports, followed by a press conference and denunciation of the Great Satan, oops Devil. Sorry, too hard to keep up with the various denunciations these days.

Even the Chinese Press Agency does not buy it, though I’m sure it will get lots of headlines in South America

The United States denied on Saturday claims by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro that he was briefly detained at a New York airport, but it said it has apologized to the minister for the “regrettable incident.”
  Maduro said earlier he was detained for more than 90 minutes in a room at John F. Kennedy International Airport and his travel documents had been taken away.
“There’s no evidence to support any of this,” local media quoted U.S. Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke as saying.
“There’s no evidence to support the claim that his travel documents were taken away, there’s no evidence to support the claim that he was assaulted and there’s no evidence to support the claim that he was somehow arrested or taken into custody,” he said.
Maduro was simply asked to go through a routine, secondary security screening, the U.S. official said.

I repeat, why did he initially pull out a citizen/tourist passport, then when he was treated like everyone else, pull out a Diplomatic passport?

I fully understand the actions of the US State Department, trying to avoid the classic tit-for-tat against our diplomats , because that will happen. It doesn’t matter if it is the Foreign Minister of Iceland (Geir Haarde, oops, he is now PM, it is now Valgerður Sverrisdottir – the country is a great ally) or of Cuba (Felipe Pérez Roque), if you are in a country on official business related to government policy, you use a Diplomatic passport, not a citizen passport (avoiding the issue of a government passport (black in the USA)).

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Richard Gardner
About Richard Gardner
Richard Gardner is a “retired” Navy Submarine Officer with military policy, arms control, and budgeting experience. He contributed over 100 pieces to OTB between January 2004 and August 2008, covering special events. He has a BS in Engineering from the University of California, Irvine.


  1. Tano says:

    Where did you read that he “pulled out a citizens passport”? The story only says that American “officials” claim that he only told airport security that he was a diplomat after his papers were taken. It doesnt say that those papers were civilian papers.

    The story is perfectly consistent with him having produced his diplomatic passport, having had it taken from him (by airline workers), and then telling airport security (different people) that he was a diplomat.

    And what is this “second round of security”? That could mean anything from getting the wand treatment after walking through the scanner, to being taken into a backroom and harrased in the manner he claims.

    Why do you assume that whatever the spokepeople for the WH say is true? Why do you think that the government felt compelled to offer an apology? Do they EVER apologize for harrasing people when the person acted in such a way to deserve harrassment?

    I get the sense that you have no clue what actually happened, and dont particularly care. Just an excuse to rant about a Chavista. Whats the value of that?

  2. You’ve hit this one particular nail square on the head. This knucklehead brought this whole incident upon himself.

    I’ve linked to you here: LINK

  3. Richard Gardner says:

    I guess I didn’t footnote/quote properly. I reviewed several articles before posting, and only quoted the NY Times article. Other sources stated that he pulled out a non-diplomatic passport to leave the country. I do wonder why TSA is giving so much attention to folks leaving the country.

    However, this looks like preplanned high drama.

    I’ve also seen some craziness regarding the official Venezuelian plane being parked on the tarmac at Andrews AFB, MD. I don’t get the fear. Many of the official aircraft went there because the commercial airports in NYC don’t have the space for a bunch of airplanes to sit, plus they have high parking fees. Much easier to have them go to Andrews for a few days.

    NB: I went to secondary inspection the last time I entered the USA last month.