CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said yesterday his government had captured American citizens involved in “espionage activities,” and said US citizens in the future will have to seek visas to come to the OPEC nation.
Speaking during a rally, he said his government will prohibit some US officials from entering Venezuela in retaliation for a similar measure by the government of President Barack Obama against a group of Venezuelan public officials.
“We have captured some US citizens in undercover activities, espionage, trying to win over people in towns along the Venezuelan coast,” he said, adding a US citizen of Latin descent was captured in the convulsed border city of Tachira.
A spokesman for the US embassy in Caracas said he was unable to comment, citing a lack of any official diplomatic communication with the Venezuelan government.
The head of a Venezuelan evangelical organization on Friday said a group of four missionaries had been called in for questioning after participating in a medical assistance campaign in the coastal town of Ocumare de la Costa.
That pastor, Abdy Pereira, said in a telephone interview yesterday that the four had left the country for Aruba after having been questioned for several days about alleged involvement in espionage. Pereira said the group had been coming to Venezuela 14 years and denied they were involved in espionage.
The United States and Venezuela have had tense diplomatic relations for more than a decade. Maduro recently accused Washington of helping stage a coup, a charge dismissed by the White House as ludicrous.